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Frank: Settlement with regents most pragmatic course

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — University of New Mexico President Bob Frank said in a statement issued by his lawyer late Wednesday that he agreed to a settlement with the board of regents because of the toll litigation would take and his love for UNM.

Bob Frank

Bob Frank

Frank also said the settlement, under which he will step down Dec. 31 and move to a paid sabbatical status until his contract expires May 31, should “not be construed as a concession” that the “actions initiated against him by the regents were justified or appropriate.”

The agreement announced by UNM on Tuesday followed weeks of tensions between Frank and the regents. They voted 5-2 to approve an agreement in which Frank would leave the office at the end of the year, about five months ahead of his previously scheduled departure of May 31, 2017.

Frank will be paid at his current salary of $362,136 per year through May for “professional development,” at which time he will be offered a tenured position at the Health Sciences Center at an annual salary of $190,000. In a prior exit agreement signed earlier this year, Frank would have been paid $350,000 at HSC.

“While a settlement may not seem ideal, especially for me, it is the most pragmatic move in the long run,” Frank said in an emailed statement from his attorney, Jaymeson Pegue. “I am very proud of all that I have accomplished at UNM during the 4.5 years I have served in a leadership capacity.”

Pegue confirmed Wednesday night that Frank had agreed to the deal but didn’t provide more specifics. She previously had told the Journal the settlement would include a release agreement between both parties that would require that they drop any claims related to the matter.

Frank earlier this month had said he intended to sue the regents and the university in connection with “defamatory” reports leaked to the news media that were meant “to harm Dr. Frank’s reputation, and in direct violation of UNM policy and New Mexico law.”

In late November, the Journal obtained two of those reports critical of Frank. One was an audit that found $5,500 had been over-reimbursed to Frank, and the other consisted of interviews of eight employees, some of whom criticized his management style. He was variously accused of being sarcastic and biting, and there was an allegation of bullying.

Some employees also expressed support.

In his statement, Frank cited some of his accomplishments, such as improved graduation rates, the growth of the university endowment and the launch of Innovate ABQ, a partnership with the city, county and private partners meant to generate economic growth.

“My formative years in academics were spent here at UNM,” he said. “My love of the institution is deep. With all that we have achieved, the future is bright for UNM and all the students who come here to achieve the finest that education has to offer.”

Pending the appointment of a new president, Provost Chaouki Abdallah will serve as the acting president. Craig White, dean of the Anderson School of Management, will serve as acting provost.

The regents said they hope to have a new president in place by early spring.

Regents President Rob Doughty didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment late Wednesday. Doughty voted in favor of the agreement, along with regents Ryan Berryman, Jack Fortner, Brad Hosmer and Suzanne Quillen. Regents Tom Clifford and Marron Lee cast the dissenting votes.

Frank, a UNM graduate in psychology and a Lobo swimmer, took the president’s office in 2012 after a national search. He was provost at Ohio’s Kent State University before taking the UNM position.

Settlement Agreement: UNM President Frank and Regents by Albuquerque Journal on Scribd