Meotti: Second higher education casualty

Michael P. Meotti, executive vice president of the Board of Regents of Higher Education — and the focus of the pay-raise scandal that slammed the department this week — became the second top official to resign Friday.

Earlier, Robert A. Kennedy, president of higher education’s central office, announced his resignation.

The resignations follow confirmation that Kennedy had unilaterally approved pay raises for 21 higher education officials this year in violation of state law. Meotti’s 26 percent raise was $48,000 and awarded at a time when most state employees were in the second year of a wage freeze. Meotti was also involved in the system office offering the local community college presidents “expedite[d]” departures.

Michael Meotti

Michael Meotti — out as executive vice president of the Board of Regents of Higher Education.

Meotti wrote to the board of regent’s newly appointed interim president Philip Austin this afternoon.

“I have decided to leave the system office of the Board of Regents for Higher Education because I do not want to be a distraction to the important change agenda across our 17 colleges and universities,” Meotti wrote.

“I am happy to assist you in a brief transition period. I look forward to meeting with you soon. Best wishes for another interim presidency for you,” he said.

In an emailed statement, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said this evening, “It’s my hope that with the resignations announced today, the Board can take the time it needs to figure out what went wrong, why it went wrong, and what needs to be done to make sure nothing like this happens again.

“The implementation of the reforms I proposed, the legislature passed and I signed into law last year need to continue. I also hope these announcements will allow the distractions to end so that we can all refocus our attention where it belongs: on the students.”

Colleen Flanagan Johnson, spokeswoman for the board of regents, said that Meotti will be leaving the college system completely and a date for his departure has not been determined.

“It will be a brief transition period,” she said.

Meotti was the Malloy administration’s point person for the recent merger creating the 17-college Board of Regents system. Before being named the executive vice president of the system, Meotti had a long history in state politics, including being a state senator and the state’s Commissioner of Higher Education.

State Rep. Roberta Willis, D-Salisbury, co-chairwoman of the legislature’s Higher Education Committee, said Meotti’s decision to step down is an “amazing development.”

“Did he need to leave? Yeah. This is a step forward… I think people will finally be able to feel like it’s a team again,” she said. “It’s a new day. It really would have been impossible for the board to recover from this [scandal] with [Meotti] still around.”

State Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, co-chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee, said in a statement that “change in leadership was necessary.”
“I respect Mike’s decision to step down quickly for the benefit of the entire state college system. The Board of Regents now has an opportunity to study the structure of the central office and recommend improvements. I encourage them to do so, such that our mission of higher education and workforce development can continue unabated,” she said.