Was Dr. Anthony Tricoli another victim of Georgia’s Good ol’ Boys Cronyism?

“He is a man of integrity, strong moral and ethical character and behavior,” said former USG Chancellor Erroll Davis. So why was Dr. Anthony Tricoli removed as president of a university that had done so well under his leadership?

Photo of Chancellor’s Office

Hank Huckaby

The vast majority of faculty, staff, and students at GPC admired this man for his leadership of Georgia Perimeter College.  While Tricoli was president the enrollment more than doubled to 27,000 students, went from 3 campuses to 5, and over a 100 new faculty were hired. Enrollment is now down to around 20,000 and many people have lost their jobs. So why is he no longer there?  In two words, cronyism & corruption.

There also appears to at least be a motive to use him as the fall guy for mistakes made by others and indeed the entire mismanagement of the entire University System of Georgia, the Board of Regents, and Chancellor Huckaby. In fact there was quite a bit of shock when Hank Huckaby was selected as Chancellor. His qualifications would would not normally make him a finalist for most school districts in Georgia as a superintendent or even a school principal.  So how and why was he hired to a $500,000 a year job as the chancellor of the entire university of Georgia school system?

I am far from alone from thinking Dr. Tricoli was a scapegoat. Many familiar with this case and the parties involved including faculty and members of the Georgia legislature have said the same. Here is one quote and the full transcript is included as a PDF below.

Representative Drenner replied when asked if she thought Tricoli was a scapegoat, “The USG Chancellor shortly after the departure of the President of GPC, adopted changes to the processes and procedures within his office and other USG departments to strengthen budget oversight in the future, suggesting that perhaps GPC may not have experienced the financial crises which resulted. Clearly, the financial oversight processes and procedures which were in place at the System Office were inadequate. They were so insufficient that they prevented the USG from providing appropriate review and guidance of the budgets for the institutions in the System, including GPC.”

Hank Huckaby was appointed to the soft job of chancellor of the University System of Georgia over many other more qualified persons because he was a good old boy and a close crony friend with the other good old boys on the Board of Regents not to mention Nathan Deal. Unlike the fictional Boss Hogg from the TV show, Nathan Deal is very much real and far scarier. But if you have the good fortune of being a friend or donator he can be extremely generous.

 

Just THE good ol’ boysSorrell-Booke
Never meaning no harm
Beats all you EVER saw, BEEN in trouble with the law
Since the day they was born

Straightenin’ the curves
Flattenin’ the hills
Someday the mountain might GET ’em
But the law never will

Making their way, the only way they know how
That’s just a little bit more than the law will allow

 

I have little doubt the  Board of Regents likely violated the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Law by appointing their crony friend to this plum job over many hundreds of more qualified persons from around the world. The Board of Regents should be sitting in a federal courtroom and asked about their secret vote to give their friend and crony Hank Huckaby the soft plum  job of Chancellor of the University System at the expense of hundreds or thousands of other far more qualified individuals world wide. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars was squandered on this pretend search when they knew from the very beginning Huckaby would be appointed? How much time and money was wasted by gullible candidates that falsely believed this was a legitimate search as opposed to just a sham carried out to meet EOE laws? But instead, the insider good friend of Nathan Deal was rewarded for his past loyalty. According to the an article from the AJC called Deal fills top jobs with insiders

 Another Deal floor leader, Rep. Hank Huckaby. Earlier this year, the University System Board of Regents chose Huckaby, a former state budget director and university administrator, as its chancellor. Huckaby’s selection was a break from the recent past: the last three chancellors were high-ranking officials from out-of-state universities or systems. But Huckaby was Deal’s choice, and governors appoint members to the Board of Regents.

I have learned the final two candidates for the USG chancellor position came down to one person from outside Georgia, and Dan Kauffman (GGC’s former president). Now this is what you would expect in a chancellor. He was brigadier general in the U.S. Army, serving as Dean of the Academic Board and Chief Academic Officer at the United States Military Academy at West Point, a position from which he retired in June 2005. Dr. Kaufman also holds a Masters of Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and a Doctorate in Philosophy in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Huckaby by comparison holds a masters’s degree from Georgia State university as his highest degree and I could find no evidence of published writing in journals or indeed any exceptional honors, awards, or achievements.

There is a rumor circulating that Mike Adams (who was on the committee and was the former UGA president) hated Dan Kauffman so much, that when Kauffman was identified as a finalist, Adams would not let Kuffman get the job, so he pulled in Hank Huckaby who once worked for Adams at UGA.  Many people were also talking at the time about how the entire process was nearly complete when all of a sudden Hank Huckaby’s application made its way to the top of the heap (and he wasn’t even an applicant along with the rest of the folks who applied). I would like to know if hank Huckaby even met the deadline date for the application. Perhaps an open records request is in order for that information assuming it still exist.

