The four executive members of the University of Wyoming’s board of trustees flew to an airport not far from where President Laurie Nichols was vacationing last month, 10 days before the university announced she would not stay on as president.
Board President Dave True, Vice President Jeff Marsh, Secretary Kermit Brown and Treasurer John McKinley are all listed on a UW report for a March 15 flight on the trustees’ private plane. The report was obtained through a public records request filed by the Star-Tribune.
According to the report and a flight tracking website, the plane flew from Laramie to Casper on the morning of March 15 before heading to Glendale Municipal Airport in Arizona. The airport is a short drive from a condo owned by Nichols and her husband, according to property records.
The plane departed from the Arizona airport after nearly 90 minutes. It flew to Casper, then Cheyenne and finally back to Laramie, records show. According to UW’s website, True lives in Casper, McKinley in Cheyenne and Brown in Laramie. The entire trip lasted about six and a half hours and spanned 1,456 miles. It cost $9,100.
True said Wednesday that he couldn’t comment on the flights.
“Very honestly, regarding the president and dealing with personnel topics, I just am not at liberty to comment,” he said.
Chad Baldwin, a university spokesman, previously confirmed that Nichols arrived in Arizona on March 14 “to start a vacation.” When asked if trustees had flown to see Nichols to let her know that her contract wouldn’t be extended, Baldwin directed questions to True.
Nichols has not returned repeated attempts by the Star-Tribune to contact her. Through her office, she declined to speak Wednesday.
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Baldwin said Wednesday he did not know where the money to fund the flight came from. He directed questions about the cost to True, who told the Star-Tribune he didn’t know, either.
Little information has been released since the announcement March 25 that Nichols’ contract would be allowed to run out June 30 and that she would become a faculty member after that. True has declined to provide any details, and other board members have either not returned messages or deferred all comment to True.
In her sole interview since the announcement, Nichols told Wyoming Public Media’s Bob Beck two weeks ago that she was surprised that her contract wouldn’t be extended and that she had not been given any explanation about what happened. She did not describe the details of when, where or how she was informed.
Nichols told Beck she believed she and the board were “marching down the road toward another three-year contract.” She dismissed the possibility that her tenure as president was ended because of the sweep last year or because of any contractual disagreements.
The rest of UW’s campus seems equally perplexed. Donal O’Toole, the Faculty Senate chair, has repeatedly said he and other faculty leaders have been given no explanation. Alex Mulhall, the president of the university’s student government, said she had no idea, either.
Nichols told Beck that she will stay on at the university as a faculty member for at least the coming academic year. But she said she wasn’t sure what she would do after that.
True on Wednesday declined to discuss Nichols’ contract, other than to say that it was expiring, “period.” He said Nichols had “chosen” to stay on as a faculty member.
Nichols’ Laramie home is currently for sale, according to public records and real estate listings. According to Zillow, it was placed on the market April 5 for $130,000 less than it was listed for in 2012. As part of her contract as president, Nichols received an annual housing allowance of $48,000.