Bishop State Community College President Yvonne Kennedy’s future at the two-year school is reportedly in doubt amid a probe of student aid fraud claims and reports of financial irregularities.
The office of Alabama Attorney General Troy King has received information from the state’s two-year college system concerning an investigation of the school by the system and state examiners. But King spokesman Chris Bence said Tuesday he could not comment on whether the attorney general would launch his own investigation.
The Press-Register reported Tuesday that Kennedy has been unofficially placed on leave. The story was based on information from state school board member Stephanie Bell and another source, whom the newspaper did not name.
Bell told the Press-Register that she expects Kennedy will be forced out of her job at the college by the end of the month. Kennedy is also a member of the Alabama House of Representatives, representing parts of Mobile County. She has been president of the university since 1981.
Interim two-year system chancellor Thomas Corts told the newspaper that Kennedy had resigned, retired or been fired. And Andre Taylor, a spokesman for the state’s two-year college system, denied that there has been any change in Kennedy’s status as president.
Bell told The Associated Press that if Kennedy doesn’t step down by Sept. 28, when the school board meets, she will make a motion that the board fire Kennedy. The state school board oversees Alabama’s 26 community and technical colleges in addition to K-12 schools.
Bell says she has received information that Kennedy has not been on the Bishop State campus in recent weeks and had been asked not to return to campus.
”I don’t know if she’s on administrative leave or sick leave or what. I just know she has not been on campus,” Bell says.
Kennedy had been on sick leave earlier this year after having heart surgery in May.
Among the claims being investigated are charges that Bishop State employees may have improperly obtained student financial aid for themselves and their relatives. The federal government recently restricted Bishop State’s aid programs, requiring eligibility documents before providing money.
Concerns have also been raised that the Bishop State Community College Foundation’s tax returns inflate spending on scholarships and downplay spending on social events.
Randy McKinney, who represents Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties on the state school board, declined to say Monday whether he thought Kennedy should continue as Bishop State’s president.
”I want to have a face-to-face talk with her first,” McKinney said. “I want her to hear from me what I’m going to say publicly.” Other school board members said they hadn’t heard anything about Kennedy being on leave or the possibility of an upcoming resignation.
“Mrs. Bell evidently knows more than what I am privy to, and I have not received any communication from Dr. Corts,” says Sandra Ray, the board’s vice president. “I guess I find it hard to believe that one board member knows something as important as this, and the rest of the board members don’t know.”
If the 61-year-old Kennedy chooses to leave, she could retire now and receive full benefits.
Kennedy, whose salary is $165,930, according to state records, enrolled in the deferred retirement option plan in June 2002 and can remain in the program through June 2007.
— Associated Press
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