Rebuked U dean's hires get scrutiny

  • Article by: TONY KENNEDY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 21, 2012 - 10:53 AM

Review led to nursing dean losing some authority.

Connie Delaney

A prominent dean at the University of Minnesota has used her department budget to give her brother a job, hire a former student for a faculty position while he held a full-time job in Iowa and pay consulting fees to two people with ties to her school's fundraising arm, campus records show.

Connie Delaney, head of the U's School of Nursing, was formally reprimanded this month for one of the hiring moves after questions were raised by the Star Tribune. Provost Karen Hanson found that Delaney violated university policy and stripped her of hiring authority for positions of 30 hours a week or more until June 2013.

Documents reviewed by the Star Tribune also show that Delaney has spent nearly $350,000 on outside consultants over the past six years -- three times more than the average spent by five other schools at the U. That includes $5,000 per day to a management consultant who provides "reality-based'' leadership coaching and charges the university as much as $250 per hour for phone consultations.

Delaney, who became nursing dean in 2005, says her strong leadership has brought needed reform and new esteem to the program. Her work has drawn praise from Frank Cerra, the U's former Medical School dean, and the Nursing School is ranked 21st in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

"The speed at which this school has transformed itself is remarkably wonderful,'' Delaney said in an interview. She said the reprimand speaks for itself, and she will follow it.

Nonetheless, Delaney's tenure has been marked by staff tension and turnover. In a staff of roughly 150, more than 100 people have left in the past six years -- including many she hired.

A review of university documents also shows that Delaney was involved in the controversial hiring of Julie Jacko, the former Georgia Tech University professor who was recruited to Minnesota along with her husband, Francois Sainfort. The two were indicted one year ago in Georgia on fraud charges for allegedly drawing full-time salaries from both schools, improper expense billings and lying about their employment.

"I want to thank you for your very proactive role in my recruitment,'' Jacko wrote to Delaney in a September 2007 e-mail.

An e-mail response from Delaney said: "We are both movers, and respect but do not let issues obstruct progress ...''

Two jobs

As the Jacko-Sainfort case first made headlines in the spring of 2008, Delaney had another case of dual employment on her hands.

According to university documents, Delaney recruited and hired Thomas R. Clancy as a clinical professor starting in August 2007. Delaney had been Clancy's Ph.D. adviser when she taught at the University of Iowa.

At the time, Clancy was a top-level administrator at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City, a full-time position he kept, with Delaney's knowledge, for more than a year after she hired him to the U's faculty, university records show.

Records show that Clancy worked 100 percent time in Iowa and 75 percent time at the U for 17 months. His U position paid benefits and a salary of $75,000. The hospital also was aware of the situation, and Delaney was impressed with Clancy's output, according to an internal U of M report in response to Star Tribune inquiries.

"Clancy could do most of his work online, with minimal commuting time,'' the report said.

In January 2009, when Clancy cut back to a 20 percent schedule at the Iowa hospital, Delaney gave him a full-time appointment at the U. Delaney said Clancy had important family reasons for staying in Iowa, and it was April 2010 before he moved his family to Minnesota to be on site daily at the U, records show.

Hanson, the provost, concluded that the university "clearly got value'' from Clancy during his dual employment, and she didn't hold him responsible for the violation of university rules.

She did note, however, that Clancy's full-time work in Iowa was not formally reported to the U, as required, and she concluded that the hiring violated Regents policy.

'ASAP'

Delaney's brother, E. Clark White, received a pair of consulting contracts in late 2006 and 2007. He stayed until a whistleblower called attention to the arrangement.

In an interview, Delaney said she was new to the dean's office and alarmed by its inefficiencies. Her brother had managed subsidized housing and was meticulous about office management, she said.

"I brought him quickly on board ... to attend to a crisis situation,'' Delaney said. "We had to turn things around in this office right now.''

Delaney and Terry Bock, associate vice president and chief of staff for the Academic Health Center, said they had a management plan to make an exception to the university's nepotism and conflict-of-interest rules. White wouldn't report to his sister, but to Bock for the first contract and to Delaney's chief operating officer for the second, Bock said.

The dean's brother overran the $2,000 limit on his initial, $65-an-hour contract, requiring an urgent round of paperwork to extend the contract and add $1,012.

"I need this approved an encumbered ASAP as a special favor to Dean Delaney,'' an accounts specialist wrote on Jan. 19, 2007, to an administrator in central purchasing.

In June 2007, well into White's second contract, central purchasing received information about the arrangement that it forwarded to Dick Bianco, then chair of the Institutional Conflict Review Board.

In a confidential e-mail to Cerra, the Medical School dean who also headed the Academic Health Center, Bianco wrote that Delaney "did not disclose these conflicts prior to awarding these contracts. This raises both institutional and personal conflict issues.''

Less than 36 hours later, Bock terminated White's contract and the case was later closed without disciplinary action, records show.

In hindsight, Delaney said, she made a mistake. "If I had to do it over, I wouldn't do it. Because of the perception. The perception of conflict of interest,'' she said.

Said Hanson, "We are satisfied Dean Delaney recognized the technical problem when it occurred and resolved it.''

Leadership coach

Some who followed the Nursing School in Delaney's first years agreed that she was making improvements. After reviewing her first comprehensive job review, Cerra wrote in 2009 that the school "has gone through mega-changes and redirection with great success.''

In 2011, Delaney received a Women in Business honor from Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. The school also recently received its largest gift ever, $3.65 million, for a renovation that will create high-tech learning spaces.

At the same time, a review of documents suggests that Delaney's spending on outside consultants is far out of the norm at the university. Since January 2006 she has outspent five other deans, randomly chosen, by an average of three to one. Records show $348,456 worth of contracts for professional service at the School of Nursing in that time compared with an average total of $102,000 at the five other schools: Law, Pharmacy, Liberal Arts, Science and Engineering ,and the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences.

One consultant, an Omaha-based leadership coach named Cy Wakeman, was hired to teach a "reality-based'' philosophy that "helps individuals and organizations recreate their mindsets so they can achieve results beyond their wildest dreams.''

Under contracts personally administered by Delaney, Wakeman draws $5,000 a day for site visits, plus travel expenses, and $250 an hour for phone consultations. Records from one of the contracts indicate that Delaney did not shop for a lower-cost provider, but university rules don't require competitive bids for contracts under $50,000.

In two other cases, Delaney granted consulting contracts to Twin Cities professionals who served with her on the board of the Nursing School's fundraising foundation. Janet Stacey, a member of the foundation board and a vice president at Padilla Speer Beardsley, a public relations and marketing firm, was a principal on a contract for up to $14,000 for an assessment of the school's communications work. Christine Seitz, a past chair of the foundation, has signed five contracts since 2009 worth $114,000, for projects including "strategic repositioning'' of the foundation.

Neither Delaney nor Hanson said they saw a conflict in giving university business to Seitz and Stacey.

Delaney said the foundation is not a legal corporation, but a group of volunteers who donate "humongous'' hours. Hanson said Seitz was selected for her expertise in planning and because she has the foundation's trust.

Delaney said her use of consultants, in general, is normal.

"There are times when you bring in an external consultancy to validate, to help facilitate change,'' she said.

Addressing heavy staff departures, Delaney said: "There has been turnover.'' She attributed it to the fast-paced change that she was hired to instill.

Tony Kennedy 612-673-4213

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