Don Learned’s recent condemnation of the college board of trustees and its policy governance deserves a response. Policy governance has not failed the community. The board has failed the community.
The board, led by Robert Feldt, Paul Maneth and Mike Johnson over the last six years, has repeatedly ignored its obligations under policy governance.
Twice, at the direction of then chairman Mr. Feldt, the board placed $500,000 increases in local property taxes under its consent agenda for approval.
By definition, the consent agenda (as opposed to the regular agenda) is for items so routine that they do not require discussion.
Seriously, $1 million in increased property taxes is so routine it doesn’t require discussion?
Policy governance clearly states that the Barton County taxpayers are the owners of the college and that the trustees should perform in ways that are honest, ethical, and help all shareholders learn more about the college.
Trying to hide $1 million in increased taxes on the owners of the college is not honest or ethical. Nor does it help anyone learn more about the college.
Among many other breaches of their obligations, Mr. Feldt also placed a $1.5 million track and soccer complex on the consent agenda. If not for the objections of Trustee John Moshier it would have passed without discussion.
That brings me to Mr. Learned’s recent complaint about the firing of longtime employee Debbie Warren.
The board’s policy governance does not keep the board from reviewing the president’s handling of Mrs. Warren’s termination. It demands that they do so.
Quoting from the board’s executive limitations concerning the president:
“The president shall act at all times in an exemplary manner consistent with the responsibilities and expectations vested in that office. The president shall act in a manner consistent with board policies and consistent with those practices, activities, decisions, and organizational circumstances which are legal, prudent, and ethical. Accordingly, the president may not: 1. Deal with students, staff, or persons from the community in an inhumane, unfair, or undignified manner; and 2. Make decisions except by a process where openness is maintained.”
“The president shall create and sustain an environment for living, working, teaching, and learning that supports the development and realization of human potential and promotes the college’s core values. Treatment of and dealing with students, staff, and persons from the community, shall be humane, fair, and dignified. Accordingly, the president may not: 1. Operate without policies and/or procedures which set forth staff and student rules, provide for effective handling of grievances, ensure due process, and protect against wrongful conditions; 2. Discriminate against anyone for expressing an ethical dissent; 3. Fail to comply with all laws, rules, and regulations pertaining to employees and students including those pertaining to: terminations and resignations, discrimination, equal opportunity, sexual harassment, and rights of privacy.”
Mr. Learned, I do not believe you understand the board’s policy governance. I have doubts you have even read it.
If you had, you would know the board evaluates the president annually based on his compliance with the executive limitations given him by the board. And, in fact, the board is required to complete its evaluation of the president’s performance each April.
Has the president lived up to the executive limitations placed upon him by policy governance?
Did he treat an employee of almost 28 years with fairness and dignity?
Was openness maintained in his decision-making process?
Did he provide her with due process?
It is the trustees’ responsibility to answer those questions, Mr. Learned. Do your job.