The recent decision by the Colorado Mountain College board of trustees to award college President Stan Jensen a fat payout of $500,000 in exchange for his resignation is maddening.
That the resignation deal is cloaked in a confidentiality agreement, hiding any shred of justification from the public eye, is an affront to the college district's taxpayers and voters as well as CMC's students, faculty and staff.
The deal, announced Dec. 27, raises plenty of questions.
An open records request filed by the Post Independent has given us some answers about Jensen's employment contract. But so far, the trustees have refused to explain why they agreed to pay a severance that is more than three times the amount described in Jensen's contract.
The relationship apparently has been strained for months, erupting publicly last spring when Spring Valley neighbors and students realized Jensen had signed a lease months earlier with SourceGas to install a natural gas compressor station on the Spring Valley campus.
The trustees, reacting to the public uproar, voided the lease but also rejected a second proposed site that many supported. Now CMC faces a costly lawsuit filed by SourceGas after the school reneged.
Since then, the trustees have repeatedly held closed-door meetings, and in early December they hired a Carbondale law firm that specializes in personnel matters.
Which brings us to the actions of Dec. 27, all carried out in secret other than announcing the resignation, the severance and the flimsy explanation that Jensen was no longer a good fit for the college.
If the trustees no longer had confidence in the college's CEO, why did they not simply fire him, with or without cause, and pay the severance specified in his contract?
What is the point of what appears to have been a forced resignation, larded with half a million dollars and sealed with a secrecy pledge?
Who is being protected, or what is being shielded from the public eye?
What is the rationale for keeping taxpayers in the dark? How can voters trust the board when it is hiding its actions?
And why was such an important decision made at a meeting that was attended only by four of the seven board members, in which only three went on the record by casting a vote?
College officials have been forthcoming in providing Jensen's 2008 employment contract and the amendments approved each year since. An analysis by the Post Independent shows that he was being paid a $198,000 salary and more than $73,000 a year in perks, plus a car. It's a generous package by anyone's standards.
That Jensen was then allowed to resign and collect a half-million-dollar severance following four years of service makes ordinary folks feel like they've been had.
The CMC trustees were elected to office by voters in the six-county district. Home and business owners support the college with a hefty property tax.
We believe the trustees must show their accountability to voters and taxpayers by explaining what led to this decision. Because as it stands right now, the deal just doesn't make sense.