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May 31, 2009 08:53 PM UTC

Bill Ritter and the CSU Chancellorship Scandal

  • by: Colorado Pols

In the weeks since the legislative session ended, controversy has been building over the selection by Colorado State University of GOP businessman Joe Blake for the position of “chancellor”–a position created anew for the CSU system, based in Denver and in theory responsible for “big ticket” fundraising for the school and legislative lobbying.

The selection of Blake is proving controversial on a few levels. As reported here and in other media outlets around the state (though not, per troubling usual, by the Denver Post), the CSU Board of Governors is embroiled in a lawsuit that seems to be successfully arguing Blake’s appointment was carried out in violation of Colorado’s open meetings law. Last week, the Fort Collins Coloradoan demanded in an editorial that the search process be restarted, citing uncertainties surrounding the appointment of Blake. The CSU Board of Governors. increasingly under pressure to put the scandal to bed, “reselected” Blake last week in an odd attempt to ‘un-violate’ the law they are accused of breaking. Underscoring all this is the fact that Blake was vice-chair of the board that picked him, which makes any appearance of back-room impropriety a grave concern. The Colorado Independent, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against CSU, summarized the problem this way:

[The situation] fuels perception that the Blake selection was on some level a pre-determined conclusion orchestrated from the inside, exactly the kind of maneuvering lawmakers are seeking to prohibit when it comes to filling major tax-funded positions that come with the power to guide major public institutions like a state university.

But for all the nasty disclosures, none of this seems to be affecting Blake actually taking office as chancellor of CSU. If that surprises you, if you look at this situation and see enough scandal foaming out the top to float a bottlecap on–perhaps wondering why the hell somebody isn’t stepping in–we have a few points for you to consider.

It seems like an eternity but only a little over three weeks ago, the Colorado House passed a bill aimed specifically at opening up the selection process for higher ed executives. House Bill 1369, introduced very late in the session, would not have affected the CSU selection process but was clearly intended to question it. In hindsight, given the current troubled state of that appointment process in particular, we find the spirit of this legislation to be pretty much vindicated.

But on May 5th, a whole bunch of things happened in an eye-opening row. House Bill 1369 was killed by its sponsors, correctly citing their error in introducing the bill so late but also meekly backing off previous admissions that the bill was related to the CSU search at all. A significant retreat. A little later the same day, CSU officially announced that Blake had been selected as “sole finalist” for the new position–freshly dead House Bill 1369 either gained or lost a hell of a lot of import at that moment, depending on how you look at it.

Most important in our view, though, was a press release from the office of Governor Bill Ritter that came a short while afterward.

“Joe has been a key partner and an important supporter of our efforts to strengthen Colorado’s economy, build a modern transportation system and improve higher education,” said Gov. Ritter, who graduated from CSU with a political science degree in 1978. “We’ve made significant progress together these past 2½ years, and I look forward to continuing that partnership with Joe…”

If you’ve been around as long as we have, you know the aforementioned “partnership with Joe” has quite a history. It’s had its good moments, like Referendum C, or last year’s high-stakes negotiations that resulted in onerous bills from both labor and business interests failing, but many Democrats would argue that the “partnership” between Governor Ritter and Joe Blake’s “business community” took a rather nasty turn in the recently concluded legislative session. On a number of issues including the Pinnacol funds transfer, but most importantly the labor-backed lockout and firefighter bills, Ritter has acted (in one case, widely expected to act) in ways that the “business community” cheered, and alienated his friends–both in the legislature where lawmakers carried politically risky bills only to watch them die ingloriously, and across his base of Democratic support. This latest example with Joe Blake and House Bill 1369 is a little more ‘inside baseball’ but it’s a symptom of the same problem.

So here’s the question: if the judge currently reviewing the closed-door meetings that led to Blake’s appointment finds that laws were broken, what is Ritter going to do? He’s going to find himself in a bit of a pickle–the (overly, in our opinion) valued relationship with Blake and his “business community,” versus legislative leaders and watchdog groups with less incentive than ever to not demand intervention from Ritter over exactly what they were warning about with HB-1369. Bill Owens, after all, had an awful lot to say about a certain politically incorrect CU professor when he was governor–this would seem to be a significantly more important matter, wouldn’t it?

