Luna board extends interim president’s contract

Luna board extends interim president’s contract

From the Las Vegas Optic

The search for a new president continues for Luna Community College, and in the meantime, Dr. Kenneth Patterson will continue to serve as the college’s interim president.

The Luna Board of Trustees voted unanimously Friday afternoon to extend Patterson’s contract through June 30, or until “the presidential search is terminated.”

The board reached the decision following nearly two hours of a closed-door executive session at a special meeting held Friday. According to the meeting agenda, the purpose of the executive session was to discuss “attorney/client privilege pertaining to pending litigation,” and for “limited personnel matters” related to a discussion about extending Interim President Patterson’s contract.

The extension of Patterson’s contract was the only action item on the agenda for the Feb. 26 meeting; however, the meeting began with Trustee Mark Dominguez asking to address the board with concerns over the legality and ethics of the current presidential search committee.

Because Dominguez’s request was not added to the agenda at least 72 hours prior to the meeting, under New Mexico’s Open Meetings Act, the board wasn’t allowed to add items that require action to be taken. However, the board agreed to let Dominguez speak as a “question of privilege,” a parliamentary procedure that allows any member to bring concerns before other members.

“We may have a violation of NMSA 10-16-3, ethical principles of public service … as it relates to the presidential search,” Dominguez said.

New Mexico statute states that any public employee or officer must operate in the public trust and “shall use the powers and resources of public office only to advance the public interest and not to obtain personal benefits.”

Dominguez said he felt the board shouldn’t consider Patterson as a candidate for the position of president because he is a member of the search committee.

“In doing so, he’s secured a special privilege for himself,” Dominguez said.

Statute also states “reasonable efforts shall be made to avoid undue influence and abuse of office in public service,” and that no public officer or employee may request or receive “any money, thing of value or promise thereof that is conditioned upon or given in exchange for promised performance of an official act.”

Dominguez told the board he was concerned the search committee was in violation of this statute, and urged the board to appoint another committee that would conduct the search for a new president.

“This sounds like extra work, but it is what needs to be done to ensure the integrity of the search that is most vital to this institution,” Dominguez said. “This is the only way that Dr. Patterson can then apply for the position without having any direct conflict of interest.”

Interim President Patterson addressed the board to say he hasn’t played a role in selecting presidential candidates.

“I’ve been very clear in this entire process that I have nothing to do with the nominees,” Patterson said. “With all due respect, if you would like information on the presidential search committee or process, you’re going to have to talk to someone besides me, because I don’t know.”

For now, the search committee remains unchanged, and board Chair Dr. Phyllis Martinez told members she believed the search committee was a fair mix of people, with seven of the 13 members being board members, and six others acting independent of the board.

The committee is set to begin interviewing presidential candidates March 1, according to documents obtained by the Optic, and decisions on finalists should be made by March 8. Finalists would be interviewed in late March and early April, and the person selected could officially fill the role of president by May 10.

The Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet again March 9 at 10 a.m.