The Richmond Register

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June 18, 2012

Control of EKU Center personnel at issue

Community Operations Board meets today

RICHMOND — Three days after a statement was promised, Eastern Kentucky University had not issued a news release Monday evening regarding the status of Debra Hoskins, who appears to have been terminated as director of EKU’s Center for the Arts.

The center’s community operations board voted 8-3 on Friday to support Hoskins, according to people who attended the meeting and board members who asked not to be quoted.

A guest column written by Dr. Ron Wolfe, a former EKU professor, about the issue and the board meeting appears on page 4 of today’s Richmond Register.

Friday’s vote by the center’s board was taken after members were told the university had voided Hoskins’ contract, Wolfe said.

The board is scheduled to meet again at 3 p.m. today in the center’s “black box” theater.

The university’s action against Hoskins may be related to an unexplained resolution enacted by the EKU Board of Regents four days earlier.

After the regents emerged from a lengthy closed session during their annual budget meeting, they voted unanimously “to reaffirm the authority granted to President (Doug) Whitlock, as has been vested in all EKU presidents, to take action as deemed appropriate and consistent with university personnel policies and procedures relating to all employment matters of university employees.”

Prior to proposing the motion, Regent Janet Craig read this statement, “The board acknowledges its authority pursuant to KRS 164.365 to control the employment, tenure and official relations of employees. The board is not taking action on the matter discussed in executive session.”

As is customary, the regents did not reveal the subjects of the closed session except to adopt a motion stating the session concerned personnel, potential litigation and/or the purchase of real estate.

Whether the regents’ action was related to the apparent dismissal of Hoskins remained unclear, but the sequence of events seemed an unlikely coincidence, close observers of the situation said.

Members of the EKU Center board reached Monday were reluctant to talk because they feared public statements could stand in the way of a possible reconciliation between Hoskins and EKU or harm the board’s relationship with the university.

At issue appears to be which entity, the university administration and regents or the center’s community operations board, has authority over center personnel and whether the university could terminate Hoskins’ contract without the center board’s agreement.

The center was constructed with state funds, and legislation associated with its creation provides for it to “be governed by the Community Operations Board.”

The legislation also calls for the community board to “make all decisions regarding personnel and programmatic operations of the ... performing arts center.”

But, the legislation also states the “board is attached to Eastern Kentucky University for administrative purposes, and the university shall provide all facility maintenance and operations costs.”

The 13-member board includes six members appointed by the EKU president, four appointed by the Madison judge/executive and fiscal court, two appointed by the Richmond mayor and city commission and one appointed by the Berea mayor and city council.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@richmondregister.com or at 624-6690.

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