Georgia Perimeter College Budget
This is a very complex story in regards to a budget deficit at Georgia Perimeter College which led to the ouster of a highly regarded and successful president named Dr. Anthony Tricoli who was then replaced by Rob Watts who seems to have wanted this job for quite some time. The more I read and learn about the events at GPC, the more I begin to believe this was more about jealousy and egos than budgeting errors. Granted, the budget shortfall also played a key part and this remains a problem at many other state agencies as well that have failed to modernize and take the advice of their own state audit reports.
I plan to release a series of articles that look at disparate issues. In Part One I want to release a number of budget reports that I will reference in future articles as well. The impetus for this article is due to some rather extensive spending by GPC recently which seems rather odd considering the supposedly massive deficit only a short time ago.
From the GPC News release “GPC is in the midst of a restoration and construction boom—one that Lewis Godwin says will bring multiple building, aesthetic and safety improvements for faculty, staff and students on Alpharetta, Clarkston, Decatur and Dunwoody campuses. Godwin manages the college’s facilities planning and projects and explains that, due to the relative newness of GPC-Newton, it is the only campus not receiving any upgrades or changes.”
They are restoring ornamental fountains, a new Health Clinic, building tennis courts to name but a few of the many projects that are costing millions. One would think the main priority would be to rehire the faculty to take the load off of overworked staff. Apparently interim president Rob Watts feels tennis courts are more important than reducing class sizes and workloads for the staff. One of his first moves as interim president was to fire several hundred teachers and other staff.
It is also important to note that Rob Watts the interim president of Georgia Perimeter College and Hank Huckaby the current chancellor of the entire University System of Georgia both have one thing in common which is extremely unusual for those positions.They both lack doctorates. Neither has a PhD. or even a EdD. which is highly suspect. Normally a university president or a chancellor of universities would have a doctorate at a minimum along with extensive experience in the private and public sectors and probably numerous awards, honors, publications, and speaking engagement honors.
Huckaby and Watts by comparison are notable only for their relative obscurity and the lack of any such outstanding or extraordinary achievements. They did not receive their appointments and incredibly high salaries for any meritorious academic achievements.
Even superintendents at podunk school systems in backwater counties tend to hire a candidate with a doctorate degree. I am sure I am not the only one that finds this highly unusual given the importance of a Chancellor that oversees billions in taxpayer funds among all state colleges and universities and receives well more than $500,000 a year in salary. He isn’t qualified to even teach at a university so how in hell did this mediocre man ever get appointed to the chancellor of the USG?
Compare Huckaby to the Chancellors of a few neighboring states and you will see just how under qualified Huckaby is by comparison. See if you can identify the misfit in this group. Is this honestly the best Georgia can do for a chancellor? His biggest qualification seems to be his time working under former UGA president Adams who was on the election committee for chancellor and rumor has it he likely handpicked Huckaby not because he was the most qualified but because of cronyism and a reported hatred for Dr. Daniel J. Kaufman the leading contender for the job that Adams despised. This is according to UGA scuttlebutt told to me by several sources though this cannot be confirmed. Dr. Kaufman is a West Point graduate, honored with an O.B.E. by the British government, was a brigadier General, holds a Masters from Harvard and a PhD. from M.I.T. So of course a guys like Huckaby with a Masters from Georgia State was chosen over this guy. 🙄 In what bizarre universe would anyone ever choose Hank Huckaby over Dr. Kaufman if not for some ulterior motives and possibly good ol’ fashioned nepotism and cronyism playing a huge part?
Alabama Former President of University of Texas and Alabama. Ph.D. from Penn State
Florida Former president of AT&T Florida and graduate of the top Business school in the world INSEAD in France.
South Carolina Masters and PhD. Yale University – Former chairman of the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts
Tennessee PhD. Texas A&M and Distinguished professor and administrator of 34 years at the University of Florida
North Carolina PhD. University of California additional postdoctoral work Michigan State. A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
Georgia Masters Degree Georgia State University and active in his Methodist church.
I would point out that the previous chancellor Erroll B. Davis also lacked a doctorate degree as well as the chancellor in Florida. But, and this is a very big but both also had a far more extensive résumé than either Watts or Huckaby. Davis was chairman of the board of Alliant Energy Corporation, CEO of Wisconsin Power and Light Company, a member of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents, and former chairman and current member of the board of trustees of Carnegie Mellon University. Watts and Huckaby by comparison have been middling bureaucrats with very little to show in way of accomplishments prior to their appointments. Watts earns around $300,000 as interim president according to the audit below. They are only extraordinary for the sheer mediocrity of their résumés that allowed them to reach two of the highest paid and most sought after positions in the entire state.
If people wonder why tuition increases year after year, inflated salaries for people like Huckaby and Watts are certainly an important reason why college costs rises far above inflation. To command a salary of $300,000 while laying off teachers and tutors you better have the bona fides to back it up. Watts and Huckaby do not come close to measuring up to the those salaries or those positions. So why in hell were they ever chosen since it wasn’t based on merit? 💡
Only two years ago the sky was supposedly falling in at Georgia Perimeter College as it drowned in debt. It is hard to get an exact figure of the debt because I have seen multiple figures that ranged from $4 million to $25 million in debt. At this point in time I have no idea what to believe anymore with so many figures floating about. But if the debt was as bad as Rob Watts interim president Rob Watts maintained, I wonder how they are able to go from extreme belt-tightening that included massive staff layoffs to all this “pretty face” type of investments in such short order. GPC campuses putting on a pretty face
In June of 2012 the AJC reported the debt at $25 million and the college laid off 282 people — nearly 9 percent of its employees — and 92 of the cuts were in student affairs. This division includes admissions, financial aid, student life and advising and counseling. (More recent audits seem to suggest that was massively overstated and it may be much lower than $25 million.)
