Former Gov. Arne Carlson calls for legislative audit after U of M regent resigns seeking UMD interim chancellor position

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A former governor is calling for a legislative audit of the nomination process for a high-ranking university position in the wake of a report by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

Former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson said he is asking the Legislative Auditor to audit the nomination process of former University of Minnesota Board of Regent member Dave McMillan for interim Chancellor at the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD).

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS first reported Wednesday that McMillan resigned his job on the Board of Regents and, in a letter to Governor Tim Walz, indicated he was applying for the job as interim Chancellor at UMD.

Carlson told KSTP he wants a legislative audit not just of McMillan’s nomination for the UMD job but the entire power structure at the Board of Regents as well.

“This whole episode is beyond comprehension, and I am really concerned about the amount of power that’s being consolidated into the Chair of the Board,” Carlson said.

McMillan was chair of the Board of Regents when U of M President Joan Gabel was hired. Late last year, McMillan voted to approve a 30% salary increase for Gabel, and just last week, he also voted to support her budget, which includes a 3.5% tuition hike.

The full-time salary for the Chancellor’s position at UMD is $310,000.

Hamline University Political Science and Law Professor David Schultz told KSTP that the appearance and timing of McMillan’s nomination could raise eyebrows in the public eye.

RELATED: ‘A very shabby form of a quid-pro-quo’: U of M regent criticized for seeking UMD chancellor job

“It’s looking like it’s either a real conflict of interest or there’s some type of an appearance of a conflict of interest,” said Schultz.

KSTP asked for a letter that current regent Darrin Rosha sent to Gabel asking her to explain the process used to consider McMillan for the UMD job.

In part, Rosha wrote to Gabel, “David indicated that he had started “high level” discussions with you about the Chancellor position before he decided he should resign … I’m interested in the nature, content, and timing of those discussions.”

McMillan gave KSTP a statement that said, in part, “My decision is my own and I have never had any agreement or understanding of any sort with the President, any member of the President’s Administration or any member of the Board of a regents as to the outcome of my application to become the interim Chancellor.”

KSTP asked Gabel for an interview, and a spokesperson told the station she was unavailable for an interview.

A spokesperson for the University of Minnesota sent 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS this statement in response to our interview request with President Gable:

In November 2021, the University of Minnesota launched a competitive, national search for the University of Minnesota Duluth’s (UMD) next chancellor. The search included robust and transparent stakeholder engagement from the UMD and broader University communities and a public review of finalists. All input was carefully reviewed, but unfortunately, the search did not yield UMD’s next Chancellor.

The campus is now facing a challenging leadership gap with the pending retirement of the current UMD Chancellor Lynn Black. University President Joan Gabel sought nominations for a two-year interim Chancellor as part of her May 23, 2022 search update message to the UMD community. Nominations were accepted through June 3, 2022, with formal applications due June 15, 2022. Anyone was welcome to nominate or apply, including members of our community. 

In reviewing nominations and applications, the president will be seeking an interim Chancellor who can meet the needs of the UMD community, serve the University System, and create a platform for UMD’s continued success—as well as support a successful search process for the full-time Chancellor in two years. Although interim appointments do not require nominations or community engagement nor a Board of Regents vote under University policy, President Gabel welcomes community input and support for potential candidates. She also intends to seek a public Board vote for whomever is recommended as the interim Chancellor. Given that a Regent has resigned in order to apply, the public meeting will provide an opportunity to speak to the process no matter who is ultimately selected. President Gabel’s utmost intent is continued public engagement and transparency in the decision.

University of Minnesota spokesperson