- LITTLE ROCK — My column Saturday about President Becky Paneitz’s sudden firing of a former top administrative official at Northwest Arkansas Community College has inflamed a major nerve with readers in Northwest Arkansas.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Marty Parsons' Firing, NWACC's CFO, Touches Nerve
Photo of Wrongfully Fired NWACC CFO, Marty Parsons (A Good Guy!)
College firing touches nerve
Posted: August 28, 2012 at 4:17 a.m.
The account of her dismissing Marty Parsons behind closed doors has led many to believe the NWACC’s elected Board of Trustees will be derelict if it doesn’t schedule Parsons’ requested appeal in the near future. As I wrote, it’s been two weeks since Parsons’ attorneys requested an appeal hearing. All they’ve received in return is the sound of silence.
Paneitz reportedly fired 57-yearold Parsons at the end of a relatively brief meeting in her office on Aug. 1. They had met to discuss another issue and as it was concluding she handed him a memo containing her nine issues with his performance.
The memo gave Parsons 30 days to correct the problems, which included alleged insubordination, a late budget and supposedly inappropriate language. Parsons has denied the president’s allegations and says she fired him on the spot after he refused her request to resign.
Sure sounds like there’s some dense smoke this board must wade through to extinguish a growing bonfire of public unrest.
A 34-year veteran of higher education administration, Parsons arrived at the college in October of 2010 as the vice president for finance. He did a fine enough job to be promoted nine months later to become the vice president of administrative services and chief financial officer.
Folks in the hinterland seem irate over this latest uproar at the college, especially since Parsons is one of (I’m told) at least five CFOs to depart since Paneitz took over in 2003. Wonder what they’d have to say. Right now, citizens are seeking answers they deserve. After all, this is their tax supported institution. Consider these Internet-posted reader responses to my column:
“This is now statewide, NWACC Board of Trustees. How embarrassing. Have you misunderstood your elected responsibilities? Or are you somehow being kept in the dark? Marty Parsons deserves his job back. Period. No under-the-table deals either. His contract continues to be renewed annually as long he performs his job with ethics and integrity. Enough taxpayer dollars have been wasted.”
“NWACC BOARD: This termination was unfair, unfounded and inappropriate. The climate at the college is fear, disappointment and helplessness-in that order. You attained your role to manage this college president. Please do not let an ego take precedence over righting a wrong. Help us avoid massive legal costs and embarrassment to our college. Times are tough enough. Do what’s right for our students, faculty, staff and community/taxpayers. Reinstate Parsons. He IS the solution.”
“If this board doesn’t ask Paneitz to step down immediately, they all need to be replaced with someone that will. This woman is going to just completely run this place into the ground in the time she has left. I suspect she announced her ‘retirement’ because she felt the truth would come out eventually on her epic reign and she would be ultimately fired at some point.” [Paneitz announced a year in advance that she will resign her position next summer.]
“From many comments on the message boards, it seems like the morale issue isn’t in the department Parsons led. Since his departure, it reads like NWACC morale has plummeted. Which would lead one to believe that low morale doesn’t sit on Parsons’ shoulders, but rather originates from the very top.”
“Good for you for posting the names of the Board of Trustees. They can act here and may be the only hope for employees desperate for the truth to come out, but quiet in order to protect their job security. Yes, morale is at an all-time-low and fear reigns. . . . Community members-your voice is needed to force accountability.”
“Re: Contacting the Board of Trustees and Insubordination. Is there a policy in place that states an executive staff member cannot contact the Board to discuss any matter pertaining to the college? Wouldn’t that be their responsibility to do so? It’s called check and balance. Nowhere is it mentioned in the Paneitz memo that Parsons was instructed not to contact the Board of Trustees.Someone needs to recheck the definition of insubordination, because this ain’t it.”
“Maybe the state should step in, dissolve the board, and start from scratch.” I have this gnawing sensation down in my midsection that tells me the serious matter of Marty Parsons’ sudden dismissal from his position isn’t going to quietly fade away.
Too many people who know Parsons see him as a far different man than the seemingly flawed administrator Paneitz painted him to be in her sweeping memo. And they clearly see a potential glaring injustice lying in wait for those with authority to address it.
It’s time to listen to what Parsons and his attorney have to say, objectively weigh the truth and the “rightness” (for lack of a better word) of what’s been done here, then take whatever action the trustees deem is correct for the overall welfare and credibility of this institution. And isn’t that precisely what they are elected to do?
Mike Masterson is opinion editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Northwest edition.
Editorial, Pages 13 on 08/28/2012