We’ll be watching closely to see how this story unfolds. One thing Ritter has never been accused of, even by his critics, is tolerating outright unethical behavior: Greg Kolomitz was as close as he ever got to scandal personally and it didn’t stick. But while he may not have had any role in Joe Blake’s selection other than to give it his swift and dissent-quieting support, possible outcomes for Ritter include that support, unfortunately, earning a little taint of its own.


28 thoughts on “Bill Ritter and the CSU Chancellorship Scandal

  1. The governor is quiet when we expect him to speak up, but speaks on subjects like this. It makes me wonder what’s going on in the capitol, and who’s really running things there.

  2. What I don’t understand is why you are surprised.  Every Chancellor or University President is pre-selected.  In fact it amazes me how many stupid people apply for these positions thinking they have a chance while that nagging feeling is in the back of their minds (It is really in the bag for someone else).

    Recent political appointments?

    Bruce Benson – University of Colorado

    Tim Foster – Mesa State College

    Joe Blake – CSU

    This is exactly the reason we don’t want government making cars and picking industry CEO’s.  Because decisions are made for political reasons not economic or simply because a person is best suited for the job.

    So stop whining!

    1. is massively offensive and idiotic. I don’t mean to get into a dumbed down, propaganda-based discussion of abortion with you, but I do think it’s worth pointing out how incredibly insensitive and moronic that is.

      Go to hell.

    2. I agree that this guy, if he really is an MD, is a hyrdocephalic. He is correct that college and university positions are all pre-selected and chosen by committees who promote from within and prefer their own back-slapping friends over anyone with actual credentials or experience. This is simple fact. I’ve worked at several colleges and universities, known other who have, and know this statement of bias to be completely true. Anyone who applies for a college or university position without knowing that it’s in the bag for them before doing so is wasting his or her time.

      On the other hand, this guy is displaying his profound lack of depth and simplicity of mind by making such a broad generalization as to say that no one ever has extenuating, severe, financial ruin as to require an abortion, or to have simply made an inappropriate dating choice – as this simpleton’s parents have done.

      1. no one ever has extenuating, severe, financial ruin as to require an abortion, or to have simply made an inappropriate dating choice

        Like I said.  Stupid people.  You know the people who make inappropriate dating choices and still sleep with the guy.  The people who are so dumb they can’t even subsist on the most generous of welfare plans in the world.  Hell, they even get paid more to have kids.  But the stupid ones abort.

    3. You’re wrong, biased, and because of those two, acting stupidly.

      Look at the University of Wisconsin, which did a fine search that everyone except the National Review was happy with.

      And shut your mouth until you learn a thing or two. Business people were making these decisions and comments like yours are offensive.

    4. Even most advocates of abortion rights find the procedure tragic.

      Your tag line, on the other hand, makes it clear that eugenics is alive and well out there.

  3. Bill Ritter is showing his true colors, or rather, they are finally coming out to show themselves. He is a snake in tall grass; if only Romanoff had the guts and fundraising machine to take him on. Ritter is clearly the only Dem who can run for Governor thus far and will probably be re-elected by a landslide since McGinnis is a running a moron’s campaign (he must have his housecleaner doing strategy)and no one else is viable at this point.

    He is serving too many masters and the duplicity is showing: anti-union, double-dealing, friend of anyone lining his pockets and foe to working class Colorado voters and sincere Dems and contrapuntally opposed to progressives.

    If you are any kind of ethical organizer or union rep and you vote for this snake, you may as well switch parties; Ritter’s Democrat in name only.

        1. “Joe has been a key partner and an important supporter of our efforts to strengthen Colorado’s economy, build a modern transportation system and improve higher education,” said Gov. Ritter, who graduated from CSU with a political science degree in 1978. “We’ve made significant progress together these past 2ВЅ years, and I look forward to continuing that partnership with Joe…”

          Why would any politician rush out positive PR knowing the situation was clouded in controversy – they wouldn’t. Only the politician that stands to gain from such a move would use the bully pulpit to reinforce something so quickly.

