MnSCU board to approve future chancellor contracts

Renier (Courtesy of MnSCU)

Trustees of Minnesota’s state-run colleges and universities are trying to inject some transparency into how they handle contracts.

Today they voted to formally approve all future employment contracts for their chancellor, including changes made to existing contracts.

The change in policy comes after reports last month that former board Chairman Clarence Hightower had quietly signed a three-year contract with Steven Rosenstone in October. The contract gave Rosenstone a base salary of $387,000 plus tens of thousands of dollars in allowances.

At the time, Hightower said the signing had followed past practice, but acknowledged questions about the procedure’s lack of transparency. He called for a study of how other organizations handle contracts of their top executive.

Now that the board will formally approve the chancellor’s contracts, new board Chairman Thomas Renier said the study group has expanded its study, and will now review how MnSCU approves vendor contracts.

That decision follows news that MnsCU signed a $2 million consulting contract without board approval.

Renier told me:

“It’s a very big and very complex system, and once in a while it pays to just step back and say, ‘Let’s make sure that we’re not doing it just because we’ve always done it that way, but because this is what makes sense.'”

He also acknowledged the transparency concerns:

“We’re trying to tell the public, we’re trying to tell legislative leaders that we’ve heard their concerns, and we take them seriously.”

House higher-education committee Chairman and Winona DFLer Gene Pelowski says he approves of the changes — but says he still has a lot of questions:

“This is classic ‘Closing the barn door after all the animals have escaped.”

Renier says he hopes to get report on MnSCU contract procedures this fall.