Monday, March 9, 2015

Phil Bryant in Public Relations Crisis Mode

Knowing that his boat is taking on water in the fallout over the IHL Board of Trustee's decision to not renew the contract of University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones, Governor Phil Bryant retreated to the warm safety of his friends in talk radio this morning to deny any knowledge or involvement over the matter.

What Phil Bryant did not mention during his interview is that while he may or may not have personal relationships with all members of the IHL Board of Trustees, he is close with IHL Commissioner Jim Borsig. Borsig, in an interview with the Daily Mississippian this past weekend, suggested "as far as (he) know(s)" there was no "direct or indirect involvement" by Governor Bryant over Dan Jones's contract, claiming that the role of the IHL is to keep gubernatorial involvement out of the IHL... that is unless you want to become Commissioner of the IHL.

Gov. Phil Bryant, asked... about the possibility of the appointment (of Jim Borsig), said he would be “well satisfied” if Borsig was named. “Dr. Borsig is someone that I have known for 20 years,” Bryant told The Associated Press. “He is doing a great job at the W, but I think he is well-qualified for the position of commissioner.”

According to the Associated Press last month,
The College Board named Mississippi University for Women President Jim Borsig as Mississippi’s new higher education commissioner Thursday, bypassing a more extensive search.
Before becoming president of MUW in 2012, Borsig was the College Board’s assistant commissioner for governmental relations, making the move something of a homecoming. Maximizing state dollars and keeping friendly relations with lawmakers are among top priorities for the leader of Mississippi’s eight public universities.
Meeting in closed session, trustees chose Borsig to succeed Commissioner Hank Bounds, who is leaving in April to become president of the University of Nebraska.
Board President Aubrey Patterson of Tupelo indicated in January that the board could bypass an interim commissioner and an extensive search, in part to bring a successor aboard before Bounds leaves. Under a 2013 board policy, members can choose a new commissioner or university president without using the traditional process of open advertisement for applicants and interview committees.
Let's make sure we have the story right. First, the IHL Board decides searching for an IHL Commissioner is a lot of work so Jim Borsig is nominated for the job without a candidate search for other applicants. Then, Phil Bryant publicly supported the IHL hiring Jim Borsig as its commissioner. After that, Borsig transitions into the office, and weeks later Dan Jones finds out he will lose his job. Just today, Phil Bryant said that he does not meddle in the affairs of the IHL Board just weeks after doing the oppose by supporting Borsig for IHL Commissioner. Sources are reporting that late last week, Jim Borsig spoke with Governor Bryant to discuss the Dan Jones contract matter.

Phil Bryant hasn't taken responsibility for the roughly 66,000 Mississippi jobs lost while he has been governor, and no one should be surprised that he would deny involvement in one more Mississippian losing his job.

The University of Mississippi, including the Medical Center, is one of the largest employers in the state of Mississippi. For years, Bryant has talked about how "pro-jobs" he is. When one of the state's largest employers is about to lose its chief executive officer, I find it stunning that no one would notify the governor or his staff that this was about to occur, especially when the Board admits that the debate to not renew Dr. Jones's contract had been ongoing for months.

It's taken several days to figure out how best to describe this whole mess, and it can be summed up with two words: power grab.

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