Former community college president’s ouster questioned, being reviewed by comptroller

Former Motlow State President Anthony “Tony” Kinkel is trying to restore his reputation four months after resigning from the position, reports the Murfreesboro Post, and the state comptroller is conducting a review of the proceedings that led to his ouster – including an audit that Kinkel says was unfair. But the Tennessee Board of Regents says it’s putting the matter in the past and looking ahead.

 “I’ve never seen anything like what happened here,” says Kinkel in a recent interview. “I just want my good name back.”

Kinkel went from being hailed on the front page of the New York Times as a change agent for Motlow State and the Tennessee Promise scholarship program to the subject of an unflattering report by the audit committee of the Board of Regents, which oversees Tennessee’s community colleges. In fact, not long after he stood shoulder to shoulder with Gov. Bill Haslam at Motlow’s Smyrna campus for the bill signing of Tennessee ReConnect, Kinkel resigned.

He is set to return to his home state and become executive director of the Minnesota State Board for School Administrators, but says he wanted to make Tennessee his permanent home and retire someday as Motlow State president.

…The (audit) report accuses him of leading through fear, pressure and intimidation and says he tried to manipulate information to make himself look better during the investigation. It says he berated the coordinator of Tennessee Promise in a phone call while trying to get a list of students, then forwarded that list, including students’ personal information, across campus. It also says he included the name of an alleged campus rape victim in a report to his leadership team.

…Kinkel acknowledges a few of the allegations are true but only minor ones, and he offers explanations for nearly everything. For instance, he says he felt it was better to shift a student fee at Motlow’s Smyrna campus from an international travel program to funding for campus security.

He also contends he didn’t get a chance to refute the allegations and never saw the report until a newspaper reporter showed it to him.

One of his biggest complaints is that former Motlow State President MaryLou Apple was appointed to the Tennessee Board of Regents by Gov. Haslam and then served on the audit committee that looked into his presidency, a move he considers a conflict of interest because the former president wouldn’t be able to look at the matter objectively.

“I did everything I knew to do and I could not find a way to satisfy the people she was close to on campus,” Kinkel says.

Instead, he says he had to focus on changing policies within the five-campus college (some put in place by Apple) to build student success.

..The TBR declined to directly answer whether Apple had any undue influence in the matter.

“Dr. Kinkel resigned months ago, the Motlow community has moved on and the board considers the matter closed,” TBR said in a statement. “Faculty, staff, interim President Hilda Tunstill and the Board of Regents are entirely focused on the success of Motlow’s students.”

Note: The comptroller’s review was requested by Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma. Kinkel is one of three community college presidents removed from office in recent months. The other two were at Nashville State and Northeast State.

See also the Tullahoma News report. An excerpt:

Under new (Board of Regents) chancellor Flora Tydings – recommended for hiring by Apple – the TBR in February launched an audit that would, through a public process, openly revisit personnel complaints that had, under (former Chancellor John) Morgan, already been declared “without merit” in a private process.

Kinkel asks, “Who ordered that?”

“In my 32 years of being a dean, a faculty member, a senator, a state director and a president at four institutions I’ve never seen a situation like this,” Kinkel said. “Not one penny was missing; not one relative or mistress was hired; and not one law broken. They found some disgruntled folks and they purposely sought them out and said ‘tell me what you don’t like’.”

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