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Posted at 10:12 AM ET, 09/ 2/2009

WHY IT MATTERS: The Montgomery College Furor

By Washington Post editors

There are important reasons that all of us should care about the furor at Montgomery College--and one of them involves how much of your tax dollars are going to waste.

Here’s a recap of events: Brian Keith Johnson, the president of Maryland’s largest community college, is being accused by faculty of running up lavish expenses (read the details here ) while neglecting his duties. The school's trustees will vote tomorrow on his future.

With these kinds of allegations, it is possible that we are headed down a road where the school may decide to give Johnson a package to leave rather than go through a drawn-out public airing. A well-placed county source says the issue has already been raised in county government. That could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in public money.

The trustees will want to avoid repeating the episode at American University several years ago when its president, Benjamin Ladner, was found to have wracked up huge expenses on fine wine, travels and other niceties. A long investigation sparked lots of negative publicity (Disclosure: I wrote many of those stories)--and in the end Ladner still walked away with a package worth several million dollars.

The bottom line is that the college's Board of Trustees--which oversees the president--should move swiftly to figure out the truth and resolve it. Montgomery College’s reputation has been growing as a great pipeline to four-year colleges, with record growth and a growing honors program. It would be a shame if the college is further tarnished by a failure to act swiftly.

After this episode is resolved, the trustees will then have to take a look at how they allowed this to happen--and ensure that it doesn’t happen again. If it means replacing underlings who contributed to the problem, so be it.

By Washington Post editors  | September 2, 2009; 10:12 AM ET
Tags:  Montgomery College, community colleges  
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I'm not sure what the writer means at the end about replacing underlings who contributed to the problem. This president gave specific instructions to his administrators years ago that they were not to speak to any of the Board of Trustees members about anything (just ask any of them).

Since all administrators serve at the pleasure of the president, guess what they're going to do? Johnson has shown his willingness to get rid of anyone that disagrees with him, so why would any administrator who could have maybe played a role in stopping all of this risk their own job to complain to a Board (of volunteers) that didn't seem interested in hearing anything bad.

The only people who are protected and can speak up without fear are the faculty at the College. They are protected both by tenure and union contract. Johnson can't touch them. It took a lot of courage for them to mount this case against Johnson, and they need to be commended for showing such courage. It would have been much easier to sit back and pretend none of this was going on, but the faculty at the College are much more committed to the institution than that, and people don't put in the kind of time into a place that they have to see its reputation get flushed down the drain by a loose cannon (Johnson) that doesn't have a clue as to what he's doing.

Frankly, the Board of Trustees should give this guy a little package deal to leave--but no more than he would have made between now and when his contract is scheduled to expire next April. They need to nip it in the bud quickly and decisively to minimize the damage that will be done to MC's reputation from all of this.

What's most shocking is that Johnson keeps hanging around waiting for the inevitable vote from the Board to give him his walking papers, yet he professes his "passion" for MC and all that the institution stands for. I can assure you that the institution does NOT stand for crooks like him raping the taxpayers of Montgomery County. MC has spent decades building the trust of the residents of Mont. County and has a reputation, internationally, as one of the premier community colleges in the nation.

The only people that should be replaced in this case are the Board of Trustees who never did their job in the first place in vetting this guy to make sure that he had the "right stuff" to be president.

Posted by: MCALUM | September 2, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

I disagree -- There is substantial evidence of possible criminal behavior. Law enforcement should investigate - not the potential malefactors and those who failed to exercise their oversight responsibilities

Posted by: pedro3 | September 3, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Early on it was evident that Dr. Johnson's management style was not what MC needed. His imperial presidency was so counter to Dr. Nunley's that the upheaval effected the entire atomsphere among the faculty and staff. I understand the desire to make
your mark, but one does not destroy what
was strong structure to create a new palace. One does not use a steam shovel to
empty a sandbox. Furthermore, the BOT
could have acted sooner when some creditable evidence was available to include high turnover rates among senior officials.

Posted by: t_ruple1 | September 4, 2009 6:35 AM | Report abuse

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