State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher is looking at Nassau Community College’s decision to offer a prominent post to outgoing Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray while the college is without a president, a SUNY official said Monday.
Zimpher believes the college’s next president should have the leeway to choose senior staff, SUNY spokeswoman Casey Vattimo said. But the NCC board chairman said the appointment of Murray as head of “governmental affairs” is considered interim and that the college is on track to choose a new president this spring who will have the authority to keep or revamp senior staff.
At issue is the 6-2 vote by NCC’s board on Dec. 8 to offer Murray the job — just weeks after she lost her bid to become Nassau district attorney and after some trustees questioned whether the position, which involves lobbying state and county lawmakers for funding, should be filled as the school searches for a full-time president. The job pays $151,000 annually.
Murray, a Republican, is slated to take the job on Jan. 1 — the day after she leaves her job as supervisor. Democrats criticized the appointment as politically motivated.
Zimpher signaled her concern about the process.
“Chancellor Zimpher’s focus is not on a staff appointment but rather on the presidential search at NCC and on supporting Dr. [Thomas] Dolan in his role as interim president in every way possible while that search is ongoing,” Vattimo said in a statement. “Best practices within higher education nationally indicate that college councils or boards name their president and then trust that president to appoint the senior leadership team.”
NCC board chairman Jorge L. Gardyn said Monday the appointment is considered interim, that the school needed to fill the job because of a pending departure and that Murray’s experience as an assemblywoman and supervisor make her a good fit.
“The job is our liaison to state and county officials,” Gardyn said. “She knows them well. She knows the college.”
Gardyn said the current jobholder, Chuck Cutolo, also a former Nassau politician, is retiring at the end of January and “we needed to take action to fill the void.” He said the one-month overlap will allow better continuity.
Further, the college expects to interview a handful of presidential candidates beginning at the end of January and nominate a candidate a few months later, he said.
“By March, April at the latest, I figure they should be presenting someone to the board,” Gardyn said. “We’re within a couple of months of having our next president.”
In regards to Murray’s appointment, Gardyn said: “When the next president comes in, it’s up to him to see who he wants to work with.”
NCC trustees have been on a presidential search for three years. In September, they named Dolan, a former Great Neck public schools superintendent, as interim president. NCC, the largest single-campus community college in the SUNY system, has been without a permanent president since Donald Astrab resigned in 2012. In 2013, Zimpher halted NCC’s search for a president, questioning the fairness of the process.