Grayson College gains good audit, loses VP

Grayson College’s Board of Trustees sat through a marathon meeting Tuesday night in which they accepted an audit that pronounced the college in very good financial shape and upheld the firing of a vice president.

Trustees heard from Brian Grisham, of Adami, Lindsey and Grisham, about the audit the firm recently performed for the college. Grisham said procedure resulted in a clean, unmodified report which means the college is in good financial condition. He said the audit showed that the college’s procedures for handling finances and all of the reporting practices that accompany acceptance of governmental funds are working properly.

Grisham said the college has total net assets of $43 million, which, he said, is an increase of about $4 million over the previous year. Grisham said $15 million of that $43 million is reflected in the college’s property and equipment. An additional $3 million of the $43 million is restricted for capital projects and debt service. About $25 million of the $43 million is unrestricted. Of that $25 million, Grisham said, $9 million is designated for capital improvements.

With the positive financial news under their belts, Board members turned to a less rosy topic. In December, Grayson College President Jeremy McMillen fired Vice President of Student Services Marc Payne. Grayson College procedures allowed Payne to ask for a hearing about that decision before the Board of Trustees and to ask that the hearing either be closed to the public or open to the public. Payne elected to have an open hearing which was held Tuesday night. Both Payne and McMillen questioned staff members during the presentation of their cases to the Board.

McMillen said he fired Payne on December 5 for cause, and that the cause included incompetence, failure to comply with directions and disruption of working conditions. In specific, McMillen said it was part of Payne’s job to help increase enrollment at the college and he was repeatedly given some instructions by McMillen about how to go about increasing enrollment. Specifically, McMillen told Payne to make sure the college was following up with students who had applied to Grayson College but who did actually register.

McMillen said he repeatedly asked Payne about that directive and was led to believe that Payne was following those directions. McMillen said he told Payne that the college needed to write on the wall a number by which the college wanted to increase enrollment and work toward that number. McMillen later learned that Payne had not done that and was not concentrating on the group of students that McMillen had told him to concentrate on, but was focusing efforts on retaining students who were already registered at GC. McMillen said the lack of enrollment is key to the college because it means a loss of funds both this year and in the future.

Additionally, McMillen said a female student complained that Payne had sexually harassed her and that some of Payne’s colleagues reported finding him hard to work with. Other workers said they couldn’t trust him to be fair in the workplace. McMillen noted that Payne’s staff did not take a “no confidence” vote with regard to Payne’s running of his department, but such a vote was discussed.

“This is about performance and his ability to provide the college with consent performance that we need for our students, for our community so that we can move forward. It was my judgment that we were failing to find that performance where we needed it on these issues,” McMillen said.

“Please know that I don’t want to be somewhere that I am not wanted; I think no one wants to be. I am only here to ask that you hear both sides of the issue,” Payne told the Board. He said the college had broken both state and college procedures by terminating him in the way that it did. He said he has over 17 years of higher education experience and he has overseen financial aid, student housing, outreach, admissions, counseling, student life, and other areas.

“Every job I have had has been a promotion or a higher level of management,” Payne said. “I have always had outstanding evaluations even here at Grayson.” He said he came to Grayson as a “change agent” and that making those changes led to his being unpopular with some of the staff around him. He said some of those staff members took advantage of that situation to try to further their own careers. Payne said McMillen never presented him with an opportunity to improve his performance or make changes to his performance.

After the Board upheld McMillen’s decision to fire Payne, the Board heard that McMillen had divided Payne’s former job up amongst several departments and employees at least through the spring semester. He said that reorganization included moving financial aid, campus police, and housing under the Vice President for Business Services. The Registrar’s office, counseling, outreach, and student activities were moved under the auspices of the Vice President for Instruction.

The Board also accepted the resignation of James Dering, music professor, and the hiring of Sharon Johns to teach in the Associate Degree Nursing program. They also accepted the statement of officer as a commissioned police officer Guillermo Jose Carrasco.