Wyoming legislation to close college presidential searches waits now for governor’s signature

Legislation that would keep private records relating to college and university presidential searches in Wyoming passed through the Senate yesterday and awaits the governor’s signature.

Gov. Matt Mead had not signed the legislation, HB 223, as of Tuesday afternoon. He has some concerns about the bill and has three days to sign it, said Renny MacKay, Mead’s communications director.

The bill comes in the midst of a presidential search at the University of Wyoming, the state’s only public university. The university aimed to hire the new president through a confidential search, which members of the media protested. Last month, a judge ruled the finalists’ names needed to be released to the public once they were forwarded to the school’s board of trustees. The day after the judge’s ruling, HB 223 was introduced.

The names were originally expected to be sent to trustees and released Tuesday, but the university’s director of institutional communications, Chad Baldwin, said they would not be. Baldwin said Tuesday was only a “target” and that the secondary screening committee has not yet decided on five finalists. He said part of the reason for the delay in the decision is that four of the eight semifinalists left the search after the judge’s ruling.

If HB 223 is signed into law before the finalists’ names are released, Bruce Moats, an attorney for the media, expects to have to fight for the names because the bill has a provision that makes it retroactive.

Moats said the judge signed an order on Monday that requires the university to release its finalists’ names within 24 hours after they are decided on. Moats hopes that order would override HB 223’s retroactive provision, if the bill is signed into law.