UPDATE: Kentucky State University board member rescinds resignation
UPDATE POSTED 8:00 p.m. THURSDAY, AUGUST 5, 2021
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – A Frankfort attorney who had previously submitted his resignation from Kentucky State University’s governing board has rescinded his resignation, The State Journal reported.
Concerns over the the financial health of Kentucky’s sole public historically Black university and lawsuits alleging misconduct by campus officials culminated in the sudden departure of its former president, M. Christopher Brown II in July. Gov. Andy Beshear then ordered a review into university finances by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.
Paul Harnice told the Frankfort paper he plans to serve out the rest of his term, which ends June 2022, and intends to focus on KSU’s financial health and search for a new president. He said he chose to return after conversations with people asking him to reconsider, as well as learning of Brown’s resignation and the council-led review of the school’s finances.
Two vacancies remain on the 11-person board. One post can be filled by gubernatorial appointment and a new faculty regent will be installed after a faculty senate vote.
UPDATE POSTED 7:20 p.m. FRIDAY, JULY 23, 2021
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Two members of Kentucky State University’s governing board resigned days before the abrupt departure of the campus president, adding to the upheaval in the highest ranks of the school as it faces an independent investigation into its finances.
Soon after M. Christopher Brown II’s resignation as school president this week, Gov. Andy Beshear called for an independent accounting of KSU’s finances and signed an order empowering the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education to provide guidance and oversight during the review.
The development comes as Kentucky’s sole public historically Black university contends with concerns about its financial health and lawsuits alleging misconduct by campus officials.
In the days before Brown’s departure, Candace McGraw submitted her resignation from the school’s Board of Regents. In her resignation letter, McGraw said she was “not fully aware of the time needed to engage fully in order to ensure the ongoing success of the university.”
“Since I would not be able to fulfill my responsibility to the best of my ability, I believe the university would be better served by another appointee,” her letter said.
McGraw, a recent board appointee, is CEO of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
Paul Harnice also resigned from the school’s board before Brown left, The State Journal reported. The Frankfort newspaper was the first to report on the regents’ resignations. Harnice did not immediately respond to a phone call and an email on Friday from The Associated Press.
Harnice’s resignation letter did not provide an apparent reason for his resignation, The State Journal reported.
“The purpose of this letter is to advise you that I have decided to resign from the Board of Regents of Kentucky State University effective immediately,” Harnice said. “It goes without saying that I wish the best to Kentucky State University, its employees and students going forward.”
Brown, who was KSU’s president since 2017, spoke about his resignation in a podcast appearance posted this week. He insisted the school’s financial issues were unrelated to his leadership.
“This is not about malfeasance, this is not about litigation, this is not about missing money,” Brown said. “It’s about a cash flow question, which is, let me say to be honest and fair, a very real question.”
Brown did not elaborate further and could not be reached for further explanation of his comments.
In April, KSU said it received positive results from its annual independent financial audit, with a budget surplus of $2.3 million for fiscal year 2020. The legislature last year authorized a $55.5 million bond to build a 400-bed dormitory and dining hall using private financing. Under a public-private partnership, a Lexington company will operate and maintain the property and KSU will finance it through a 35-year lease, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.
After Brown’s resignation, the school’s regents named senior vice president and spokeswoman Clara Ross Stamps as acting president at the Frankfort school. They also voted to hire auditors to review the school’s financial situation. Stamps declined afterward to provide any information about possible problems or the reason for Brown’s departure.
“The Council on Postsecondary Education is poised and ready to provide our assistance to the leadership of Kentucky State University as they move forward,” council President Aaron Thompson said.
In his executive order, Beshear directed Kentucky’s postsecondary education council to assess the school’s financial status and provide a report prior to submitting appropriation recommendations for the next biennial budget. The council also will assist the university in developing a management and improvement plan.
“I believe in KSU,” the Democratic governor told reporters. “So we are going to work to get through this time. We are going to work to get back on track. And my commitment is to be transparent once this audit is done, so that everybody can see any of the concerns that are out there.”
UPDATE POSTED 5:15 p.m. TUESDAY, JULY 20, 2021
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – On Tuesday, Gov. Andy Beshear requested a full, independent and transparent accounting of Kentucky State University (KSU)’s finances and signed an executive order to ensure the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) is empowered and has the necessary tools to provide guidance and oversight during the review.
