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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Cuomo should quickly fill NCC positions

Chair Geoffrey Prime looks on during the Nassau

Chair Geoffrey Prime looks on during the Nassau Community College Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday. (Oct. 10, 2012) Credit: Barry Sloan

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo should move quickly to fill two vacancies on Nassau Community College's governing board.

The board badly needs new blood as it tackles allegations of favoritism and unfairness in the search for a new college president.

Nancy L. Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York, can use all the help she can get to dig out what's been happening at NCC and why.

A Cuomo administration official offered some hope last night in an email, saying "the administration is committed to bringing the board back to full capacity in an expedited fashion, without removing the necessary due diligence needed to appoint well-qualified members. We are sensitive to the needs of Nassau Community College and its students. The Governor will select members who will be responsive to all the constituencies involved."

The controversy followed complaints that the presidential selection committee did not include representatives of an African, Latino, Asian and Native American alliance, the college alumni association, the women's faculty association, the NCC Foundation and a representative of the college's vice presidents. All five groups were included in the last search in 2009.

Also, the college's acting president said he received hostile treatment during his interview for the full-time position.

Board chairman Geoffrey Prime's abrupt decision Saturday night to step down adds urgency, since it was his task, as chairman, to investigate and report back to Zimpher.

Prime's departure reduces the board to eight members -- and three of them were on the selection committee that is supposed to be under investigation.

Are five members who weren't on the selection panel enough to ensure a thorough investigation into NCC's presidential search process?

It's an essential question after a quorum of six trustees -- with no required public notice -- sat down with several presidential search committee members Friday evening.

Anthony Cornachio, a trustee who headed the search committee, told a Newsday reporter that Friday's meeting was to discuss how candidates for NCC president had been selected and interviewed.

Why would trustees sit with members of a committee whose work they are supposed to be investigating?

Prime and three other trustees were part of the 16-member presidential search committee. Prime, a defense attorney, missed two of the three days of candidate interviews because of scheduling conflicts.

Last Wednesday evening, a day after Zimpher requested the investigation, Prime said he intended to use trustees who were not search committee members to help him with the investigation. In an interview, he said he was just beginning to work on how the investigation would be done.

Yet by Friday, selection committee members and a quorum of trustees were sitting to discuss what presumably would be prime aspects of any investigation.

Prime's resignation brought to two the number of governor-appointed vacancies on the board. Another trustee called it quits last year after an anonymous email urged a boycott of his business.

Zimpher last week took the unusual step of seeking an investigation -- the first time in memory that the state's highest-ranking education authority injected herself into a community college search process.

Two new trustees could help restore much-needed stability and civility at NCC, which seems to be caroming from one crisis to the next.

NCC's students, the college community and Nassau's residents deserve better.

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