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Board reassigns Potts

Chancellor Robert Potts will serve as a consultant for the North Dakota University System under an agreement unanimously approved Thursday by the state Board of Higher Education.

Chancellor Robert Potts will serve as a consultant for the North Dakota University System under an agreement unanimously approved Thursday by the state Board of Higher Education.

Board member Richie Smith, who negotiated the agreement with Potts, said it was obvious the board was going to pay Potts some money, and the consultant arrangement would allow the system to get something for it.

Potts will earn his current salary of $183,750, plus a $20,000 housing allowance and $11,000 vehicle allowance, under the modification.

"It (the consulting) is a tool in the arsenal of the board and the new interim chancellor that hopefully will be of value," Smith said.

Potts will resign as chancellor July 31 and serve as consultant between Aug. 1 and June 30, 2007.

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If the board can't find an interim chancellor to start by Aug. 1, members could ask Potts to extend his term as chancellor.

A search committee is evaluating 10 candidates for interim chancellor and will meet on Tuesday to narrow the list to one or two names.

William Isaacson, who served on the board from 1998 to 2002, was named the 10th nominee Thursday. His name was omitted from Wednesday's discussion because of an oversight, said board President John Q. Paulsen.

Potts is required to evaluate North Dakota State University President Joseph Chapman before July 31, according to the agreement. He has completed evaluations for all other campus presidents.

After Thursday's meeting, Potts said he preferred not to evaluate Chapman because he didn't want to appear vindictive if the evaluation is critical of Chapman.

Potts has said Chapman refuses to accept his authority as chancellor. He announced June 30 he wanted to resign because the board would not allow him to enforce policies, including reporting lines, equally to all campuses.

Smith said he insisted that Potts evaluate Chapman because it would be unfair for an interim chancellor who is unfamiliar with Chapman's performance to do the evaluation.

Chapman will have an opportunity to review and comment on the evaluation, Potts said.

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"I intend to do it as honestly and fairly as I can," Potts said.

Chapman was on vacation Thursday and unavailable for comment.

The agreement states a difference of opinion arose between Potts and a majority of the board members regarding the scope of his authority as chief executive officer.

Potts said he suggested that wording because it was obvious to him how a majority of board members felt.

The agreement also states the former Alabama university administrator performed his duties in an "exemplary manner" for two years.

Potts and Smith characterized the agreement as fair.

As a consultant, Potts will work with the interim chancellor and the board as they request his assistance, Smith said.

He may be called on to advise on ConnectND management issues, help prepare for the legislative session, assist with presidential searches at Mayville State University and Bismarck State College, and other issues.

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"Robert genuinely wants to be available to help out," Smith said.

The board also unanimously approved a motion Thursday to publicly thank Potts for his service. Paulsen called him "a man with integrity, a man with vast experience in higher education."

Potts said he and his wife, Irene, feel the two years they've spent in North Dakota have been some of the best in their lives.

"Even given the differences of opinion we've had, we would do this all over again," Potts said.

When hiring the next chancellor, the board needs to clearly spell out to that person what the role of the chancellor is, Potts said.

"They need to have those (roles and responsibilities) spelled out and they need to stick with them," he said.

The board is scheduled to meet again on July 28 to act on the search committee's recommendation for an interim chancellor. Board members said they would like to meet face-to-face at that meeting with the candidates.

Isaacson, the 10th nominee added to the list Thursday, is a consultant and retired chemical engineer from Stanley, N.D., who spent 32 years working for 3M.

As past president and vice president of the board, Isaacson said he's familiar with higher education and recognizes the need to bring entrepreneurship into the curriculum.

Other nominees are: Chuck Cheney, retired West Fargo School superintendent; W. Jeremy Davis, former University of North Dakota School of Law dean; Eddie Dunn, vice chancellor with the university system; Phil Harmeson, associate to the UND president; Paul Markel, associate professor at Minot State; James Schobel, former Mayville State president; Earl Strinden, former executive vice president of UND's alumni association; Richard Tschider, retired CEO and president of St. Alexius Medical Center; and Lee Vickers, president of Dickinson State.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590

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