Home Audio Transcription Malatras berated, insulted SUNY employee in 2017 audio

Malatras berated, insulted SUNY employee in 2017 audio

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ALBANY — State University of New York officials were aware of complaints about Jim Malatras’ short temper and allegations that he verbally demeaned subordinates in the years leading up to his 2020 appointment as chancellor of the 64-campus system, materials newly obtained by the Times Union show. 

In a 2017 audio recording, Malatras can be heard cursing at and berating an administrative employee at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, referring to her as “lady” until she objects and asks to be called by her name.

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“You have a f__ing bad attitude on everything, lady,” Malatras can be heard saying. ” … You’re goddamn impossible all the time. … You drive people crazy!”

“You’re a misery,” he says later.

The employee, a 22-year-veteran of the Institute who oversaw finances and grant requests, began recording her conversations with Malatras at the suggestion of her United University Professions union representative.

The SUNY chancellor has spent the past week dealing with calls for his resignation or ouster after the release of texts from 2019 in which he demeaned a female former colleague who had publicly complained about a toxic work culture in the Cuomo administration, where Malatras had served as a top official.

The discussion captured in the 55-minute audio file from the Rockefeller Institute ranges from a dispute over tablecloth colors to Malatras’ disapproval of the staffer’s personality, missed grant opportunities, rumors that she had badmouthed him to colleagues, and her allegedly poor relationship with researchers. 

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras speaks at an event at Frog Alley Brewing on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in Schenectady, N.Y. New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon announced at the event the first of its kind Registered Apprenticeship program in New York State and signed a signatory agreement with the Center for Economic Growth, Frog Alley Brewing, and Albany Distilling Company to mark the creation of the program.
SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras speaks at an event at Frog Alley Brewing on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in Schenectady, N.Y. New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon announced at the event the first of its kind Registered Apprenticeship program in New York State and signed a signatory agreement with the Center for Economic Growth, Frog Alley Brewing, and Albany Distilling Company to mark the creation of the program.Paul Buckowski/Times Union

In a detailed letter to SUNY’s human resources department, the employee alleged that Malatras’ verbal abuse was “continuous” and asked to be transferred to another role. Her request was denied and she was ultimately terminated. 

But the woman’s claim triggered an investigation into Malatras’ conduct in the workplace, SUNY officials confirmed. Investigators determined that the employee’s allegation was “unfounded.”

Supervisory evaluations about Malatras’ performance leading the Rockefeller Institute “exceeded expectation” and noted that he “show(ed) extraordinary initiative and teamwork,” SUNY spokesman Leo Rosales said in a statement Tuesday. 

In his own statement, Malatras conceded that he should have been “more measured” in his exchange with the employee. He described their dispute as a difficult personnel matter. 

“This exchange occurred in the context of a conversation surrounding issues raised by multiple employees and became heated when this individual forcefully disputed the accounts from other employees made against her,” Malatras said. “The matter was reviewed through the established process by the prior SUNY Chancellor’s Human Resources Department which agreed with her ultimate termination and rejected any issues raised by the employee on how I handled the matter.”

Malatras had just three years of experience in academic leadership when he was installed as chancellor by the SUNY Board of Trustees in August 2020. He had spent most of his two-decade career in politics, and was a top policy advisor and aide to former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Breaking with past practice, the SUNY board declined to conduct a national search to find the system’s next leader. The move prompted a vote of “no confidence” in the board by faculty groups.

Malatras’ candidacy was backed by Cuomo loyalists including Larry Schwartz, who at the time was serving on the governor’s coronavirus task force alongside Malatras.

Documents shared with the Times Union suggest that SUNY leaders were aware of other complaints about Malatras’ workplace conduct during his two years at the Rockefeller Institute and his subsequent post leading SUNY Empire State. His top-down approach and short temper allegedly drove out several longtime employees at the first institution, and at least one top finance official at the second.

A Times Union profile of Malatras published in June 2020, just weeks before his appointment as chancellor, included allegations of a sometimes toxic management style.



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