Caner's departure addressed, trustee resigns

by Joe Westbury/The Christian Index, posted Tuesday, February 03, 2015 (4 years ago)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated since being posted earlier this afternoon (Feb. 3).

MOUNT VERNON, Ga. (BP) -- Brewton-Parker College trustee chairman Gary Campbell is the third high-profile figure to leave the college's leadership team in the past two weeks.

Campbell tendered his resignation on Feb. 2 shortly before introducing Interim President Charles "Charlie" Bass to faculty and staff at the South Georgia college.

But before departing, Campbell discussed the unexpected resignation of President Ergun Caner on Jan. 20 and, barely a week later, the termination of Vice President C.B. Scott. On Jan. 29 Campbell told Vidalia-based Southeast Georgia Today news outlet that he could not comment on Scott's departure due to it being a personnel matter.

Ergun Caner
 
Scott was one of the first administrative appointments made by Caner, calling him "the perfect man for the job" of overseeing the college's alumni and college relations programs. Scott, who was already serving in various capacities at the college, according to the original press release announcing his appointment, was elevated to the cabinet-level position in January 2014.

Before announcing his own resignation, Campbell took several minutes to "set the record straight concerning speculation regarding recent leadership changes at Brewton-Parker College."

Campbell then detailed a timeline of events that led to both departures.

Events began to unfold when four claims were received, three of which were mailed to most of the trustees while the second came directly to Campbell and one other trustee. The Executive Committee investigated the claims and met on multiple occasions to discuss them.

The Executive Committee worked to "respect all people involved and to use good business judgment in handling claims of this nature," according to a BPC press release.

The four claims concerned:

1. allegations that the former president made racially vulgar comments;

2. an allegation of a racial comment regarding a staff member;

3. an allegation regarding derogatory remarks about two staff members; and

4. an allegation of inappropriate behavior.

Campbell then addressed each of the allegations.

-- The Executive Committee was unable to either "refute or authenticate" the first charge since it came down to one person's claim versus another's denial.

-- The committee authenticated the second allegation of a racial comment concerning a staff member, although Caner insisted he did not mean it in a negative or derogatory manner.

-- The third allegation concerned derogatory comments Caner allegedly made about two staff members in the privacy of Caner's home. According to Campbell, "while there was some credible evidence of these comments, we were not able to validate this conclusively."

-- When the fourth allegation was raised while questioning Caner, Campbell said the former president stated that he "no longer had the will or energy to fight" and "had made the decision to resign as president." Caner then "asked permission to make his resignation official at our upcoming Board meeting which was the next day."

At that point the investigation was discontinued and Caner resigned the next day.

Campbell reported that in the resignation, Caner stated, "Brewton-Parker College cannot become a healthy, growing and stable college under the leadership of a man who is broken. And I am stating that I am broken."

The board chairman indicated that in considering the resignation, the trustees took into consideration the tremendous grief the former president and his family had experienced due to the tragic death of his son Braxton six months earlier.

"We did not ask Dr. Caner to resign. That was his decision. There has been no attempt by the Board of Trustees to cover up anything and there were no other claims about which I am aware that were made to the trustees," Campbell said in the press release.

Campbell then turned his comments to deal with speculation concerning Vice-President C.B. Scott.

"I made the decision to terminate Dr. Scott's contract in my sole position as the person responsible for the duties of the President, according to our bylaws. While I did seek counsel from Executive Committee members, it was not a Board decision."

Attending the announcement were not only faculty and staff but also community leaders who Campbell invited. Scott also received an invitation but did not attend.

"Some believe this decision to terminate Dr. Scott's contract was made to get back at him in some way for what happened to Dr. Caner. That is not accurate. My decision was based singularly on an infraction of a very important business policy of how grievance information is distributed within the chain of command."

While Campbell acknowledged that it could be argued that the situation "could have been handled in a different manner," he maintained that based on an infraction of this nature, it was a "justifiable decision." The chairman applauded Scott's veracity, character and integrity while offering his sincere appreciation for the former vice-president's service to the college.

"We should all be reminded of why we are here, but more so, we must remind ourselves of the most important person on campus. We are not here for Ergun Caner. We are not here for C.B. Scott. Neither are we here for the faculty nor trustees. And we certainly are not here for Gary Campbell.

"Next to our Lord, the student is the most important person on this campus."

Campbell then tendered his resignation, saying he believed the decision "is in the best interest of the school and myself personally."

Where they are now

-- Campbell was serving his final year of a second five-year term. He served two years as chairman in his first term and two years as chairman in his second term.

-- Caner, 50, returned to Texas to be with his family at the end of January after a grueling 13 months at the helm of the college. His most important contribution was working with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to restore the college's accreditation.

The effort resulted in a reversal by the agency in the revocation of the accreditation status in June 2014. On Dec. 9 SACS reaffirmed BPC's accreditation status without any blemish on its record, ending a five-year crisis for the college.

-- Scott, a highly regarded administrator, has not announced his future employment opportunities. He had previously served churches in Kentucky, Mississippi, Virginia, North Carolina and Alabama.

-- Bass, former vice president and head of student services at BPC, has returned to the college as interim president. Since he left Brewton-Parker in August 2013 he has been serving as headmaster at a private school in Franklin, N.C.

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Joe Westbury is managing editor of The Christian Index, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP).
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