Editorial: COCC dodges a bad hire

For Central Oregon Community College, it doesn’t matter why presidential finalist Patrick Lanning is on paid leave. It matters that he didn’t disclose it. That disqualifies him no matter how the leave is ultimately resolved.

COCC has wisely decided to close that chapter in its search to replace retiring President Jim Middleton. The loss of a year is unfortunate, but nowhere near as unfortunate as hiring the wrong person.

Lanning was one of three candidates invited to town in February. After he was chosen as the finalist, COCC said it was no longer considering the other two candidates and did not have a backup plan if something derailed hiring Lanning.

Lanning had been placed on leave from his job at Chemeketa Community College on Feb. 11, before his visit to COCC and before the college sent five representatives to research his background at his current job. Nevertheless, COCC was unaware of the leave until the week of March 17 as it neared finalizing the hiring. The college hasn’t said how it finally received the information.

We don’t know the cause of Lanning’s leave or why he and his colleagues weren’t forthcoming in their talks with COCC. We expect better from both. It’s a reminder of how difficult it has become to research a job candidate’s background when principal figures are willing to dissemble, or at least not volunteer clearly relevant information.

Although Lanning was not necessarily asked if he was on leave, according to COCC, he was asked if there was anything in his past that could cause the college embarrassment. Being on leave does seem to fit that bill, but he didn’t mention it.

COCC has decided to seek an interim president for the next school year and then start over, seeking a new permanent leader for the fall of 2015. The delay is unfortunate, but the college has dodged a bad hire, and we should be grateful for that.