Blair Ulring has withdrawn his name from the list of finalists for the next chief of the Spokane Police Department following questions about his academic credentials.
The former chief of police in Stockton, Calif., listed on his resume a bachelor of science degree in 1997 and a master of science degree in 2002, both “summa cum laude,” from “La Salle University.”
The 149-year-old Catholic school in Philadelphia has no record that Ulring was ever a student there, according to the registrar’s office. Ulring may have purchased his degrees from similarly named “LaSalle University,” a diploma mill that operated in Mandeville, La., in the 1990s.
The Spokesman-Review reported on the matter Tuesday morning. Ulring declined numerous requests to speak with the paper about his academic record both before and after his withdrawal.
City spokeswoman Marlene Feist issued a news release making the announcement Tuesday morning. In an interview, Feist said Ulring cited “personal reasons” for dropping his candidacy.
“These things happen,” Feist said.
Prior to Ulring’s decision, city officials had not begun verifying the authenticity of each candidate’s education credentials, she said.
Mayor David Condon was not available Tuesday to comment.
The Mayor’s Advisory Board on Policing recently completed a review and ranking process that included phone interviews with seven top candidates for chief. Then the board whittled the list down to four finalists.
Five officials sit on the board: former Police Chief Roger Bragdon; Jim McDevitt, a former U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington; former Police Guild President Cliff Walter; Interim Chief Scott Stephens; and City Attorney Nancy Isserlis.
McDevitt led the prosecution of Dixie Ellen Randock and her husband, Steven Karl Randock Sr., who ran a local ring of 121 phony online schools for six years. The Randocks made millions off their business of selling fake degrees to more than 10,000 people around the world.
McDevitt, reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, has been out of town for the past week and was unaware that Ulring was no longer in the running for the job. He declined to comment on Ulring’s withdrawal and the vetting process for the finalists.
The FBI raided LaSalle in 1996 and found just three faculty members for the 15,000 students registered at the unaccredited distance-learning institution, said former FBI agent Allen Ezell, who created the agency’s diploma mill task force.
LaSalle faculty graded class papers by their physical weight instead of the quality of the work, diploma mill experts say. The school also offered students credit for life experiences rather than coursework.
The school came under new ownership after the raid, but it failed to earn national accreditation. Those running LaSalle changed its name to Orion College in 2001, a year before it finally shut down.