S.C. State university

SC State trustees to meet in wake of resignation

Ex-board chairman left in December; meeting today to address multiple issues

cleblanc@thestate.comJanuary 9, 2013 

— S.C. State University trustees are meeting behind closed doors today for legal advice in the wake of the resignation of their former chairman and an ongoing criminal investigation.

Upstate businessman Jonathan Pinson initially stepped down from his leadership post in February after 2½ years as chairman of the board of trustees. But he remained a member of the body.

As 2013 began, the 116-year-old historically black college in Orangeburg said Pinson had left entirely in December, citing the need to spend more time with his family.

The university said Monday that it is holding a specially called meeting today at 5 p.m. on campus. The only action item on the agenda is an executive session to receive legal advice.

Over the years, published reports have said the university or its officials have been investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division, the local solicitor’s office or federal authorities.

The year 2012 was full of turmoil at the university that for years has been roiled by controversy.

Since Pinson left the chairmanship in February, three people fought over the board’s top post. By mid-May, three members had resigned within one month. Two of those publicly said the board could not “reform itself or effectively govern” the school.

Congressman Jim Clyburn, the university’s most well-known graduate, last year called politics at the college “a cesspool.”

Bitter battles were fought over the presidency of the university after now-departed president George E. Cooper hired former SLED director Reggie Lloyd to conduct an internal investigation that included allegations of crimes.

Eight high-level employees were fired in February; the university never explained why they were dismissed. But in a March 2 statement, the board said the probe stemmed from “serious allegations regarding criminal misconduct, unethical conduct and mismanagement.”

The board suspended the probe in late March following Cooper’s departure with a $268,000 severance package that was nearly double his salary.

The board then told Lloyd he did not need to submit a report of his findings during the three-month investigation.

Meanwhile, student enrollment dropped by about 525 students to fewer than 3,800. The university ran a $5.5 million deficit that resulted in a hiring freeze and an across-the-board 7 percent cut in expenses.

Efforts by the county’s legislative delegation to restructure the board fell short of becoming law.

Reach LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.

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