          Its like CU selecting Patty Hoffman and Owens rushing out positive PR when he knows there is controversy over the process.

            1. It’ll be just like the selection of Joe’s replacement at the Chamber. Guv sends down a list of those he knows applied [that he approves of], board sends back list of the few viable and each wink and nod to each other. The sole finalist is selected, then Guv sends out PR declaration within an hour stating something to the effect of:

              [insert new name]has long been recognized as a Colorado community leader and a key partner and an important supporter of our efforts to strengthen Colorado’s economy, build a modern transportation system and improve higher education. We’ve made significant progress together these past 2ВЅ years, and I look forward to continuing that partnership with [insert new name]

              1. Lest we forget, several years ago, Gov. Owens was accused of rigging the selection of the next president of CSU in favor of Marc Holtzman, and by that time he had appointed every member of the board, and yet the board snubbed Mr. Holtzman and picked Mr. Penley.

                Without any real evidence, your ascribing influence to Gov. Ritter that he doesn’t have.  The CSU board is independent and selects who it wants to for university positions. The same applies to the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce Board.  

  4. Probably very little since the office of governor has no authority over who the board appoints to the chancellorship.

    As for Gov. Owens statements about the former CU professor, they were just that, statements. He, nor any other governor, has any authority to fire professors at state colleges and universities.

    I don’t see the point of this thread. If the judge finds the CSU board violated CORA, it is the board who will be guilty, not Governor Ritter. He isn’t a voting member.

    No one has connected Gov. Ritter to any of this except his statement that he believes Mr. Blake would be a good chancellor. I understand why some of the Democrats are upset over his vetoes but that doesn’t translate into any misstep regarding the CSU chancellors position.  

      1. The lawsuit was brought over a CORA request, arguing the transcripts and recordings of the closed sessions are public records because the meetings violated the COML. Because the primary violation alleged is under CORA, the plaintiffs can ask the judge for an expedited Show Cause hearing (which has already occurred) and an in camera review of the recordings. These speedy hearings (and potentially speedy resolution) wouldn’t be available if it were just a COML violation alleged.

      2. That when the Governor issues statements like this, he is tacitly endorsing the appointment of Blake — which hints at the kind of insider-dealing that has tainted this process. It doesn’t mean Ritter had anything to do with it, but it makes it look like he’s happy with the outcome. It would have been much smarter to just stay quiet on this until it was resolved.

    1. The governor does not run CSU or CU. Their boards do. Some of you people seem to think the governor of Colorado has actual power, but this state is a “weak governor” system with the main clout resting in the legislature’s JBC.

      Ritter can be unhappy, or not, with what CSU does. But he has no authority to do anything about it.

  5. …apologizing that my tuition payments are now going to pay for cleaning up after this mistake?

    C.U. is such a total clusterfuck that I’m happy my first daughter went to CSU and that my second one is there now. But now with CSU engaged in a race for the bottom…

  6. That news is so terrific! Look at the University of Wisconsin, which did a fine search that everyone except the National Review was happy with.  But aside from that breaking information did you know that the Customers of Advanta have already had to deal with the fact that their credit lines will be frozen regardless of credit history in June.  However, Advanta, or Advanta Bank Corp. has a shipment of ivory backscratchers on back order and has moved up the freeze date to May 30th.  The company still needs some money now, and customers are expected to keep paying their balances.  On the bright side, they won’t be adding any new debt.  On the down side, they have to seek other options as a result of their accounts being frozen.  It looks like it will mean payday loans are in store for any customers left high and dry by Advanta.

    1. I got a notice from Advanta too.  Isn’t it like against the constitution to deny me access to a credit card?  My ancestors fought the British and signed the declaration of independence… for what?  So Advanta could cancel my credit line?  I don’t think so!  

      It is my right to have credit even if Advanta can no longer provide it.  And, they – Advanta people – should be thrown in jail for that.

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