Youngstown State University's decision to a national recruiting firm to find its next president began in July, five months after former President Jim Tressel resigned.

Neal McNally, Vice President for Finance and Business Operations for Youngstown State University, hired the national recruiting firm of WittKieffer, whose motto is "We build exceptional leadership teams and vibrant cultures that positively impact quality of life."

But the one hired of the three finalist candidates - Valley Congressman Bill Johnson - created a stir from some donors, alumni, staff, and community members when the Board of Trustees announced his hiring as the tenth university president on Nov. 22.

21 News, through a records request to the university, obtained a copy of the agreement between the university and the recruiting firm, which shows that the agreement, written by WittKiefer, received a flat fee of $130,000 for professional fees, a one-time fee of $6,500 for data and technology services for access to its database.

Items not included were out-of-pocket expenses, such as consulting fees and candidate travel, accommodations, and verifications.

The cost also included assessments of the candidates by a licensed psychologist and early onboarding support with a 90-minute debrief and feedback session and a 100-day post-hire progress review.

The assessment cost of the three finalist candidates was $5,000 for the first, $4,000 for the second finalist and three for each additional candidate.

The process completed by WittKieffer Inc., according to the terms and conditions, provided background reports on the candidates, including verification of employment, academic degrees, professional licenses, and certifications.

The contract also stipulates that if any of the other candidates interviewed are offered another position within the university, a professional fee equal to 20 percent of the candidate's first year's compensation is to be paid to the recruiter.

The contract also states that if WittKieffer's placed client, in this case, Johnson, leaves within the first year, the firm will search for a new candidate without additional professional fees or data fees.

The contract also calls for any data provided by WittKieffer to be used only by the university and not to be given out unless required by court order, including Ohio's Sunshine Laws for public records requests. 

The Data Privacy section of the agreement also calls for all personal information of candidates not employed by the university to be destroyed following the closure of the search, excluding copies in accordance with its established record retention procedures and systems for legal reasons. 

The Data Privacy section reads, "Any Personal Information that WittKieffer provides to Client is provided only for use by Client in the search engagement defined in this Letter Agreement and may not be shared by Client with any other person or entity, unless required to be disclosed by court order or law, including Ohio Public Records law (ORC 149.43). Client agrees to use the Personal Information only for the search engagement defined in this Letter Agreement, to share such Personal Information only with Client personnel or representatives who have a need to know, to protect the confidentiality and security of Personal Information consistent with the requirements of this agreement and applicable law relating to data protection, and to destroy all such Personal Information of candidates not employed by Client immediately following closure of this search engagement, or sooner if requested to do so by WittKieffer in writing."