State college system to investigate Gadsden State complaints
by Patrick McCreless
May 14, 2013 | 4860 views |  0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Alabama Community College System will investigate the complaints that led hundreds of Gadsden State employees last week to vote they had no confidence in school president Raymond Staats, the organization said in a Tuesday statement.

According to the statement, Mark Heinrich, chancellor of the state community college system, said the system will examine issues that triggered a vote of no confidence in Staats by college staff. The vote, organized by the Alabama Education Association on behalf of Gadsden State employees, was advisory and has no impact on Staats' administration or operations at the community college.

"When an action such as this occurs, we owe it to our president, our employees, our students and our entire system to carefully listen and methodically evaluate and resolve all of the factors involved," Heinrich said in the statement. "Our board and this office are extremely interested in the well-being of our local community colleges and the students they serve."

Amy Marlowe of the post-secondary division of the AEA, which has no position regarding Staats or the vote, has said AEA has received numerous complaints in the past year from Gadsden State employees. She said the complaints mainly focus on capital expenditures that critics claim are unnecessary, and on efforts to hire a vice president.

Heinrich said the investigation will occur over the next several days.

"Let me make it exceedingly clear that we are taking this entire matter very seriously," he said. "However, we will not act on emotion or hearsay — we must have the facts."

Gadsden State, which has campuses in Anniston and McClellan, hosted the vote. Of the 350 Gadsden State employees who participated, 312, or 89 percent, voted they had no confidence Staats' leadership. According to Gadsden State records, the community college has 777 full-time and part-time employees.

Staats addressed the investigation in a prepared statement Tuesday, saying he has had daily discussions with Heinrich and his staff since the vote.

"I'm anxious to continue working with our full team in reaching consensus resolutions to the various issues and will be giving this my full attention over the coming weeks," Staats said.

"I'm continuing to communicate directly with members of our college faculty and staff to gain a shared understanding of the issues and concerns that ultimately led to last week's vote," Staats said.

Dean Argo, communications director for the community college system, noted that Heinrich is not sure what the nature of the complaints are regarding Staats.

"Other than what he has read in the newspaper, the chancellor has received very little official information or complaints," Argo said. "That's why he wants to look into what is really going on."

During a brief Tuesday phone interview, Marlowe said AEA was glad Heinrich had decided to look into the Gadsden State complaints.

"We're pleased to see the chancellor's office is taking the situation at Gadsden State seriously and we're encouraged at the steps being taken," Marlowe said.

While the vote has no impact on Staats, Heinrich does technically have the power to remove a community college president from office, Argo said.

"The chancellor is invested with the authority to hire and fire college presidents ... he or she makes a recommendation to the [state board of education] and then the board must either approve or reject his or her recommendation," Argo said.

Staats said he was sure the concerns of Gadsden State's employees will be resolved.

"I'm confident this moment for the college will pass, even as we keep well-focused on educating our students," Staats said.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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