Mancuso withdraws as candidate for higher ed post

Eva-Marie Mancuso (center) and Deborah Gist (right)

Gov. Lincoln Chafee said Tuesday that Eva-Marie Mancuso is stepping aside as a candidate for interim commissioner of higher education. She will stay on as chairwoman of the state Board of Education.

Mancuso's nomination was criticized for potentially violating the state's "revolving door" policy. She had submitted a waiver request to the Ethics Commission, but Chafee said she will withdraw the request.

Chafee said Mancuso's withdrawal as a candidate was a joint decision, but he didn't apologize for nominating her in the first place.

"I like consistency. We were reacting to legislative mandates. I just thought this was the best direction to go. Eva's been doing the job, putting in enormous hours -- enormous hours -- without any compensation."

Common Cause said earlier this month that her appointment would violate an ethics provision that prohibits certain officials, for one year, from serving in paid positions requiring approval from the body on which they serve.

Chafee recommended that Clark Greene run the Office of Higher Education while a search for a new commissioner is undertaken and the office is restructured.

He said he has the experience.

"I've served on a bunch of task forces that involve K-12 education, plus higher education, covering everything from URI's involvement in Central Falls, working on Gov. (Don) Carcieri's (prekindergarten) to 16 task force," Greene said.

The legislation that created a merged Board of Education also dissolves the OHE as of July 1, 2014. The board must develop a permanent administrative structure for higher education.

Greene is currently chief of staff for the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Chafee said Greene declined to take the interim commissioner's post.