The consultant that led the University of Nebraska’s last search for president said his research doesn’t support an advocate’s assertion that Nebraska’s public disclosure laws cost NU 146 candidates.
David Bellshaw of the search firm Isaacson, Miller said in an email to the university that he didn’t have any documentation of why candidates his firm contacted decided not to apply, although he believes the pool of “excellent candidates” was smaller because of Nebraska’s law.
At least 146 people approached by the firm as potential candidates declined to apply for the job, Bellshaw said. But they did not all specifically opt out because they were unwilling to have their names public, as a spokeswoman for the NU regent leading the push for the bill has said.
“I can report that from our conversations with potential candidates that a fair number of the individuals felt that the nonconfidential search process, and particularly the requirement of a public visit by four finalists in the latter stages of the search, would undermine or harm their current employment situation,” Bellshaw said.
Delette Olberg, a lobbyist for Tenaska and a spokeswoman for NU Regent Howard Hawks, was quoted earlier this month in The World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal-Star in support of a bill that would allow NU to reveal only a single chancellor or presidential candidate. She said a search firm identified 146 candidates as refusing to apply for the then-vacant post as the University of Nebraska’s president in 2014 because they didn’t want their names to become public. Sen. John Murante, who introduced the bill on Hawks’ behalf, said he found that statistic “very disturbing.”
Last week, Olberg denied making the connection to the current law. She said there was no way to know how many of the potential applicants decided against Nebraska because of the search process versus other reasons.
Alan Peterson, lobbyist and attorney for Media of Nebraska, which opposes the bill, said he had found the number “questionable.”
“My concern is that it was probably hearsay and can’t be subjected to any questions about it,” Peterson said.