State University of New York officials are looking at in-house talent to replace James Malatras as chancellor after the Andrew Cuomo ally was forced out for smearing one the disgraced ex-governor’s sexual harassment accusers.
Sources close to the deliberations said SUNY trustees are looking at three well-regarded presidents of its flagship colleges — Satish Tripathi at SUNY-Buffalo, Harvey Stenger at SUNY-Binghamton and Havidan Rodriguez at SUNY-Albany to serve as interim chancellor of the the sprawling 64-campus public university system serving 450,000 students.
Tripathi and Stenger have headed their universities since 2012. Rodriguez has been president of SUNY at Albany since 2017.
SUNY’s Board of Trustees also is looking at former state budget director Robert Megna, who currently serves as SUNY’s acting chief financial officer as well as provost/chief academic officer Shadi Sannvik. Megna served as interim chancellor after then-SUNY boss Kristina Johnson left to become the president of Ohio State University.
Former SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher also is being discussed as a interim boss, sources said.
A SUNY insider said it will be difficult to recruit a permanent SUNY chancellor until after next year’s elections, when it becomes clear who the next governor is. So, an interim chancellor would likely be at the helm for a year.
“It’s a tough job and a political job that has to be filled in the middle of an election year,” a SUNY official familiar with the deliberations said.
SUNY officials also said they will conduct thorough background checks to avoid the type of opposition that forced Malatras’ exit.
Malatras will exit in early January. SUNY has yet to submit its budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year.
A key official on Cuomo’s COVID-19 task force, Malatras previously served as state operations director and was handpicked by then-governor to be SUNY’s 14th chancellor. He also worked briefly as chief of staff to former Chancellor Zimpher.
He was unanimously approved by the board in August 2020 with a hefty $450,000 annual salary after the board of the state public university system scrapped the national search process and ditched standard protocol.
Malatras’ texts targeting Cuomo accuser Lindsay Boylan were included in interview transcripts released as part of state Attorney General Letitia James’ sexual-harassment probe of Cuomo.
“Malatras to Boylan: Go f–k yourself,” Malatras wrote in one text.
In another, the SUNY top boss said, “Let’s release some of her cray emails!”
He also bizarrely forwarded Cuomo aides a pic of a nuclear explosion with the word “kaboom” while discussing Boylan.
After the damning docs were released, Malatras issued an apology last week, saying his words were “inappropriate.” But also noted that his nasty texts about Boylan were made in May 2019 — 18 months before she publicly aired her harassment complaints against Cuomo.
But an avalanche of opposition from state lawmakers — and finally Gov. Kathy Hochul — doomed his fate and Malatras announced his resignation Thursday morning.
Malatras also came under scrutiny for allegedly helping Cuomo on his $5.1 million COVID memoir and was questioned by investigators earlier this year, admitting he helped edit and fact-check the book. He also helped edit a controversial Cuomo administration report that undercounted nursing home deaths from the coronavirus — though Malatras denied low-balling the death count.