The University of Nebraska system spent $249,965 to land Walter “Ted” Carter as its president, the university said.
Close to 70% of that, or $169,750, covered NU’s contract with AGB Search, the consulting firm that helped the NU Board of Regents manage the search.
The rest covered expenses to bring Carter and other candidates to Nebraska, the expenses of the 23-person advisory search committee and costs for Carter and others to tour the state during a 30-day inspection period before he was hired. The regents’ chairman and the head of the search firm said quality comes at a high price.
The search, which started in the summer and ended in December, went smoothly, said Regents Chairman Tim Clare of Lincoln.
“We ran an efficient search and we came out with a great leader,” Clare said. “There’s a lot of people who put in a lot of time” on the search.
NU spokeswoman Melissa Lee said the total was $10,000 less than the regents spent on the search for previous President Hank Bounds. She said a few more receipts for comparatively low reimbursements might come in for the Carter search. Carter took over the presidency early this month.
Carter, a U.S. Navy vice admiral and naval aviator, retired last year as superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland. Before that, he headed the Naval War College in Rhode Island. Carter, 60, will receive $934,600 in base salary in the first year.
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The contract also gives Carter at least one country club membership and deferred compensation.
Jack Gould, issues chairman for Common Cause Nebraska, decried the lack of openness of the search. NU convinced the Nebraska Legislature three years ago to change the law so that NU had to name only one “priority candidate.” “So it’s become much more of a closed process, which I would say is not in the best interests of the public,” Gould said.
It’s hard to say if the $250,000 was well spent, he said, because none of the other candidates was named. Before the law changed, the regents had to name four finalists. The NU system includes institutions in Omaha, Lincoln, Kearney and Curtis.
Rod McDavis, managing principal of Washington, D.C.-based AGB Search, said the NU system received a great rate. Frequently, he said, search firms receive an amount equal to one-third of the new president’s first-year salary. In this case, the fee would have been about $310,000.
“I thought it was a fair search fee,” said McDavis, who was president of Ohio University from 2004 to 2017. “I feel great about the search. I feel great about Ted Carter.”
McDavis said it’s hard to find excellent university chief executives. The price paid for them is high and increasing, he said.
As state funding stagnates, he said, university presidents have to spend more time fundraising. That adds to their already packed schedule, he said.
McDavis said: “These jobs are now legitimately 24/7.”
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