Winthrop University trustees intend to fire President Jamie Comstock Williamson because she abused her authority, lied to the school’s trustees and engaged in “explosive” and “unprofessional behavior,” according to a letter board Chairwoman Kathy Bigham sent Williamson on Friday.
The Herald obtained the letter on Tuesday under a state Freedom of Information Act request. The board voted 12-1 to suspend Williamson and give her notice of termination “with cause” on Friday after a nearly seven-hour meeting behind closed doors.
In the letter, trustees claim that Williamson “directed a university employee to make a hire in violation of the S.C. Ethics Act” and Winthrop’s nepotism policy.
The Herald first reported on heraldonline.com last week that Williamson’s husband, Larry, had worked for nine months in the president’s office as a part-time temporary employee. Her office said some board members were aware of Larry Williamson’s employment and his $27,000 salary.
A day after The Herald reported on Larry Williamson’s past employment, the Williamsons announced that they had returned the $27,000.
“You have directed a university employee to destroy university records (or) property,” the trustees wrote in the letter while referencing the alleged “abuse of authority” and violation of the Ethics Act.
The president’s office told The Herald earlier this month that President Williamson did not hire her husband nor supervise him. Larry Williamson was hired, officials said, by Winthrop Chief of Staff Kimberly Faust, who also serves as secretary to the school’s Board of Trustees.
The letter also claims that President Williamson “intentionally caused documents to be prepared which falsely characterized the hiring” of Larry Williamson. Bigham also says the president “provided false and misleading information to trustees resulting in trustees being unable to make properly informed decisions.”
The letter also accuses President Williamson of “explosive, berating, demeaning, hostile, condescending, rude and other unprofessional behavior.”
Winthrop staff members are “fearful of how you will respond to information they provide to you in the context of their jobs,” Bigham wrote in the letter to Williamson.
“Despite your assurances that such behavior would cease, you have persisted in conducting yourself in this manner to the detriment of others and the university,” letter said.
President Williamson has a chance to respond to the board’s concerns about her performance on June 26 at 10 a.m. at Winthrop. She must notify the board by Friday if she decides to address the trustees, either privately or in public session.
Check back for more details from the letter sent to Williamson.