Curris: MSU Board Members Casually Discussed Business on Night Before Vote on Dunn's Contract

Mar 16, 2013

Credit Murray State.EDU

Murray State University Board of Regents Chairman, Dr. Constantine Curris, says some board members gathered at a social event at the home of regent Sharon Green the night before Friday’s quarterly meeting.  Board members voted not to renew president Randy Dunn’s contract at Friday's meeting, despite letters of support for Dunn from the school’s faculty senate and staff congress, as well as 27 west Kentucky school superintendents.

Curris said the gathering of five to six regents was purely a social event. However, Curris did mention that university business was discussed among the board members.  “I recall discussing the events of the day, this was right after the committee hearing that went over all the finances. There was discussion on the impact on tuition, there was even discussion of the recommendation that WKMS be studied to be sold. There was discussion of the upcoming meeting the next day, but it was all in context of people talking over a glass of wine. I guess it was an hour or so,” Curris said.

When asked if the members of the social gathering discussed the president’s contract, Curris said no. He did say, “there was discussion on the next day’s report of the ad-hoc contract committee.” Curris said the board voted on Dunn’s contract because he had received emails from some board members and comments from other members saying they wanted to vote.

Dunn, when answering questions about his search for other positions, said the board was required to act on his contract by June 30 2013, but they could act sooner if the board chose that avenue.

Curris said it isn’t unusual for a majority of board members to attend a social gathering, citing a dinner with regents at the president’s house. President Dunn confirmed he hosts a dinner for the regents, often before the board’s December meeting, but he said all board members are invited and no university business is discussed.  Curris said only out-of-town board members were invited to the Thursday night gathering. Local staff regent Phil Schooley, student regent Jeremiah Johnson and former faculty regent Jack Rose were not invited, Curris said. Rose resigned his post following Friday’s vote on Dunn’s contract saying he was concerned he missed something and “I hope it’s not something inappropriate, and that’s all I’m going to say.” Curris also said regent Jerry Sue Thornton wasn’t at the gathering.

Curris doesn’t believe the social gathering on Thursday, where board business was discussed, violated any Kentucky Open Meetings law. Government appointed boards like Murray State’s Board of Regents must issue a public notice and agenda 24 hours before any public meeting. The statute’s definition of the meeting is below.

As used in KRS 61.805 to 61.850, unless the context otherwise requires:

(1) “Meeting” means all gatherings of every kind, including video teleconferences, regardless of where the meeting is held, and whether regular or special and informational or casual gatherings held in anticipation of or in conjunction with a regular or special meeting;

One exception to the statute reads:

“However, nothing in the statute prohibits discussion between individual members where the purpose is to educate themselves on specific issues.”

If an organization feels a board to be in violation of the open meetings law, then an appeal must be written to the presiding officer (chair) of the board. The presiding officer then has three days to respond. If the presiding officer denies a violation, then a complaint can be lodged with the Attorney General who has 10 days to issue an opinion.

The Board of Regents voted 7 to 4 against extending President Randy Dunn’s contract at Friday’s meeting. The regents voting to extend Dunn's contract were Faculty Regent Jack Rose, Staff Regent Phil Schooley, Susan Guess, and Jenny Sewell.

Voting against the contract extension were Constantine Curris, Marilyn Buchanon, Sharon Green, Jeremiah Johnson, Jerry Sue Thornton, Harry Lee Waterfield II, and Stephen Williams.

Dunn's contract expires June 30th, 2014. Dunn holds a full professorship in Murray State's College of Education. He said  he may assume that post at the end of his presidential contract.