Kennecke Corrects SDSU Presidential Search Expense Report: No PAC Rental

Correction: while the Board of Regents spent what seems like an inordinate amount of money ($156,000) to make an in-house hire for SDSU’s next president, they did not spend some of that money on renting their own SDSU Performing Arts Center for the announcement.

Angela Kennecke reported that rental expense in her original May 9 report on the $156K president hunt. She made it sound like the Regents themselves had listed that cost as fact:

Nearly two weeks after KELOLAND News submitted a public records request to the Board of Regents asking for records of all expenses involved in the search for the new SDSU President, including the use of the State plane, as it was used in that search, we got an email from the State which broke down the various ways the $156,000 was spent:

  • Travel to meetings, interviews, and the announcement of the new president.  That includes use of the State plane for regents, staff and members of the search committee.
  • Rent of SDSU’s Performing Arts Center to make the announcement, as well as for a meal and lodging costs… [Angela Kennecke, “SDSU President Search Tab to Taxpayer: $156,000,” KELO-TV, 2016.05.09].

Kennecke corrects that error in the last paragraph of her follow-up story today:

In its original email to KELOLAND News, the Board of Regents told us that some of the $156,000 went to location event rental, but would not specify what that meant.  The only event we knew about was the announcement of Dunn’s appointment at the SDSU Performing Arts Center.  However, with this information, we now know that that event rental was for the hotel location to interview the finalists for the job in Sioux Falls [Angela Kennecke, “Breakdown of Expenses in SDSU President Search; $15,000 for Use of State Plane,” KELO-TV, 2016.05.17].

We investigative reporters (hear Kennecke grit her teeth at my pronoun) always face the peril that our occasional errors will distract readers from the main story and cause them to doubt our other stories. We (grit) must thus carefully craft our sentences to make clear what is documentable fact, what is our logical deduction, and what is our speculation.

The big story, of course, is that the Regents paid Illinois-based consultants Witt/Kieffer $117,825 for the trouble of telling us that the best person to run SDSU was already at SDSU. I feel like if I lost my cell phone, the Regents would tell me to go buy a new cell phone to ring my number while I’d say, “Hold on, let me check under the couch cushions first.”

Now let’s keep an eye out for how much the Regents spend on consultants for GEAR UP.

17 Responses to Kennecke Corrects SDSU Presidential Search Expense Report: No PAC Rental

  1. Lon Moeller

    The consulting firm did not say who was the best person. That decision was made by the search committee. The selection of Dr. Dunn by the search committee validated that in a national search he was the best candidate.
    I believe it would be interesting to see what other searches for South Dakota university presidents have cost.

  2. Robert McTaggart

    My experience on the search committees that I have been on is that said search committees only make recommendations. That recommendation is typically followed.

  3. You professional investigative reporters should do some checking and see how much these Regent fellows spend on fancy finger foods for meetings and such. I bet there are lavish parties thrown in public facilities all the time. But it also seems to me that if this Mr. Dunn fellow is the best man for the job then it’s far cheaper to spend a few bucks getting it right instead of hiring some egghead liberal from the east coast with no South Dakota values to lead our biggest college forward. Or hiring the guy who would do it for the cheapest.

  4. mike from iowa

    Are state schools required to at least interview minority candidates for these positions?

  5. mike from iowa

    Why would an east coast egghead liberal bother to set foot in South Dakota, let alone apply for a low paying job in a state that has shown they don’t give a shit about education, Grudz?

  6. Robert McTaggart

    They did interview minority candidates, and of the top four, one was a woman from Puerto Rico, and the new president is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, according to the article below.

  7. Good point, Mike, especially when one considers it was delivered from Iowa. I think it’s the grade school and high school teachers that are the ones hollering for more money. The new tax that is dedicated to that small but whiny segment of our population here in South Dakota is for just them. Not the professor types. You should see what those eggheads get paid at the colleges. It’s probably a lot.

  8. Very interesting, Lon: I agree that a cost comparison would put this $156K in perspective. I’ll be curious to see how much less it costs to find a president for a small school like Northern than it does for a big D-I outfit.

    But do we need to spend $118K just feel “validated”? Has there been any research on the relative effectiveness of university leaders chosen from consultant-recommended pools vs. leaders chosen by universities searching without consultants? Is such research even possible? How do we validate our validators?

  9. Now, grudz, there you go again being goadingly illogical. Egghead, liberal, and East Coast do not necessarily exclude South Dakota values or effective university leadership (see also several presidents of Harvard, Yale, Princeton…).

    And if, as Lon says, the consultants don’t pick the president but just the pool, how can we be sure the Regents don’t just pick the cheapest labor?

  10. this spending insulates Regents from charges of influence hiring like heather Wilson’s employment at sdsm&t after fraudulent sanctioned contracting work as a US Rep for NM or some such thing. so she could influence DOE to put the borehole in republican granite.

  11. Jake Cummings

    Cory, you might find this article from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) exploring the positive and negatives of consultant utilization in university leadership searches interesting:

    As for the “effectiveness” question, entities like the Association of Governing Boards of Universities & Colleges’ “Comprehensive Presidential Assessment” ( could possibly help us conceptualize well-grounded effectiveness metrics, and one of our variables could be whether a consulting firm was utilized in the administrator’s search (we should probably consider that, as the ACTA piece mentioned, consultants’ level of involvement and influence may vary, so capturing that dynamic would help us reduce the possibility of influencing a conflating/confounding variable).

  12. Roger Cornelius

    I’m from South Dakota and their values of corruption, racism, bigotry, etc. are an insult to my values.

  13. Jon Holmdal

    Thank you Cory for the great reporting that you do—the same goes to Angela Kennecke. In a state with some of the worst representation and corruption in this country both you and Angela are sometimes the only place for sane minds to go. To me there are not enough of both of you to go around, We need more investigative reporters and I appreciate the ones that we do have.

  14. 14 of the 20 members of the Search Committee were BOR or university employees. A typical amount of time in meetings associated with such a process is about 4 days on the clock. Assuming an hourly rate of $30/person+benefits this amounts to over $16K in lost productivity for the state.

  15. Interesting, Jake—consultants may limit the candidate pool and drive up admin salaries. Everybody involved in the search committee has a college degree, right? We include community members to bring an outside perspective. How much more outside perspective do we have to pay for?

    Roger, how would you like to be president of Northern State University? Send an application! :-)

  16. King, if we currently lose $16K in state productivity with state employees serving on a search committee, we could double the time they spend on the search to review more candidates in more depth and still come out losing far less than we spent on Witt/Kieffer.

  17. Douglas Wiken

    Amazing that South Dakota officials think the only wisdom resides outside of South Dakota. Maybe the SUSD propaganda about “you can go anywhere from here.” means to these guys that everybody who knows anything did go anywhere except South Dakota. Everything about this selection process reeks of money wasted. When I worked in Pierre, I became convinced that incompetent or barely capable executives used out-of-state consultants because their competence did not threaten the job security of an incompetent executive as would keeping competent trained people on their staffs would