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College staff, union bring flawed appointment to the forefront

Yukon College staff, and its employees’ union continue to question a closed-door meeting that ended with interim president Terry Weninger…

Yukon College staff, and its employees’ union continue to question a closed-door meeting that ended with interim president Terry Weninger appointed head of the institution.

Weninger did not apply for the post.

The college union has also been closely monitoring the actions of board of governors’ member Dan Lang, who was appointed by the Yukon Party in 2004.

Lang was involved in Weninger’s appointment as interim president in 2006.

The two men have known each other for 35 years, said Weninger.

Though college staff is satisfied Weninger is qualified for the job, some are concerned the board’s appointment process was rigged in Weninger’s favour.

The problems date back to Weninger’s first appointment as acting president.

The union’s initial concerns are spelled out in a 2006 letter to the board of governors obtained by the News.

“Although I am confident that we chose the most qualified candidate, I have major concerns with the process,” then-union president Tracy English wrote in a letter to the board of governors dated March 14, 2006.

Concerns with the appointment process were raised again last week following Weninger’s highly unusual three-year appointment as college president.

“I think the process was good and fair until it hit the board and then they just threw everything down the tubes,” said college employee Grant Dunham, who was involved in the presidential search from its start in January.

Dunham sat on the presidential selection committee, which screened applications and recommended three candidates for the post.

After researching each person, the committee was prepared to give the board a synopsis of the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates.

But the board did not want the synopsis.

The selection committee also recommended the candidates meet with local groups, such as college staff, senior managers, the Council of Yukon First Nations and education officials, and consider their input before making a decision.

The candidates met with the local groups, but the board refused to consider their input, said Dunham.

“I found both of those things to be quite confusing,” he said.

“It set off early warning systems that told me something was up.”

The board conducted two-hour interviews with each candidate, which Dunham observed on behalf of the union.

“I’m sitting there thinking that the board is basing its decision on a two-hour process,” he said.

“They had no other input into this thing. That’s trouble.”

After the interviews, all the non-voting board members — Dunham, Weninger and the human resources director — were asked to leave the room.

“We were asked to leave so the board could consider all their options for filling the role of president,” said Dunham.

“I walked out and told as many people as I could that I just heard code words for, ‘We want to see if Terry will take the job on a permanent basis,’” said Dunham.

The board struck a committee — Norma Shorty, Rob McIntyre and Dan Lang —which offered the position to one of the candidates — a longtime colleague of Weninger’s from Alberta.

He turned it down.

The board could not reach unanimous consent on the other two candidates — one a past president of two Canadian universities, the other a dean at an Albertan community college.

The board deemed them both unsuitable for the job.

So, after a closed-door meeting in Dawson City on May 5 and 6, the board offered the job to Weninger.

Dunham monitored the interview process “to make sure there’s nothing strange done and that politically and personality-driven appointments are prevented.”

The union president told Dunham to keep his eyes on Lang.

The Yukon Party appointed Lang to the board in October 2004.

“When I was appointed to the selection committee I was put there to make sure that if Dan Lang was part of the interview team then I could counteract him,” said Dunham.

“My job was to keep on top of that.”

As it turned out, Lang was not part of the selection committee that screened the three presidential candidates.

However, he did participate in the interview process and the board’s closed-door meeting in Dawson City that resulted in Weninger’s last-minute appointment.

Lang was also part of the group that interviewed candidates in 2006, when Weninger was first appointed interim president.

Back then, the employees’ union voiced serious concerns about Lang’s conduct during the selection process.

 “Mr. Lang strayed from the questions and was not consistent in asking both candidates the same questions worded the same way,” wrote English in the union’s 2006 letter.

“It also became very clear early in the first interview that the candidate had inside information,” she wrote.

“I left the meeting feeling sick to my stomach. The college has a process that is used to hire people. In my opinion this process was not followed at all.”

“That’s preposterous,” said Weninger last week when questioned about his connection to Lang during his initial interview process.

“That’s totally false,” said Lang when asked the same question.

Lang said he hadn’t seen the 2006 union letter.

“My understanding is that due process was followed,” said Lang.

“I’m assuming everything was settled.

“Mr. Weninger was hired on the strength of his background; he has more than 14 years of experience running a college.”

Meanwhile, Tim Topper, vice-president faculty of the union, is still waiting for the board to explain its actions to staff.

He hopes to hear “what the board has learned from this experience and how they would handle things differently next time,” he said on Friday.