Vince Dooly is no friend of Mike Adams and devotes several pages in his new book “History and Reminiscences of the University of Georgia” discussing Adams. Much of isn’t flattering. “He’s the most controversial President since Alonzo Church and that was back before the Civil War,” Dooley said. Like the late Pulitizer Prize winning author Rich Whitt’s description of Adams as “hot tempered and imperious” in his book “Behind the Hedges.” Dooly also quotes from a column by Boston Globe sports writer Bob Ryan who helped kill any chance Adams had to become NCAA President by calling him “a clever and ruthless politician…not a leader, a schemer and intimidator.”

I was told, but I don’t know first hand that Mike Adams (who was on the search committee) hated Dan Kauffman so much, that when Kauffman was identified as a finalist, Adams would not let Kuffman get the job, so he pulled in Hank Huckaby who once worked for Adams at UGA.

 

Given that Hank “Cletus Hogg” Huckaby is clearly unqualified for this position, it is not surprising he would make some rather foolish mistakes or simply act capriciously. I also would not be the least bit surprised if Tricoli was simply removed to make way for a few more members of the good ol’ boy network to move up in rank. I wonder if Rob Watts was a friend of Hank Huckaby, Nathan Deal, or members of the Board of Regents prior to Tricoli being fired by Huckaby. His choice as a replacement seems rather strange to me and I suspect there is far more to selecting him as the new president than meets the eye. The former Chancellor that was far more qualified for the position had nothing but praise for Tricoli.

Former Chancellor Erroll Davis wrote and sent a letter of recommendation to college’s on behalf of Anthony Tricoli which describe this leadership as stellar.  “If I were 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.  I was pleased to have him as a member of the leadership team while I was the Chancellor of the University System of Georgia,” said Davis.

Erroll Davis puts the GPC budget issue into perspective in the following statements shared in this article.  The USG’s own internal audit of the GPC budget issue indicated that Dr. Tricoli was provided with false information about the budget, and that GPC budget officials misled him about the budget.  Davis said, “The unfortunate reality is that leading a complex, multi-campus college in a politically active metropolitan area can have its challenges.  With five thriving campuses to lead, Dr. Tricoli, by definition, had to trust his direct reports to do their jobs.  He did so, but not blindly, following up with appropriate written verification.  In particular, the situation of GPC’s budget must be put into perspective.  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.  Sadly, in response to his legitimate queries, he was given misleading and incorrect information.  A few quotes from the USG’s final audit of this situation put the issue in the correct perspective.

“GPC’s former fiscal leadership team relied on inaccurate, internally generated spreadsheets that did not correspond to the General Ledger. Specifically, it appears that members of GPC’s cabinet, to include the former President, and both the President’s Council and the Strategic Budget Committee were provided incomplete and inaccurate budget presentations made by the CBO and the Budget Director at various group meetings.”  “It is clear from our review that GPC’s CBO did not provide GPC’s President with timely and reliable financial information for the President’s use in managing the institution.”  “We agree that he [CBO] was responsible for the institution’s fiscal operations in the overall context of his accountability to the former President.”

Two sets of budget documents existed at GPC.  One was given to Dr. Anthony Tricoli and the college community, and the other was reported to the USG.  However, a Vice Chancellor in the USG’s fiscal office (Ben Riden) admitted that they knew for three years and simply didn’t discuss this information with the former college president.  “GPC’s former fiscal leadership team relied on inaccurate, internally generated spreadsheets that did not correspond to the General Ledger.” “It is clear from our review that GPC’s CBO did not provide GPC’s President with timely and reliable financial information…

The USG’s internal Audit dated 9/17/2012 clearly communicates over and over again that Dr. Anthony Tricoli was misled by the Executive Vice President (Ron Carruth) and Chief Budget Officer (Mark Gerspacher)for the college (see attachment below for excerpts from the USG’s internal audit document).

Dr. Tricoli did was he was supposed to do.  Davis says, Dr. Tricoli did trust and he did seek ongoing and reasonable verification.  He was failed in both areas by those who were responsible for daily management of the college budget, and by those with budget oversight at the system level.    The June 5, 2012 complete rewrite of the University Systems’ budget oversight process and its attachment to the final audit findings published on September 17, 2012 adds credence to the concerns expressed that the System’s processes were not up to the standard they needed to be in order for GPC’s situation to have been avoided.” 

