HOW WE SEE IT: Board Right To Deny Appeal Plea
Parsons’ two-year stint in the role came to an end when Paneitz determined he overstepped his bounds by contacting trustees directly on issues, including criticism of her. According to Parsons’ personnel records, he had been counseled on a number of shortcomings and given an opportunity to correct them. By Aug. 1, Paneitz had enough. His request to argue his case to the full board went nowhere. Two trustees supported the appeal, but six deemed it to be none of their business. Based on advice from their lawyer, board members steered clear of second-guessing the only employee who directly reports to them, Paneitz.
Board member Hadley Hindmarsh, in an email, argued for the appeal because of public scrutiny and at least the possibility evidence derived from an appeal could adversely affect the college president. That, she suggested, represented the potential conflict of interest board policy required before an appeal should be granted. Giving Parsons an appeal would have made for a good deal of drama and it might have been very interesting to watch, but the board has established its job isn’t to run the day-to-day aft airs of the institution. They hire a president for that. Institutions such as the community college are seldom well-served by a board wanting to substitute its managerial judgment for that of the leader hired to take care of such matters. No doubt a hearing would have given Parsons a venue to re-assert his criticism of Paneitz. We cannot today suggest he does or doesn’t have any legitimate gripes, but we can recognize a micromanaging board isn’t a workable scenario for the college.
At one point, trustee Mark Lundy, chairman of the Finance Audit Committee, said Parsons did a good job by bringing some financial matters to light. “He really raised the expectation that there should be sunlight in the finance (department),” Lundy said. “I think he really moved us ahead on some things.” But Lundy voted against the appeal because he knows the right thing to do is for the board to entrust the president with decision-making authority on personnel matters. If the board doesn’t like what that leader has done, the board can always respond with clear, policy-oriented direction or by picking someone else to serve as president.
The board should pay close attention to what’s happening within the college and give clear direction to its president to carry out what’s necessary to meet students’ needs. But if the board considers it kosher to step into the president’s shoes regularly, there will be relatively few qualified candidates ready to take the post when Paneitz retires next year. The lawsuit will probably come, but that will place the matter exactly where such a dispute should be: in an impartial judicial hearing.