Dismissed: What they haven’t told you about Tricoli’s resignation

By David Schick

Photo by Michale Ferguson/ AAUP

 

“I think everything’s going to work out.”

The Collegian spoke with former GPC President, Dr. Anthony Tricoli, on the phone on May 8, the day after Chancellor Hank Huckaby announced a $16 million budget shortfall and Tricoli’s departure.

“I’ve got a lot of questions coming from a lot of different angles right now,” said Tricoli. “Could you call me back tomorrow?”

But everything didn’t work out.

***

Tricoli came to GPC in 2006 and more than doubled enrollment from a projected enrollment of about 13,000 students in 2007 to over 27,000 students in 2011, making GPC one of the top two-year colleges in the nation.

During his presidency, Tricoli received several awards and national recognitions including the Ralph S. Brown award for shared governance from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Michael C. Holen Pacesetter award for exemplary commitment to academic advising from the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA).

However, Tricoli’s reign wasn’t all awards and recognition.

“I am very concerned about the material weakness, listed at the close of this letter, that was identified in the recent state audit of your institution … due to the seriousness of this finding, I am requiring that you send monthly updates to me and John Fuchko,” wrote Huckaby in an email to Tricoli on February 8.

The GPC community became vaguely aware of the college’s financial situation on April 27 after a general email, with a subject line of “Resources and Institutional Needs,” was sent from Ron Carruth, former vice president for financial and administrative affairs, that stated a spending freeze was in effect,

“You need to look at this. Shows last 3 years gpc ran deficits if I understand it,” wrote Steve Wrigley, executive vice chancellor, in an April 30 email to Huckaby.

The email included a spreadsheet, which illustrated a four- year analysis of GPC’s revenue and expense activity.

“I believe we can balance FY 12 and FY 13 but the reductions will result in staff losses since it appears from our initial analysis that employment levels are far higher than they should be.”

Tricoli drafted a memo on May 3 to inform faculty and staff about GPC’s financial situation.

“It seems he is still in a mode to avoid reality,” wrote Wrigley, on May 3, about the draft. Tricoli’s draft claimed that they were not considering furloughs.

“We do not have to set ourselves on fire but some of this is just plain misleading it seems to me,” wrote Wrigley.

At 1:37 a.m. on May 6, the eve of his removal as president, Tricoli sent an email to John Millsaps, vice president for Board of Regents media relations, about his selection for an award from NACADA.

“As indicated below, I am the first individual from a two- year college to receive this award since 2001. Pretty exciting. Some good news among the weird of late,” wrote Tricoli.

***

“Recently the leadership of Georgia Perimeter College informed the university system that it faced a significant budget shortfall,” wrote Huckaby in an announcement to faculty and staff on May 7. “In light of the need for a fresh approach, President Anthony Tricoli has stepped down.”

Huckaby thanked Tricoli for his dedication and added that he would be joining the system office “to assist with initiatives in distance education, adult degree completion, and learning support programs.”

Thirty minutes later, Tricoli emailed Huckaby.

“I never agreed to ‘step down’ I did agree to accept your offer to move over to the system office to assist you on several important initiatives. I ask that you please retract the two words ‘step down’ as it is extremely detrimental to my career, and does not reflect what we agreed, nor the facts.”

Attached was a five page resignation letter, which Tricoli requested be sent “well more than one hour before” Huckaby’s email to faculty and staff. It summarized Tricoli’s “mixed emotions,” five years of “fond memories,” and his “great sense of accomplishment” at GPC.

“I will look for great outcomes to continue to come from GPC in the years ahead.”

***

Tricoli met with Huckaby at the University System of Georgia’s office on May 10. After the meeting Huckaby wrote an email to Board of Regents members.

“I advised Dr. Tricoli that his contract for the current year would be honored through the remainder of the fiscal year and during that time he would be on Administrative Leave. His employment with the University System of Georgia will end on June 30, 2012.”

Tricoli’s attorney, Matthew Maguire, from Parks, Chesin & Walbert, then contacted Chancellor Huckaby via email.

“Lee Parks and I will be representing Dr. Tricoli in connection with his removal as President from Georgia Perimeter College and his termination of employment. We will correspond with you more formally as soon as possible (hopefully by the end of the day), but in the interim, we ask that you not make any public statement about Dr. Tricoli’s termination until we have a chance to discuss with you.
As you know, it can be very difficult to ‘unring’ a bell such as this.”

Huckaby’s email to Board of Regents members:

“During our conversation [Tricoli] alleged fraudulent behavior by key financial personnel at GPC. He was advised that those concerns would be taken seriously and that our investigation was not complete. The criminal division of the Attorney General’s Office was immediately notified of these accusations.We have subsequently been contacted by attorneys for Dr. Tricoli requesting that we refrain from commenting further on the firing of President Tricoli.”

***

The Collegian called back Tricoli for an interview the next day, May 9, but his phone had been disconnected.

After the news of the budget shortfall, the AAUP issued a statement of regret in awarding him the Ralph S. Brown award.

The Collegian was recently informed by Maguire, Tricoli’s attorney, that they had “mutually parted ways.”

 

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