Interestingly, Davis shares that oversight at the System Level was not up to standard.  So, one might ask, did anything change to make certain this will not ever happen again?  The answer is yes, everything changed.  Hank Huckaby, the USG’s current Chancellor changed the entire USG Budget Oversight Process within 30 days of Dr. Tricoli’s removal.  This point alone stands to communicate that major cracks and holes in the USG’s Budgeting Process were not up to snuff.  Had these new processes been in place at the time of GPC’s Budget issue, there would have been no issue.  If those processes had been in place, the Executive Vice President at GPC (Ron Carruth) and Sector Head at the USG (Rob Watts) would not have been able to get away with providing false and misleading budget data and or withholding important budget information from Dr. Anthony Tricoli.  It should also be noted that Rob Watts (Dr. Tricoli’s former supervisor) has taken over Dr. Tricoli’s job as the President of GPC.  If that doesn’t raise the hair on the back of your neck I don’t know what will.  If you are not shaking your head in disbelief…….you should be.

Rob Watts

If Rob Watts has ever sought out the position of president prior to his recent appointment that would also call into question his character and motive. From what little I have read about Rob Watts,  like Huckaby he seems extremely under qualified for this position and lacks the requisite academic bona fides. It appears his highest academic degree is only  a master’s degree not unlike Huckaby. Is it possible that Rob Watts orchestrated or at least was knowledgeable about many of the events that led to the ouster of Dr. Tricoli? His name continues to be mentioned over and over again in my research.  I am not quite sure what role he played in all of this yet, but it seems to be very prominent one.  His role is certainly a question that deserves deeper scrutiny in the future and one I plan to explore. He certainly had the most to gain by taking the job and therefore the biggest motive to push Tricoli to the side.

“He [Dr. Tricoli] was failed in both [college and university system] areas by those who were responsible for daily management of the college budget, and by those with budget oversight at the system level,” said former Chancellor Erroll Davis. Dr. Tricoli is the kind of college president that most college and university boards would love to have leading their college…….a man of integrity, strong moral and ethical character and behavior,” as Davis describes him.   Davis said, Anthony Tricoli is a president who is not afraid to lead.  He’s not one who requires any pushing into hard work.  It is this type of work ethic which has earned him a leadership spot at the front table with national organizations such as ACE, AAC&U, and the AACC, on international boards, academic and workforce commissions, and LEAP & the select President’s Trust group.”  “Dr. Tricoli built a model shared governance plan which in 2011 was identified by the AAUP as the best [college president] in the nation.”  “He [Dr. Tricoli] and his college team also set the high mark in my customer service recognition program in 2009 and 2010 respectively winning Gold level awards for top leader and the top college in customer service for the entire University System.  In 2010, Dr. Tricoli was one of the Governor’s top three customer service leaders in Georgia.”

Dr. Anthony Tricoli

Dr. Anthony Tricoli was one of the most creative and innovative college presidents of our time.  Davis continues, “Improving academic excellence, college-wide communication, the utilization of data in making good decisions, strengthening the enrollment management process, and making transfer seamless into 4-year colleges, all became part of the budget proposal I delivered to State Joint Appropriations Committee in 2009 as I shared highlights of GPC’s Lean Six Sigma teamwork and outcomes.  In addition, Dr. Tricoli’s understanding of the value of applying classroom theory to real world application was enhanced greatly with the development of the Atlanta Center for Civic Engagement and Service Learning, and the Southern Institute for Sustainability.”

It is high time, the USG (Chancellor Hank Huckaby) and the University System of Georgia Board of Regents (BOR) do the right thing and bring Dr. Anthony Tricoli back into his rightful position as the President of Georgia Perimeter College.  His name should be cleared from any perception of wrong doing or mismanagement of GPC’s budget.  This is clearly a RICO case that must and should be heard in the DeKalb County Superior Court, we all hope that the judge assigned to this case will make the right decision, not just for Dr. Tricoli, but for all of us!

Georgia must also take steps to put this blatant cronyism in our past. We cannot hope to evolve or prosper as a state when people of importance are hired and selected based simply on who they know or how much they donated to campaigns. This backwater mentality and flagrant lawbreaking is a cancer on our entire state that needs to be stamped out. Unless Federal agencies or perhaps a county district attorney step in I am not hopeful of any change in our course. The current Attorney General, Sam Olens, has not only overlooked numerous violations he seems to have actively assisted in keep documents sealed that would shed more light on the corruption and cronyism. Instead of investigating any corruption he seems far more interested in keeping it all very hush-hush.

Attached below the video  is the reference letter written by Erroll Davis the former Chancellor that Huckaby replaced along with relevant excerpts from the special review from the GPC audit of 9/17/12. Pay special attention to the areas I highlighted in yellow. This is a video of an investigation of CSS 46 out of Atlanta.

Suggested Additional Reading:

Troubling Findings in Deposition of Regent Doreen Stiles Poitevint in Whistleblower Suit

Everything Peachy in Georgia: If you live in Hall County that is..

Olens Denies Former GPC President Tricoli’s Contract Exists

Vince Dooley says he would fire UGA President if he were his boss

 

 

    

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