Follins finalist for Fresno City college president search amid controversy.
By Kyle R. Cotton
Dr. Craig Follins, former president of Northeast Lakeview College, filed a lawsuit against the Alamo Colleges and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
The lawsuit concerns Paxton’s decision that the documents the Ranger requested through the Texas Public Information Act — regarding Follins’ removal and reassignment — need to be released.
Follins also included the public information request from the San Antonio Express-News over his separation agreement with the district, which Paxton has yet to make a ruling on, as part of the lawsuit.
Follins is contesting the ruling, citing Texas Supreme Court precedents Billings v. Atkinson, 489 S.W.2d 858, 860 (Tex. 1973) and Industrial Foundation of the South v. Texas Industrial Accident Board, S.W.2d 668, 680 (Tex. 1976)
Under those precedents the documents must contain intimate and embarrassing facts, the publication of which would be objectionable to a reasonable person and is of no legitimate interest to the public in order not to be disclosed.
Kelley Shannon, executive director of the freedom of information foundation of Texas said, “We strongly support open records. Citizens have right to know about as to why a public official was removed.”
Follins is seeking an injunction to prevent the release of the documents saying his reputation as a college administrator would be destroyed if the information is released, and he would become unemployable in such a position.
Shannon said cases like this are hard to predict once they go to the courts and are left up a judge or jury to decide.
Follins is one of three finalists to be president of Fresno City College in Fresno, California, which is part of State Center Community College District.
The Ranger asked Dr. Paul Parnell, chancellor of State Center Community College District, whether Follins had made him aware he was removed with cause and of the PIA requests regarding his removal.
Parnell said he could not comment on the ongoing selection process, but appreciated any additional information provided.
In Follins’ affidavit, attached to the lawsuit, he said, “Upon assuming my leadership duties, I perceived that many administrative employees had become lackadaisical and indifferent to performing their duties.
“I perceived this situation as one of the issues I was hired to rectify at the college.
“I began to set performance goals for the employees. Their response to my program was to accuse me of being insulting and abusive toward them.”
“The administration of the college, for reasons unrelated to my performance, decided to placate the complaining employees and asked me to resign from my position.
Follins was removed from his position with cause on Oct. 29.
“You have again violated expectations set for you and engaged in a pattern of unacceptable behavior,” Chancellor Bruce Leslie wrote in a notice of termination memorandum on Oct. 29 addressed to Follins.
Follins was reassigned to special projects administrator, a position that previously did not exist, and put on administrative leave.
In his new position, Follins is being paid the same salary as president of $205,387.03.
Follins said in the future all discussion of the case will go through his attorney Stephen E. Menn.
The Ranger was unable to reach Menn for comment before deadline.
Since Follins’ removal, the administration at Northeast Lakeview has had a successful candidacy visit from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges’ on-site team and is expected to be on the fast track to accreditation, interim president Thomas Cleary said.
Northeast Lakeview had previously failed SACSCOC’s application process in 2007 and 2011.
This was its first on-site visit since they started seeking accreditation.