Eye On Boise

Nellis to reporters: UI knew Bustamante was bipolar, receiving treatment

University counsel Kent Nelson, left, speaks while U.I. President Duane Nellis listens at a news conference announcing the release of former assistant professor Enesto Bustamante's personnel records Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011, in Moscow, Idaho. (AP)
University counsel Kent Nelson, left, speaks while U.I. President Duane Nellis listens at a news conference announcing the release of former assistant professor Enesto Bustamante's personnel records Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011, in Moscow, Idaho. (AP)

In response to questions from reporters, UI President Duane Nellis said former professor Ernesto Bustamante was allowed to resign rather than fired because it was "the fastest way to make that happen." He said, "We were interested in expediting this, and that was the fastest way to get that done." Asked if UI personnel gave recommendations to Bustamante, who reportedly had other employment lined up, Nellis said, "Not to our knowledge." He said, "I think we acted aggressively and appropriately."

Nellis said, "We did immediately contact the Moscow Police Department." But asked why the university didn't immediately inform the Moscow Police that the professor had assaulted graduate student Katy Benoit with a handgun and threatened her life, UI general counsel Kent Nelson said, "That was information that Katy had and did not want us to disclose it to police. ... We respected Katy's wishes."

Nellis noted that the university did put together a threat team that directly involved the Moscow Police. "That's part of the documents that we have provided today," he said.

In response to questions about whether the university knew about Bustamante's mental problems, Nellis said, "As the timeline indicates, the chair of the psychology department was informed by Bustamante ... that he was bipolar and that he was taking medication for that." He noted that the university isn't permitted to ask about medical conditions when hiring. "Bipolar is certainly something that's treatable," he said. When a faculty member asks for assistance or counseling, we certainly want to be supportive of them."

Said Nellis, "As anyone associated with our university knows, we have a very special community here. We've come together in the wake of an unthinkable tragedy. Going forward we'll be stronger and wiser, and we'll never forget our responsibility to Katy, her family and her friends."
 




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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