It takes just a spark to light a powder keg. Monday night at Dodge City Community College, the Board of Trustees meeting exploded due to a bombshell.
Trustee Terry Malone — while bringing forth a motion calling for an independent audit into federal funds awarded and used by the college — announced the school was facing an Arizona attorney general grand jury looking into if the school had overcharged the federal government $8.5 million for its helicopter program.
"Why would you bring up something that was in executive session and not out in the public?" asked Gary Harshberger, the newest member of the board having replaced retired Don Webb. "What’s wrong with you? Do you not understand the purpose of executive session?"
President Harold Nolte would not comment on Malone’s outburst. College attorney Glenn Kerbs did comment.
"I can confirm that Dodge City Community College received a grand jury subpoena issued by the US District Court for the District of Arizona," Kerbs said. "DCCC has retained legal counsel in Phoenix, Arizona, to represent the College. This is an ongoing matter and not near any final resolution.
"Any information provided to the trustees of the college concerning the grand jury proceeding was provided to them in confidence. The public disclosure of piecemeal information is, in my opinion, highly inappropriate and not in the best interest of the college. Because this is a pending matter and for the foregoing reasons, it is not appropriate for me to either confirm or deny statements made by Trustee Malone."
Harshberger also said Malone leaked information from an executive session, stating Malone gave the information to Pete Weil, a candidate for the board in next month’s election, and Weil posted it to his Facebook account.
Malone and Harshberger got into an argument which had both trustee members accusing the other of lying, Malone accusing Nolte of bragging inappropriately and Harshberger claiming Malone costs the college more money than anyone else due to his constant attacks on the college, board and Nolte.
Harshberger also claimed Malone promised to do away with the football program in 2 years.
Many of the accusations come from a conference in Las Vegas which Nolte, Malone and board chairman Morris Reeves attended recently.
According to Malone, Nolte bragged to another college president that DCCC had to repay just $8,700 in misused Carl Perkins federal funds. Nolte and Reeves both dispute this claim and the president offered to call the other president he was speaking to for confirmation.
Malone answered that the other college president was "his friend," suggesting he would obviously confirm Nolte’s account.
Nolte said the same call would confirm Malone’s comments that he expects to eliminate the football program at DCCC within 2 years. Malone insisted that was a lie, but the Dodge City Daily Globe was able to verify a recent Title IX complaint filed against DCCC was filed by Malone.
Malone questioned why annual audits of the school didn’t uncover alleged misdeeds by former executive vice president Danny Gillum — unless other employees were in on it or just didn’t care — and why the college sold "$300,000 of land for $550."
Harshberger congratulated Malone on that deal, saying Malone brought up the sale of the 3.1 acres for development in an email and that he would be all for it. Malone didn’t dispute the email, but has repeatedly stated the school "gave" the land to the city for a new Sutherland’s.
The board approved the sale price in an attempt to help stir economic growth in the community.
Malone suggested Harshberger doesn’t understand anything, being new to the board, but Harshburger said he was "learning quickly" and told Malone he was costing the school thousands in man hours and attorney fees with his "search for wrong-doing at every turn."
The motion for an independent audit failed due to lack of a second.
Krebs informed the board that the Kansas attorney general’s office had gotten back to him on Malone’s claims that the state’s open meeting law had been violated by the board. The issue was over three meetings. The first the board went into executive session and listened to a developer about a project before coming out of executive session. The attorney general ruled since no action item was put forth after the session that the board did no wrong.
In two meetings with board members — three at a time on separate nights — since there was no majority or quorum, no violation occurred.
The board was told of a technical violation requiring motions for executive session be more detailed and the board will have to have 1-hour training.
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