Rob watts, pictured in the left in a rather creepy kafkaesque Big Brother like apparition said in 2012 “Our first priority in making the reduction-in-force decisions was protecting classroom instruction for students,” Watts wrote in an email announcing the layoffs. “Our goal is for these staff reductions to have the smallest possible effect on students.” Funny how the priority is now on tennis courts and fountains and not rehiring important people like tutors and instructors less than two years later.
I am not a CPA, but you don’t need to be a CPA to see there is a lot that appears out of whack with the numbers in these budgets reports below and with the reports in the audits as well as those by the AJC. This latest building spree by Watts raises even more questions and casts more doubt on the 2012 coup d’etat that brought him to power in a job he seems to have been coveting for decades where he started his career.
I think there is much more than meets the eye to this entire story. I also think it is important to go back a few years before the 2012 budget crisis and look at the big picture and trends. Where were all the dire warning by the auditors prior to 2012? What steps did the Board of regents, Rob Watts or Huckaby take at the USG if there had been such overspending for years? Could this possibly just be an attempt to choose a few scapegoats for the slaughter so the higher ups with dirty hands get away unscathed and get a big promotion and pay raise?
Below are all the reports I was able to locate.
All of these audits up until 2012 were conducted by Russell Hinton the state auditor. By all accounts I have read, Mr. Hinton seems to have been proficient at his job. Hinton served as Georgia’s State Auditor from 1999 to 2012. He now serves on the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute Board. The fact that he also left in 2012 might be purely coincidental, but I think it is worth noting that the timing of his departure also corresponds with the discovery of this budget shortfall and the ensuing crisis at Georgia Perimeter College which led to the ouster of Dr. Anthony Tricoli and so many others. It also corresponds to the time where Hucbaky became chancellor in 2011 over the much more qualified Dan Kauffman and another candidate from out of state also more qualified than Huckaby. I think an open records request to determine if Huckaby even applied for the position of Chancellor and met the deadline is in order. I can’t possibly think he thought he had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting that job with his paltry and sparse curriculum vitae. The only reason he might have even considered applying for the position is if he had it on good authority from an inside source he had a good shot. That would be absolutely illegal under EEOC laws. In no other state in the country would Huckaby or Watts ever in a million years hold the positions or salaries they now hold in Georgia.
Mr. Hinton is important because he issued numerous recommendations over the years that have been ignored by politicians and bureaucrats. One of the most egregious examples of misbehavior uncovered by Hinton’s office was the rampant misspending around the construction of a spa at the state-owned Brasstown Valley Resort in the northeast corner of the state.
During the construction process, the cost of the Equani Spa exploded from a $501,000 initial plan to a bloated, $2.6 million demonstration in extravagance. Most of this spending came under the direction of Michele D. Bonner, then the chief financial officer for the state’s Department of Natural Resources.
The audit uncovered a pattern of indulgent behavior by Bonner and a near-complete lack of oversight from others responsible for the construction of the Equani Spa (pictured, right). A whistleblower’s tip led to Bonner’s resignation and the resulting audit, which documented, in embarrassing detail, just how outrageous Bonner’s behavior had been. (Under her direction the project routed $1 million for “consultant” work to a man named Dean Langdon, who was also Bonner’s dinner companion on the taxpayer’s dime, on 59 occasions. The auditors found the pair ran up their tab with orders of lobster and Grand Marnier.) As expected, there was outrage when the auditor’s report came out in April 2010, and was used in an exposé in the Atlanta Journal Constitution that June.
More recently, Russell Hinton’s office released a report on spending and staffing issues with the Georgia State Patrol. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the auditor’s report found that the state had “too many posts scattered across the state, troopers behind desks who could be behind the wheel, and fewer troopers on the road at the times and places they’re needed most.” The State Patrol responded dismissively with “The overall conclusions of this audit,” the State Patrol’s statement read, “are based upon data derived by hardworking analysts who have no professional expertise in law enforcement.”
This is a very long and complicated subject that will require several additional articles to look deeper into some troubling questions. I also welcome the help of CPA’s, journalists, watchdogs, or just concerned citizens to help make sense of this story. I am beginning to wonder if this is more a crisis of personality than one of a budget. I detest corruption and cronyism with a passion. The entire Board of Regents are comprised of rich do-nothing dilettantes who were appointed simply because they donated to a governor. I had at least hoped the chancellor and college presidents were appointed based on their qualifications, but it is looking more and more likely this cult of cronyism in Atlanta extends well beyond Board appointments.
I will include all the budget reports I have managed to collect below for potential sleuths.
2008 Audit Report
2009 Audit Report
2010 Audit Report
2011 Board of Regents Report
2011 Audit Report
2012 Audit Report (First report after Russell Hinson left)
GPC Special review September 2012
2013 Audit Report