Faculty members at Southern Connecticut State University issued a vote of “no confidence” in the university system’s chancellor and Board of Trustees chairman Monday, accusing them of reckless financial behavior and poor judgment.

In a letter to Gov. M. Jodi Rell, the SCSU Faculty Senate asked for a state investigation into actions by CSU Chancellor David G. Carter and board Chairman Karl Krapek, including the recent dismissal of Southern President Cheryl Norton.

Their actions “have harmed and embarrassed the CSU system and the State of Connecticut,” the faculty members said.

The letter was made public two days before state lawmakers have scheduled an informational hearing on the circumstances surrounding Norton’s dismissal.

Carter 5-13-10

Chancellor David Carter

Norton’s 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.

In its letter, Southern’s Faculty Senate 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.

The extra cost, the faculty said, is enough to pay “34 one-year, full tuition-and-fees scholarships for underprivileged Connecticut students,” the faculty said.

A separation agreement between CSU and Norton does not disclose the reasons for her dismissal except to say it “is not related in any way to her work performance or for disciplinary reasons.” 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.

As chancellor, Carter oversees four CSU campuses, including Southern’s campus in New Haven.

Carter notified Norton of her dismissal only weeks after the Board of Trustees adopted a policy granting him authority to dismiss presidents “without cause or explanation” and without a vote of the full board.

That type of authority is uncommon in most other states, according to a report issued last week by the state Office of Legislative Research. Most states require board approval to dismiss a president, and only four of 35 university systems reviewed had similar policies, the report said.

The new policy, which requires only that the chancellor get the consent of the board chairman, “not only dramatically increases the Chancellor’s role in firing, but puts a premium on secrecy at the expense of transparency,” Southern’s faculty Senate said in its letter.

Norton’s dismissal stirred controversy at Southern and prompted two members of the SCSU Foundation board, the university’s private fund-raising arm, to resign.

In their letter, the faculty also alludes to the CSU board’s 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. Carter turned down the first installment of the bonus, due this year, and Krapek said future installments are subject to a review of the state’s financial condition.

Nevertheless, the board, “under Mr. Krapek, had no hesitation in offering it,” the faculty said.

Carter and Krapek have “exhibited recklessness in their financial decision-making and poor judgment in their policy-making. We’ve repeatedly questioned this pattern of behavior – to no avail,” said a letter to Rell from Brian Johnson, president of Southern’s Faculty Senate.

A spokesman for Rell said the governor had not yet reviewed the letter.  Carter and Krapek declined comment.

Carter is among several officials who have been asked to appear before the legislature’s Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee at an informational forum at 1 p.m. Wednesday in Hartford.

Carter is reported to have asked the state to pay for a private attorney to accompany him to Wednesday’s forum. The attorney general’s office confirmed the request was received, but said it was denied. “As a general practice, our office does not provide or pay for counsel for state officials testifying before committees of the legislature,” the office said in an emailed statement.

Johnson also is expected to appear before the committee, as are state Higher Education Commissioner Michael Meotti and CSU Trustees John Sholtis and Gail Williams. Krapek also was invited to appear but told the committee he had a prior commitment out of the state, said a press spokesman for Sen. Mary Ann Handley, D-Manchester, the committee’s co-chairman.

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