“My administration will continue to support KSU and work with the interim leadership, regents and the Council on Postsecondary Education to keep students and the future of the university at the forefront, and ensure stability and transparency at one of our vital institutions,” Beshear said. “KSU has been a unique and essential institution in the commonwealth for more than a century, serving generations of students as Kentucky’s historically Black land-grant university. My administration is committed to getting KSU through this so that the school can continue to provide high-quality education to students for generations to come.”
“The Council on Postsecondary Education is poised and ready to provide our assistance to the leadership of Kentucky State University as they move forward,” said CPE President Aaron Thompson. “KSU is vitally important to our higher education landscape as our state’s only public historically Black university, and as such, we are committed to its unequivocal success. While we’ve been monitoring recent developments, our next step is to gather necessary information so we can provide as much assistance as possible.”
“We appreciate the support of Gov. Beshear and the Council on Postsecondary Education,” said Dr. Elaine Farris, chair of the Kentucky State University Board of Regents. “We look forward to partnering with the administration, Dr. Thompson, and the council to do what’s best for Kentucky State, our students, faculty, staff and alumni.”
In the executive order, the Governor directed:
- CPE shall provide an assessment of the current financial status of KSU, and shall provide a report to the Governor detailing its assessment prior to providing recommendations concerning appropriations for the next biennial budget.
- To assist CPE in performing its assessment, KSU shall provide CPE access to any records CPE deems necessary to preparing its assessment.
- CPE shall assist the KSU Board of Regents in developing a management and improvement plan with goals and measurable metrics, which shall be subject to the approval of CPE. The management and improvement plan shall be designed to assist with organizational and financial stability. The management and improvement plan shall provide for continuing oversight by, and reporting to, CPE concerning the implementation of the plan.
- CPE shall make recommendations to the KSU Board of Regents concerning the KSU administrative structure and leadership.
UPDATE POSTED 10:15 a.m. TUESDAY, JULY 20, 2021
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – As WTVQ ABC 36 News reported Friday would happen, Kentucky State University President M. Christopher Brown II resigned Monday morning during a meeting of the KSU Board of Regents.
The resignation is effective immediately.
Board members declined to comment following a closed session that discussed Brown as well as pending litigation. The board also said it will further discuss bringing in an outside auditor to review the university’s finances which have come into question.
Dr. Aaron Thompson, head of the Council on Postsecondary Education which oversees all the state’s colleges and universities, issued the following statement:
“The Council on Postsecondary Education is poised and ready to provide our assistance to the leadership of Kentucky State University as they move forward. KSU is vitally important to our higher education landscape as our state’s only public historically Black university, and as such, we are committed to its unequivocal success.
“While we’ve been monitoring recent developments, our next step is to gather necessary information so we can provide as much assistance as possible.”
The KSU board named Clara Ross Stamps, the university’s senior vice president for brand identity and university relations, as interim president.
“The Board accepts Dr. Brown’s resignation and supports the current administration as they ready to engage with students, parents and campus stakeholders for the fall semester,” said Dr. Elaine Farris, chairperson of the Board. “We anticipate a cordial, collaborative and seamless transition and wish Dr. Brown well as he follows his interest in other professional endeavors.”
Stamps, who also serves as the University’s official spokesperson, was unanimously selected to serve as acting president to assure continuity of operations and tasked with the selection of an outside consultant to conduct a comprehensive review of Kentucky State’s financial status.
The Board will discuss details regarding the search process for the University’s next president at its September quarterly meeting.
In other Board business, Stamps introduced Gregory Rush as the institution’s next vice
president for Finance and Administration/CFO.
In 2015, Rush served as Kentucky State’s vice president of business affairs. He has an extensive background in financial stewardship of human, financial, and physical resources. He returns to Kentucky State after serving as Senior Fellow and Legislative Liaison for the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.
“As the Kentucky State University community comes together, with a renewed appreciation for our collegiate campus atmosphere and a commitment to our core mission and values, I am humbled and energized by the opportunity to serve our students and community following what has certainly been a time of unprecedented change. I pledge to labor with our faculty, staff, alumni, and supporters, and will be accessible, transparent, accountable, and communicative, so together we can positively impact the lives of our students and society while advancing Kentucky State onward and upward,” said Stamps.
An experienced leader in strategic planning, branding, community engagement, (Clara Ross Stamps Resume) Stamps brings 25 years of experience in organizational administration, leadership, change management and higher education communication.
