Former UW President Responds to Investigation Report
Former University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols slammed the university's trustees for investigating her without telling her, not allowing her to respond to two complaints about allegedly abusive behavior, and violating the university's rules for an investigation.
"I sorely regret that the Trustees decided to hide these complaints from me and never ask for my response," Nichols said in a prepared statement through her attorney Megan Goetz.
"Instead for months, I was led to believe I would be at UW for another 3 years. I wanted to continue as UW’s President. The documents confirm that the terms of my renewed contract were negotiated and finalized with the Trustees. During the time of this secret investigation, I was being recruited for two other university presidential positions. I passed on them because my renewed contract with UW was negotiated and done," Nichols said.
In March, the trustees announced that they were not renewing Nichols' three-year contract and instead offered her a teaching position, a decision that garnered criticism from the university's students, faculty and staff, and Gov. Mark Gordon.
Nichols, who began her role July 1, 2016, said the trustees blindsided her and offered no explanation. She is now the president of Black Hills State University in Spearfish, S.D.
Tuesday, the university released more than 100 pages of documents that include allegations that Nichols yelled at a university foundation employee about an invasive species initiative and at a staff member over a student’s interaction with her dog.
Those employee complaints apparently were the cause of the trustees not renewing Nichols' contract, she wrote.
Nichols recounted how the trustees directed her to cut the university's budget by $42 million, and that difficult work continued until she left, she added. "I can accept that people may have had criticisms of me as a boss."
But she insisted she never treated anyone abusively, and the reports about that alleged behavior did not arise during a mid-term evaluation in 2018, she wrote.
Likewise, the documents' redactions make it difficult to understand the substance of the complaints; the identities of those who complained; how they were interviewed; no findings or even a summary of allegations; and no notes that that the interviews occurred, Nichols wrote.
"Unequivocally, I can say that I was not interviewed, let alone told about the complaints or investigation," she wrote.
The night of the incident in which she allegedly confronted an employee's encounter with a dog at her house also was the night that personal property was stolen from her house, she wrote.
Nichols also could have responded to an allegation that she angrily confronted a UW Foundation employee, but again, she was not asked, she wrote.
"I am very disappointed that I was given zero opportunity to try and work through the issues," she wrote.
The records show the trustees investigated her according to a university policy, Nichols wrote.
But that policy requires the trustees to notify the person who is subject of a complaint, and to prepare a report and share it with all involved including her, she added.
"It’s clear the Trustees did not follow their own policy, despite paying a Colorado company thousands of dollars," Nichols said, referring to the contract with Employment Matters LLC Flynn Investigations Group.
Nichols concluded her statement saying she was bothered that two employees had concerns that were hidden from her and how the trustees treated her so poorly.
She enjoys her work at Black Hills State University, she said. "However, I continue to wish the people of Wyoming nothing but the best."