KU’s search for new chancellor cost $162K

Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little tries to quiet the audience after being introduced during the Kansas University 144th Opening Convocation at the Lied Center.

Note: This article is part of a week long series, running March 14 to March 20, honoring Sunshine Week.

how the records were obtained

What information and records were requested?

• All records pertaining to expenses incurred during the search for a new chancellor for Kansas University from the period beginning when Chancellor Robert Hemenway announced his intent to step down from the position and ending when Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little arrived on campus on Aug. 15, 2009.

Which agency?

• KU and the Kansas Board of Regents.

How quickly did they respond to request?

• The regents responded with a packet of information via mail postmarked three days after the request was made. KU responded by e-mail three days after the initial request was made and asked for an extension to access and review additional documents that may be available.

They then provided the documents two business days later.

How much did records cost?

• KU charged $7 for copying 35 pages at 20 cents per page, and $48.38 for time spent accessing the materials — for 90 minutes at $32.25 per hour — for a total of $55.38.

Kansas Board of Regents provided 62 pages of material and estimated it spent three hours accessing the documents, but provided the material free of charge.

Was any information from the request denied?

• Yes. The regents redacted Social Security numbers on payment vouchers and redacted initials and names of candidates from billing invoices.

Is this information currently accessible by the public?

• No, it is not available online. It must be requested.

All told, it cost more than $162,000 to bring a new Kansas University chancellor to campus.

That’s according to records from the Kansas Board of Regents and KU, which both provided documents to the Lawrence Journal-World and 6News after a Kansas Open Records Act request.

The requests asked agencies to provide receipts and documentation for expenses incurred from the time Robert Hemenway announced he would step down as chancellor in December 2008 until Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little arrived on campus in August 2009.

The bulk of the funds — about $120,000 — were spent on a search consultant hired to help with the search, and the remainder included expenses such as hotel stays, travel costs and catering for the KU search committee and other candidates.

Reggie Robinson, regents president and CEO, said the search firm, R. William Funk and Associates, was the most respected firm in the higher education field.

“Anymore, I don’t think there is any significant higher education institution that will proceed with a search for a CEO without hiring a search firm,” Robinson said.

“You don’t want to take a chance on something like this,” he said, adding that schools get only one opportunity to make a good hire.

The decision to include a search firm was made by the board itself, Robinson said, when it outlined the initial parameters for the search process.

Robinson, who served on the chancellor search committee, said Funk was enthusiastic about the search, and was able to use his connections to widen the available pool of applicants.

The total costs incurred in finding Gray-Little represent about 38 percent of her $425,000 annual salary.

Most of the expenses came from private KU Endowment funds. KU Endowment funded the search consultant through an agreement with the regents and provided for most of KU’s expenses through unallocated funds.

State tax dollars, however, were used for two private flights from North Carolina to Lawrence when Gray-Little’s schedule wouldn’t accommodate commercial flights. Theresa Gordzica, KU’s chief financial officer, said KU uses state funds to pay for the private plane because of federal regulations that govern private flights.

Gray-Little did fly commercially for one trip to Lawrence, at a round-trip cost of $400. The two private flights cost $6,950 and $9,114.

“Every time she flew commercially, there were delays” without direct flights, Gordzica said, making trips harder to plan.

KU saved 65 percent on moving expenses through a purchasing arrangement with a moving company, spending just over $6,800 to move Gray-Little from North Carolina to Lawrence.

The university was also able to negotiate discounted rates for hotel stays.

“I think it is just part of the culture here that we get as much bang for the buck as we possibly can,” Gordzica said.

The search turned up a few amusing items, too — one floral receipt for an on-campus reception for Gray-Little had “no purple” scrawled on it, likely to ensure no flowers could possibly be interpreted as supporting rival Kansas State University.

Documentation exists of some of the smaller expenses, too, such as a quick trip to Weaver’s Department Store for KU ties for Gray-Little’s husband, Shade Little, before the new chancellor was announced, and scarves for the new chancellor.

In the end, Robinson said he was happy with how the search process ended.

“I think we incurred the expenses we needed to incur” to hire a top-quality chancellor, he said.