A new president has been publicly named for Wayne State College before any vote has been taken to hire her.

Officials with the Nebraska State College System and its board of trustees say that means Marysz Rames has not actually been hired, although they have issued a press release saying Rames will start as president in July.

Wayne State College and South Dakota State University, where Rames has been a vice president for the past 15 years, also announced Rames would be Wayne State's president. Dakota State University, where Rames has spent the past year as interim president, congratulated Rames for her selection on its Facebook page.

But Chancellor Stan Carpenter said the decision will be made at the June 18 board meeting, when he expects the state college system's governing board to accept his recommendation and hire Rames.

Carpenter said open meetings laws were followed "exactly and explicitly" during the process, which included naming three finalists and holding public visits on campus and a public interview with the board.

He said Rames has not been given a contract or a draft contract, and they've had only verbal discussions about coming to Wayne. He declined to say what was discussed in closed session after the finalist interviews or discuss what conversations he or board members may have had with the other remaining candidate, Jim Williams.

"There was no decision made," Carpenter said. "I told the board where I thought we ought to go and I would take that assignment on as chancellor."

Naming a president before the board takes a public vote or holds a public discussion would appear to violate Nebraska's open meetings law, said Mike Cox, an attorney who represents The World-Herald. A vote taken in public session should be more than ceremonial, and it should come after a public discussion about candidates, Cox said.

The college system's board of trustees interviewed Rames and Williams in a public meeting April 29. A third candidate withdrew verbally to Carpenter in a separate room at the board meeting, minutes before his planned interview. The board went into executive session for about an hour and 10 minutes after the interviews and then adjourned.

On May 6, Carpenter's office issued a press release saying Rames was expected to be named as president at the regularly scheduled June board meeting. The press release included a quote from the board's chairwoman, Michelle Suarez, saying Rames' qualifications matched what was sought in the next president at Wayne State.

"We are excited to have her join the NSCS leadership team," Suarez said in the release.

Wayne State's board policies say hiring college presidents is the job of the board of the trustees.

Suarez said Friday that the board follows an official decision-making process and that she is comfortable with it. She said the announcement was made "in concert" between the board and Carpenter.

"We go into closed sessions to make decisions about personnel, and we're able to give an announcement that indicates our intentions," Suarez said. "But they're not official until they're official."

Before her time at Dakota State University in Madison, South Dakota, Rames spent 15 years as vice president for student affairs at South Dakota State University.

Rames was also a finalist for the presidency at Eastern Oregon University but withdrew her name the same week she was named for the Wayne State job, according to the Associated Press.

Carpenter declined to discuss what salary range he and Rames have discussed or any terms of her hiring.

"You can have the contract in June," Carpenter said.

The current president, Curt Frye, is paid about $183,000.

Contact the writer:

402-444-3185, kate.howard@owh.com

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