Follins’ absence, leadership led to termination

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NLC’s former president was terminated because of accreditation absence and “abusive” behavior, documents show.

By Zachary-Taylor Wright

zwright9@student.alamo.edu

Dr. Craig Follins, former president of Northeast Lakeview College. File

Dr. Craig Follins, former president of Northeast Lakeview College, was terminated from his position as president Oct. 29, 2015, for his absence during a visit from the accreditation agency, his inability to “become human and less intimidating” and his treatment of his assistant.

Follins used district funds to find a new job, and he violated ethical rules and regulations, and, according to the negotiated separation agreement between Follins and the Alamo Community College District released to The Ranger Jan. 26.

According to the memo from Chancellor Bruce Leslie sent to Follins Oct. 28, 2015, Follins was absent during the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commissions on Colleges’ 2015 site visit to Northeast Lakeview.

Leslie said Follins’ absence during the visit “created a serious breach in the mutual support we all pledged to each other …”

“You asked for Robert Vela’s cell number and I appreciated your calling him immediately, but as I indicated, any SACSCOC issue related to NLC will, justifiably or not, be perceived as a result of your absence,” Leslie said in the memo.

Northeast Lakeview received its first site visit from SACSCOC for accreditation consideration in 2015 since the college became its own campus in 2005.

According to a memo, Follins’ assistant Jennifer Osborn complained to Linda Boyer-Owens, associate vice chancellor of human resources, that Follins had made her cry, saying the vice presidents did not like Osborn and insisting she did not contact them.

Follins was surprised by these complaints because Obsborn gave him a cake and card on Bosses’ Day, saying Osborn “cries all the time” and “showered (him) with adoration,” according to the Oct. 28, 2015, memo.

In the memo, Leslie said this was the “same pattern of abusive behavior” he had observed in Follins’ communication with Debra Martinez, administrative assistant to the chancellor, and Tangila Dove, vice president of college services at Northeast Lakeview.

According to a memo from Leslie sent to Follins Oct. 1, 2015, Follins claimed the faculty and staff at Northeast Lakeview did not have time to get to know him or appreciate his intent to bring change to the college; however, Leslie wrote this was Follins’ responsibility and advised he take time to engage his faculty and staff and “more actively seek their counsel and advice.”

Dr. Preston Pulliam, member of the Gold Hills Associates president search team, was hired by the district to provide Follins “leadership coaching and team building.”

Gold Hills Associates is the company that conducted the search for a new chancellor in 2006, which resulted in the hiring of Leslie.

According to the Oct. 1, 2015, memo, Leslie asked Follins to stay and fulfill his duties as president, saying he prefers Follins stay and “succeed in (his) current role.”

In both memos to Follins, Leslie expresses concern for Follins’ future career opportunities and advised Follins to work with the district, chancellor and coach to determine an exit strategy.

“I reaffirmed my desire that you be successful and expressed my concern that a buyout may actually end your career … finding a job while in your job may be critical to preserving your career. Nevertheless, I agreed to work with Linda (Boyer-Owens) to identify options,” Leslie wrote in the Oct. 28 memo to Follins.

The separation agreement from Dec. 4, 2015, says Follins “categorically denied” the violation of any ethics rules or regulations during his attempt to get Northeast Lakeview accredited.

The agreement does not elucidate which ethics rules or regulations Follins is accused of violating.

According to the agreement, Follins was appointed to the presidency in March 2014 after working in Chicago and received a letter Oct. 29, 2015, from Leslie notifying Follins his employment contract would be terminated “for cause” Dec. 21, 2015.

The separation agreement says Follins’ was employed as a special projects administrator, a district position that did not exist prior to Follins’ assignment under contract until Dec. 21, 2015.

According to the separation agreement, Follins was on paid administrative leave from Oct. 29, 2015, until Dec. 4, 2015, and Follins’ would continue to be employed on an at-will basis through Dec. 22, 2016, meaning he could be terminated at any time without cause.

The separation agreement says “the College President position at The Alamo Colleges is a grade F31 position, and the Special Projects Administrator position is a S26 position, with lower pay than the grade for a College President.”

The separation agreement states that Follins “voluntarily releases and forever discharges the Alamo Community College District … of and from any and all claims, damages, liabilities, causes of action, demands …” as of Dec. 4, 2015, because the district continued to pay Follins his president’s salary of $205,387.03 for his new district position.

Follins’ paid vacation hours from his president position carried over to his new district position.

According to the separation agreement, “Follins will be provided, at the District’s cost of $25,000, one year of outplacement services through Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.”

According to the Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. website, the company helps “people make better job changes than they could on their own, leading them to more successful careers.”

The Ranger filed a request for documents detailing the cause of Follins’ termination Nov. 18, 2015, under the Texas Public Information Act, which the district denied, saying the documents are confidential and may contain embarrassing information, saying “Alamo Colleges believe that the documents marked as Exhibit 4, 5 and 6 should be excepted from public disclosure.”

The district cited Texas Government Code 552.101-Exception, which protects information “considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision” if it is a personnel file “which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ruled in favor of The Ranger Feb. 24, 2016, but Follins appealed in an effort to protect his ability to find new employment saying his “reputation a competent college administrator will be severely and negatively impacted. … There is a likelihood that it will be extremely difficult to find and maintain gainful employment as a college administrator.”

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