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Four Republican University of Colorado regents are none too happy that a list of potential candidates for university of president is apparently in the hands of the press.

The search was supposed to be top-secret to protect the identity of job candidates, and ultimately only one finalist emerged. Mark Kennedy, the University of North Dakota president to replace Bruce Benson, who retired in July.

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The pick stirred controversy because of Kennedy's conservative record, given the liberal reputation of the CU's Boulder campus. Kennedy is a former Republican congressman. Benson also was a Republican leader, who sometimes clashed with the student body and left-leaning alumni. Protests ensued when his hire was announced in May.

He was picked 5-4 along party lines.

Though a local journalist who apparently has the list of candidates is making calls to CU officials, so far the list has not been reported publicly.

Nonetheless, the Board of Regents wants an investigation into who leaked the list conducted by an independent law firm.

The letter is signed by regent at-large Heidi Ganahl, who co-chaired the search committee, as well as regents Sue Sharkey, John Carson and Chance Hill.

"The breach of confidentiality that occurred may have negative consequences for the university and make it more difficult to recruit in future searches," states the letter, obtained Wednesday by Colorado Politics. "We committed to respect the confidentiality of the process and of the individual candidates so that the university could attract the top talent expected to run a flagship state university system.

"Whoever provided this information to the media without the university's authorization has harmed the university and undermined the integrity of the search process."

Frank McNulty, a Republican from Highlands Ranch and a former speaker of the state House, was on the search committee.

"I think someone on the search committee, or worse, one of our CU regents broke faith with what was supposed to be a professional and confidential process and by doing so they put at risk candidates who have the potential of being exposed and losing their jobs.

"It's unethical and it's wrong."

Ganahl said the leak violates a professional responsibility to job applicants, who should expect the university to respect their privacy in applying for a job there.

"Why is someone trusted to hire the university president putting candidates who weren’t hired at risk of getting fired?" Ganahl said in a text exchange with Colorado Politics Wednesday. "We promised these women and men a confidential and professional search.  We had both until someone breached the trust of our committee and of these candidates.

"I am proud of the work the 17-member community search committee did to forward the six top notch candidates to the regent board.  And I believe the board made the right choice with Mark Kennedy, he’s doing great work leading CU into the future."

The full letter from the four regents states:

President Kennedy and Chair Gallegos,

As you know, it has come to our attention that someone involved in the recent University of Colorado president search has disclosed a list of candidates who applied for the presidency. Such an action is inconsistent with the expectation of confidentiality that the University of Colorado promised to candidates until the time they agreed to be named as a finalist and make their applications public.

The University of Colorado appointed a search committee that performed its work well and recommended that the Board of Regents interview the candidates whom it believed could effectively lead the University of Colorado. The Board of Regents was tasked with interviewing those candidates, which it did in good faith, and determining whom the regents would declare as a finalist. Mark Kennedy ultimately emerged from that search process, was named as a public finalist, was confirmed by the regents, and is serving the University of Colorado as its president.

The breach of confidentiality that occurred may have negative consequences for the university and make it more difficult to recruit in future searches. We committed to respect the confidentiality of the process and of the individual candidates so that the university could attract the top talent expected to run a flagship state university system.

Whoever provided this information to the media without the university's authorization has harmed the university and undermined the integrity of the search process. We are requesting a formal investigation to determine how this breach occurred and to advise us on how to protect confidentiality in future searches. Because Pat O'Rourke was part of the search process and would necessarily need to be a witness in the investigation, we believe any investigation should be conducted under privilege by an independent law firm and that the results be reported to President Kennedy and the Board of Regents.

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