CSU board to review policy on removing presidents

Connecticut State University trustees will begin a review next week of a controversial policy that allowed Chancellor David G. Carter to dismiss Southern Connecticut State University President Cheryl Norton last fall.

The trustees have scheduled a special meeting Monday to name a committee to review the policy, which critics contend puts too much authority in Carter’s hands.

Under that policy, Carter can remove campus presidents without a vote of the board and with the consent of only the board chairman. Only weeks after the policy was approved last October, Carter notified Norton that her job would end at Southern, one of four campuses in the CSU system.

The handling of Norton’s removal has drawn sharp criticism at Southern and in the legislature.

Her departure was announced in February as a retirement, but documents obtained by The Mirror indicated that Norton, 61, had been forced out and had negotiated a settlement with the CSU system.

Some legislators also have criticized an arrangement that keeps Norton on the CSU payroll at her full $285,200 salary for a year after she relinquishes her duties while also paying her interim replacement a salary of $280,200.

Carter later named Stanley Battle, former president of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, as an interim replacement. Battle and Carter were colleagues at Eastern Connecticut State University when Carter was Eastern’s president in the 1990s.

Carter underwent an intense grilling from lawmakers at a legislative forum last month, but he defended the policy for removing presidents, saying it is designed to protect their privacy and to give a president who is removed from office “the chance to pursue his or her career with dignity.”

Under the revised policy, the CSU board has an option to overturn the chancellor’s decision at its next regular meeting after the president has been notified. However, in Norton’s case, that meeting took place after she had signed a separation agreement. As a result, the matter was removed from the agenda during the meeting, and the board never discussed it. Some board members have said they were not aware until afterwards of Carter’s decision to remove Norton.

Also on Monday’s board agenda is an item described only as a “discussion and possible vote relating to [the] Chancellor.” No details were available, and board Chairman Karl Krapek did not return phone calls from The Mirror Tuesday.

Several other board members, including Vice Chairman Richard Balducci, said they were unaware of the nature of the item.

One possibility is that the board will discuss its decision last fall to authorize an $82,500 retention bonus over three years to reward Carter for his decision not to take an early retirement offer from the state. The retention bonus is listed as an item on an agenda for the board’s Executive Committee, which also meets on Monday, but it is not clear whether that is also the subject of discussion for the full board.

The first installment of the bonus is due this year, but Carter has already said he will not accept it, and Krapek has said the bonus is subject to a review of the state’s financial condition.