SUNY officials called for an independent probe into embattled Chancellor James Malatras’ workplace history on Tuesday amid accusations he contributed to a poisonous work environment where employees faced abuse.
Malatras, once a top aide and confidante to ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is facing growing scrutiny after it was revealed he smeared former state worker Lindsay Boylan in text messages months before she accused Cuomo of sexual harassment.
“Not only did he not push back against the toxic work environment that we now know characterized that administration, he also contributed to its polarized, ‘take no prisoners’ culture,” the Senate, SUNY’s faculty governance organization, said in its letter.
“This behavior was, and is, unacceptable.”
The group is calling for a review of Malatras’ time in leadership roles not only at SUNY but at the Rockefeller Institute for Government and Empire State College. The letter came on the same day, a 2017 audio recording surfaced where Malatras is heard tearing into a female employee at Rockefeller and calling her “lady.”
“You have a f—king bad attitude on everything, lady,” Malatras is heard saying in the audio, obtained by the Times Union. “You’re goddamn impossible all the time … you drive people crazy.”
The recording was made by the employee, who taped Malatras on advisement of a United University Professions union representative. The employee, who wasn’t named, had claimed she asked for a transfer after Malatras verbally abused her but was denied.
A probe was launched into Malatras’ conduct and it determined the complaint was “unfounded” and he was found to have exceeded expectations in his performance reviews, a spokesman told the Times Union.
Malatras, in a statement, said he should have been “more measured” in his discussion with the worker but noted a review under Rockefeller’s human resources policy found the employee’s claims unfounded. She was ultimately fired.
“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 in a statement to the Times Union.
That recording followed texts released last week as part of a bombshell document dump related to the harassment investigation into Cuomo by Attorney General Letitia James. In one text, from 2019, Malatras wrote to Cuomo aides as the administration clashed with Boyland over workplace issues.
“Malatras to Boylan: Go f—k yourself,” he wrote.
In another text, he said of Boylan, “Let’s release some of her cray [crazy] emails!”
Malatras was appointed chancellor in summer 2020 despite no national search being conducted for the position. Gov. Kathy Hochul has declined to call for Malatras’ ouster and the SUNY board of trustees issued a statement backing the administrator.
The Senate said in its letter that it was putting the board of trustees and chancellor “on notice” despite members of the executive committee wanting Malatras’ immediate resignation or removal.
The group said the SUNY board of trustees, in supporting Malatras, “failed to adequately explain why they retain confidence that he can effectively lead and advocate for SUNY going forward.”