CU President Bruce Benson
CU President Bruce Benson (University of Colorado)

As part of the University of Colorado's summer retreat at President Bruce Benson's mountain ranch near Kremmling, the Board of Regents will evaluate the school's top leader -- raising the question of whether they can give an honest evaluation when they are guests in his home.

CU officials and regents say "yes."

And they add that Benson's generosity in offering his second home to host the retreat -- part of which is open to the public -- saves the university thousands of dollars because officials don't have to rent conference centers or hotel rooms for the regents and executive staff members.

Board Chairman Michael Carrigan, D-Denver, said some regents have suggested the board explore holding the retreat at a different location. While planning this year's retreat, Carrigan said he contacted all of the board members and every regent -- except one -- felt Benson's ranch was a good location for the retreat.

"It's my experience the board's review of the president's performance is always candid and professional," Carrigan said. "The board has a lot of strong personalities and anyone who has worked with our board knows that we don't let our location effect our opinion on the leadership of a $3 billion organization."

Last summer's retreat -- which ran from a Thursday to a Saturday -- cost $4,674, according to Ken McConnellogue. Costs associated with the retreat include catering, travel expenses for university officials and nearby lodging for executive staff members who don't stay at Benson's guest house.

By comparison, CU spent $13,273 on a 2008 retreat in Grand Junction -- the last time the board met for a retreat that wasn't at Benson's ranch.

McConnellogue said that while the board evaluates the president at its summer retreat, the evaluation is a continuous process that happens throughout the year.

Asked whether Benson's home is a neutral ground for evaluating the president, Merrill Schwartz, with the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, said: "I think a place that affords privacy, encourages candid discussion and is comfortable for a confidential conversation is a good choice. The president's home is probably a better setting than the board room or a hotel meeting room."

Jim Geddes, R-Sedalia, said the location of the retreat doesn't play into his evaluation of the president.

"It probably does save us some funds to convene at the president's ranch for our retreat as opposed to staying in a hotel," Geddes said.

The portion of the retreat that's open to the public will be held Thursday, and the board will discuss academic priorities -- a conversation that arises after some board members have expressed concerns about duplicate programs on campuses.

Friday, the board will meet in executive session, and part of that meeting will devoted be evaluating Benson's job performance. Benson will be present for the evaluation, but the board also has the ability to meet privately, CU officials said.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or anasb@dailycamera.com.