UBC's mistaken release reveals friction between board and former president

The plot thickens.

An eagle-eyed subreddit user has spotted a cache of unredacted documents revealing serious conflict between former UBC president Arvind Gupta and John Montalbano, former chair of the university's board of governors.

'Fully yours to own'

Sent in the months before Gupta's sudden resignation, Montalbano's brutally frank notes were apparently written to Gupta in the wake of conversations concerning his leadership.

A review of a May 18, 2015 meeting with the board's executive committee alleges a "low level of trust" among those working closest to the former president.

"To be completely transparent with you, we are still not certain that you fully appreciate the scope of your accountability," Montalbano wrote.

"As president and leader, issues such as low employee morale on campus, the relationship challenges with your key stakeholders and the simmering external reputational risks developing as a result of these challenges, are fully yours to own."

The documents hang some meat on the bones of an otherwise largely unrevealing dump of documents released by UBC earlier this week in response to requests under freedom of information.

The unredacted correspondence was included as part of a PDF download.

The sanitized version only hinted at the issues which led to the announcement of Gupta's mysterious departure, days after Montalbano emailed him to request a "confidential discussion, not captured on email."

In the review of the May meeting, Montalbano told Gupta the board's executive committee believed key aspects of his leadership style and management skills required a "course correction."

He said communication of Gupta's vision for change had been poor and said the board "must not be treated as a distraction or a nuisance."

'This may seem like overkill'

The conflict between president and board arose in another unredacted note Montalbano wrote the next month as a follow-up to a conversation.

"This may seem like overkill, but the Board is very concerned that you may not fully appreciate the importance of formal governance, in every aspect of your role," Montalbano wrote.

"There is general consensus that your actions and reactions to the Board's concerns, advice and inquiries suggest you possess an indifference or intolerance of the Board at best — or worse, an intended disregard of its authority."

At the end of that note, Montalbano assures Gupta of the board's genuine support. But less than two months later, the president would be gone, only one year after his appointment.

The earlier document release revealed that Gupta will continue to collect his $446,750 salary until the end of January 2017, even as he begins a one-year leave of absence next month.

The campus has been rife with speculation since Gupta's resignation, largely because a nondisclosure agreement prevents the university or Gupta from revealing the real reasons for what happened.

The mystery saw Montalbano resign in the face of a report which found the university failed to protect the academic freedom of a professor who suggested Gupta might have lost a "masculinity contest" with UBC's leadership.

Though the report found Montalbano didn't personally break any UBC policies by directly contacting the professor who published her assertions online, the RBC executive stepped aside last October "in the best interest" of the school.

UBC's vice-president of external relations said in a statement that the university will investigate the release of the unredacted material. UBC would not comment on the substance of the documents.