An award-winning marketing professional with extensive certifications, she received her B.S.B.A. from Mississippi College, and is pursuing a Doctorate in Education at Morehead State University in Adult and Higher Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Governance and Policy Studies.
She joined Kentucky State in 2017 and has a demonstrated record of success in bolstering Kentucky State’s brand identity, development efforts and enhancing its overall university relations program.
Shambra Mulder is a former KSU employee. She was an assistant professor in 2010-2015.
“I think it’s unfortunate that the school is going through another change, however, I think for the students and the faculty the work will continue and the students will continue to have a good experience,” Mulder said.
In fact, Mulder is so confident that the school will bounce back from any potential setbacks that she’s still looking forward to her daughter joining the student body in the fall.
“I tell people they are an accredited university,” Mulder said. “They serve a great purpose in the state of Kentucky being one of the two HBCU’s.”
UPDATE POSTED 8 p.m. SUNDAY, JULY 18, 2021
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP/WTVQ) — Kentucky State University’s board of regents has called a special meeting to address financial concerns as the historically Black college prepares for a $50 million campus project.
The regents called a special meeting for Tuesday to hire an outside auditor to “review the current financial status of Kentucky State University,” according to the board’s agenda.
As WTVQ ABC 36 News first reported Friday, some regents have reached out to Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration about the concerns.
Administration officials have been in contact with regents and the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education to gather more information about the issues they have raised,” Beshear’s office said in a statement.
The university is about to move ahead with a debt-financed, 400-bed dormitory and dining hall approved by the Kentucky legislature.
The university has also been fighting a half-dozen lawsuits this year alleging various acts of misconduct by its leaders, including Brown
ORIGINAL STORY POSTED 5 P.M. FRIDAY, JULY 16, 2021
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Dr. M. Christopher Brown II, the president of Kentucky State University, is under scrutiny after several regents have raised questions about his financial management.
Some of those issues were brought up during an executive session of the board of regents Monday, July 12, but nothing was said publicly.
Another meeting of the board is said to be scheduled for Tuesday morning, but it has not been announced or posted on the university’s web site. At least one regent said they expected Brown to resign at that meeting.
Brown could not be reached late Friday for comment or reaction.
Council for Postsecondary Education President Aaron Thompson did not respond Friday to an e-mail request for comment on the issues. The CPE oversees Kentucky State and the state’s other colleges and universities.
But Gov. Andy Beshear’s office acknowledged issues have been raised.
“Several regents recently reached out to the administration with concerns related to Kentucky State University. Administration officials have been in contact with regents and the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education to gather more information about the issues they have raised,” Crystal Staley, the governor’s spokesperson said in an e-mail late Friday.
Some regents, speaking off-the-record to WTVQ ABC 36 News, said the issues center around the university’s financial condition, which one described as “broke” and another described as “in the red.” It’s of particular concern since the university recently has made financial commitments, including bonds, for a new dorm, they said.
One also said the university was using federal funds to pay salaries improperly.
“Our chief financial officer, Doug Allen recently left after we made a bond agreement for a new expensive dorm when we had no funds. All of the people in accounting and budgeting are leaving. They have been running, trying to stop our bond agreement for the new dorm,” one board member said in an e-mail.
According to his KSU biography, Brown began his tenure as Kentucky State University’s 18th president May 15, 2017.
He has a Ph.D. in higher education from The Pennsylvania State University, an M.S. in education from the University of Kentucky, and a B.S. in elementary education from South Carolina State University.
Prior to accepting the Kentucky State presidency, Brown served as the executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at Southern University and A&M System. He also previously served as president and institutional executive officer at Alcorn State University.
He has served in other executive and academic roles at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Alcorn State University, Fisk University, University of Nevada at Las Vegas, the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education and the United Negro College Fund, according to his bio.
He also ran into some financial questions at Alcorn State, where he took over as president in 2010 and was lauded for early progress, including increasing the university’s enrollment.
In October 2012, months after Alcorn, a historically black college like KSU, was named ‘HBCU of the Year’ by the Center for HBCU Media Advocacy, Brown was given a contract extension by the state. In 2013, he was named HBCU Male President of the Year by the Center for HBCU Media Advocacy, according to Wikipedia and a variety of media sources as the time.
But that same year, he resigned from Alcorn State University following allegations of improper procurement practices for campus event contracts and facility renovations. State higher education and law enforcement officials never published direct connections of wrongdoing to Brown’s contract authorizations and no criminal charges or civil penalties ever were brought against university employees, according to media reports at the time.