COCC drops top choice for president

The move follows revelation that Patrick Lanning is on paid administrative leave in current job

By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin

The Central Oregon Community College board voted unanimously Wednesday night to not hire its “top choice” as the school’s next president, following the revelation that the candidate was placed on paid administrative leave by his current employer Feb. 11.

The college was poised to appoint Patrick Lanning its next president on March 17, but that same day announced the decision to postpone the board’s vote. Lanning, 48, is chief academic officer of instruction and student services for the Chemeketa Community College District and its Yamhill Valley Campus president in McMinnville. During the recruitment process, Lanning never informed COCC he was on leave.

Bruce Abernethy, COCC board chairman, said the college will begin the search anew this upcoming school year, mirroring the approach which COCC initiated last fall. Because of this change, the college probably will not have a new president until the summer of 2015.

“We’re looking at it as if we’re hitting the reset button,” Abernethy said. “We’re basically just pushing things back a year.”

COCC’s current president, Jim Middleton, is set to retire this summer after a decade with the school. Abernethy said he has not asked Middleton whether he will stay on longer. However, Abernethy did say the school intends to hire an interim president, a decision the board will discuss at a meeting next Monday. Abernethy noted that both internal and external candidates may be considered for the interim post.

“We could have gone out again now, and done an earnest search, and tried to have someone,” Abernethy said. “But we did not feel that would serve the campus well. We really needed a breather.”

COCC’s spokesman Ron Paradis said the school learned the week of March 17 that Lanning was on administrative leave. Paradis could not specify which day the school learned this. Paradis also said COCC is not aware of why Lanning is on leave but is aware that Chemeketa is conducting an investigation into Lanning.

“We do not know the specifics of the investigation, its timeline, or anything else. Chemeketa has not told us,” Abernethy said.

While Lanning never indicated he was on leave during the recruitment process, Paradis does not know if Lanning was ever directly asked if he was on leave. However, Abernethy noted Lanning was asked if there was anything in his past that could be an embarrassment to the college, to which he responded in the negative.

“This has been a very difficult last couple of weeks,” Abernethy said. “Obviously this is not the news we wanted. I feel at this point we have made the right decision about moving forward and that we have been fair in our treatment of Dr. Lanning.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com