Dodge City Community College Board of Trustees candidates answered a series of questions during a candidates forum at the college’s Little Theater on Tuesday.

The eight candidates are incumbents Merrill Conant, Gary Harshberger and Morris Reeves and candidates Bill Hammond, Mia Schraeder Korbelik, Kathy Ramsour, Dan Reichenborn and Pete Weil. The eight are seeking one of four open spots on the board, which will expand to seven members next year.

While early questions from moderator Dan Love drew generic responses from most of the candidates,  two questions near the end of the evening drew heated responses.

The first question was about conflict of interest when a relative is an employee of the college. Both Weil and Hammond believed the question was directed at them and both made sure the 100 or so people gathered knew it wasn’t illegal.

"My son is on the faculty," Weil said. "The main thing is that a board member, when faced with a possible conflict of interest, must recuse themselves from the issue.

"But I believe this question is directed at me."

"I’d have to disagree with Pete as I believe the question is directed at me because of my wife," Hammond said. "My wife has said she would resign as president of the Faculty Coalition if I’m elected, but she will remain on the faculty.

"Pete’s right about recusing oneself from an apparent conflict of interest."

Korbelik, who has served on other college boards, believed if board members put the college first, it wouldn’t matter.

"If there is even the appearance of a conflict of interest, the member needs to recuse," she said. "It’s important to make sure the board is above reproach and that all members put the needs of the college first while on the road."

Candidates were also split when talking about recent investigations by the Kansas Board of Regents and attorney Alan Glenndenning and the results revealed thus far.

"It’s definitely the board’s fault," said Reichenborn of what has been discovered. "A good board should know what’s going on.

"I have been accused of micromanaging when I was on the school board, but if it protects the district, yes, I will micromanage."

Harshberger gave a different point of view.

"The board started hearing about some of the allegations 2 years ago," he said. "I joined the board when Don Webb retired because I felt I could help.

"This has been going on for 2 years and the board is learning from it and doing its best with a bad situation."

Ramsour believed the situation wouldn’t happen again.

"It’s done and I agree with Gary that you learn from things," she said. "I believe now that the board has gone through this that it will not happen again.

"It takes going through a situation to understand it and put policies in place to prevent it from happening again."

Weil thought it inappropriate to discuss the investigations because there may be more coming out of it at a later time — including possible criminal charges — while Hammond joined Reichenborn in laying the blame on current board members.

Conant, who has been a member of the board for 12 years, admitted in his time on the board they have never faced an issue such as the investigations, but that when the new president, Dr. Harold Nolte, came in and things started to come out, the board has done what it could as fast as it could.

"The biggest thing is we had to have the investigations and we had to have answers before we could do anything," he said. "I’m proud of how we’ve done our business to insure students and the college came first."

Interestingly, while some candidates blamed the current board and others blamed former DCCC president Don Woodburn, not one candidate blamed former executive vice president Danny Gillum, who was the target of the investigations.

Other topics included Higher Learning Commission qualifications, 4-year degrees being offered in Dodge City, a possible Title IX violation and more.

"We are working hand-in-hand with the Higher Learning Commission to make sure our faculty have the qualifications needed to teach their classes," Reeves said. "There has been some disagreement with some faculty on this, but we need to do it right for accreditation."

The top four vote-getters on Nov. 7 will earn spots on the DCCC Board of Trustees.

 

To contact the writer email rbluhm@dodgeglobe.com.