BEND, Ore. -

Faced with "unanswered questions" about its top pick, the Central Oregon Community College Board decided Wednesday to halt the process of choosing a new president and, in essence, start over.

The board "has decided not to hire a new president for the college at this time," said a statement issued by the college.

"COCC Board Chair Bruce Abernethy said the board has determined there are unanswered questions that provide concern and that the college needs to move forward," the news release continued.   

It came to light in recent weeks, just as the pick was made public and a formal appointment was planned, that Dr. Patrick Lanning, the school's top choice among three finalists, had been placed on paid administrative leave from his current job in February.

No details were made public about why Lanning, 48, had been placed on leave from his job as chief academic officer of instruction and student services for the Chemeketa Community College District and president of the Yamhill Valley Campus in McMinnville.

Following an executive-session meeting, the Board passed a resolution to “not hire” any of the candidates, and to “extend the search.”

The board did not make a formal decision on a timeline for the next phase of the search, but did indicate it will likely start the process back up in the fall.

No decision has been made as to who will serve as president after June 30, when current president Jim Middleton is scheduled to retire. The board also scheduled a meeting next week "to continue the conversation," the statement said.

“It is very disappointing to have gone through this process, involved so many members of the campus and the community, yet not be able to hire at this time,” Abernethy said.

“I want to thank the members of the Search Advisory Committee and everyone who participated in the interview process. I know they will all be disappointed with this news,” he added.

The college conducted a national search, beginning last fall. A 17-member Search Advisory Committee, comprised of faculty, staff, students and community members, screened all of the applications and selected three candidates whom the board invited for interviews.

After the interviews, the Board identified Lanning as the top candidate and then began what it hoped were the final steps.