After three-and-a-half years, GPC’s former president has received a full exoneration for the issues which resulted in his contract non-renewal after nearly 6 years of service as Georgia Perimeter College’s chief administrator. Of this issue, Dr. Tricoli said from the beginning that he was misled about budget numbers by the college’s Executive Vice President and the former Budget Manager (who went on to take a budget leadership position with Chattahoochee Technical College).
The organization known as the Georgia Watchdogs conducted a through review of all documents presented to the court. They also reviewed many other documents which included the USG’s own internal audit report which was completed on 9/17/2012 although not widely disbursed to the public. “It was not possible to have read all these documents and not to have come to this conclusion,” said Sabrina Smith of the Georgia Watchdogs organization. “It was perfectly clear to all of us that Anthony Tricoli had absolutely nothing to do with the college’s shortfall,” said Smith. In fact, and as was also said by Georgia State Legislator Karla Drenner, “Anthony Tricoli was the USG’s scapegoat.” “The USG’s poor budget oversight processes surfaced time and time again in our review,” said Smith.
What’s clear about this $16.5m deficit is that nearly $7 million of it was caused in the Office of Human Resources which is managed by a HR Director. The HR Director stated that this was an error due to a miscalculation of fringe benefits. The USG reported in this 2012 audit that every employee’s fringe benefits numbers with incorrect. This is not something about which the college president could ever have know unless it had been reported to him, which the USG audit did associate to Dr. Tricoli. The remaining $9 million is still missing according to the audit report. However, the USG indicated that it was not their plan to identify where $9 million went missing so they weren’t going looking for that missing money. It should also be noted that the college president was only days away from removing the HR Manager from his position.
Again and again in the audit report and in other documents it became obvious that the budgets presented to the college president were false, untrue, and misrepresentations of fact. What also jumped out at anyone who reviews the documents of this case is that the USG changed procedures and policies as soon as 30 days after Dr. Tricoli left office. These changes gave the appearance that if USG policies had been followed by the college that all would have been well. Unfortunately, the policy changes came “after” the GPC issue occurred.
In one situation during 2009, the USG changed a policy which resulted in the removal of college presidents from discussion between college and system staff about the college’s budget, in particular as referred to removing funds from the college’s reserve fund. Then as soon as GPC’s$19 million reserve budget was depleted, the USG reversed that policy, this time requiring college president’s to be informed and involved in situations where the college reserve budget was being reduced or depleted. The timing all looks very suspect.
The Georgia Watchdogs has done a very thorough review of theGPC/USG/Tricoli case, and they have reached a conclusion that not only makes sense, but one which may result in massive changes which are obviously needed in the University System of Georgia.
Former Chancellor Erroll Davis was running the USG during 90% of Dr.Tricoli’s contract as GPC’s president. About Dr. Tricoli, Chancellor Davis said, “Dr. Tricoli’s leadership in doubling the college’s enrollment in five years and in building the reserves to $19 million dollars secured the college’s fiscal solvency though his tenure and beyond. It is clear that Dr. Tricoli did what he was supposed to do as a leader and exercised the appropriate level of fiscal oversight and diligence. Unfortunately, we live in an era of misinformation communicated via the Internet along with the view that you are guilty until proven innocent. It was unfortunate that this had to occur to a college president who has always acted quickly, and transparently to eliminate any problem which crossed his desk. Anthony Tricoli did a wonderful job of leading his institution. The USG’s new agenda to merge several institutions in order to reduce state expenditures was the precipice for Dr. Tricoli’s contract non-renewal; and in fact GPC was ultimately merged under Georgia State University.”
Davis concluded, “If I was given the opportunity to hire Anthony Tricoli to lead an institution of higher education or otherwise, I would not hesitate for a moment to make that offer of employment again. Dr. Tricoli possesses the skills, abilities, attributes and experience to lead at the highest level. He is a man of integrity, strong moral conviction and ethical character and behavior. I was pleased to have him as a member of the leadership team while I was the Chancellor of the University System of Georgia. ”
We conclude by saying that full exoneration is certainly deserved, but in our opinion its not enough for this man whose career has received irreparable damage by intentional and criminal acts against him. We hope Dr. Tricoli lands the job at a college that deserves his ability and skill in leadership, and we hope he is compensated handsomely by the USG for his lost wages and the pain he must have endured the past three-and-a-half years.