After Trustee Benjamin Hodge brought sunshine to the ongoing corruption at Johnson County Community College under President Terry Calaway — most recently, with regard to questions surrounding how truly competitive the “competitive bid” for legal services is — Calaway and elected Board Chair Shirley Brown-VanArsdale ran for cover Monday and cancelled tonight’s scheduled meeting.
JCCC has not once in 40 years performed a competitive bidding process for its main lawyer. Elected leaders VanArsdale and Lynn Mitchelson had pledged to bid out this contract, but it quickly became apparent that the two had no interest in putting first the interests of the public.
A few weeks ago, JCCC leaders decided in secret (without a vote of the full elected board) to form a committee dominated by Calaway-supported administrators and vice presidents. It should be noted that the college’s attorney does not represent any employee — not even the president — but rather is intended to represent each individual elected board member, or take action based on a majority vote of the board. It was never explained to the public why Trustees VanArsdale and Mitchelson, and President Calaway viewed it to be appropriate to bring in a group of unaccountable PhDs to decide the attorney for the publicly-elected individual trustees.
Five Kansas City-area law firms had submitted applications, and Calaway’s “legal committee” then met in secret and narrowed to three the firms that would make in-person presentations at the public board meeting that had been scheduled for tonight. The three law firms that were approved by VanArsdale’s committee included current college attorney Mark Ferguson, who has a lengthy record of behavior that ranges from the mediocre to the highly unprofessional. In an Email to the various Calaway-approved administrators on the legal committee, Hodge documented Ferguson’s poor record and asked the administrators to justify why they viewed the college attorney’s record to be satisfactory. Hodge also offered Calaway and VanArsdale an opportunity to reply to the simple set of questions.
None of these members of the closed-door committee were willing to justify their actions.
During the monthly, “regular” board meetings, JCCC records the meetings on video. But tonight’s board meeting board meeting had been scheduled as a “special” meeting, during which the video cameras are handily not turned on. Last week, Hodge told Calaway’s secretary that Hodge would arrange for tonight’s live interviews with the law firms to be video recorded. Hodge also made a Kansas Open Records Act (KORA) request for the Emails sent to and from the members of the administrator-dominated committee.
Monday, it was made known that Chair VanArsdale and President Calaway decided to cancel tonight’s meeting, and that VanArsdale would punt the responsibility of hiring a lawyer to the next elected board, which begins its service in July.
Today’s decision by JCCC leaders to call a “do-over” can only be interpreted by the public as an admission of irresponsibility and willful incompetence.
Tags: johnson county community college, lynn mitchelson, mark ferguson, shirley brown-vanarsdale, terry calaway