Quinn to Face Lawmakers in Wake of Scathing State Audit

Carl McCall     ....reportedly called by Quinn

Carl McCall
….reportedly called by Quinn

As embattled Erie Community College President Jack Quinn prepares to face county lawmakers today (Jan. 28) at 3 p.m. on the scathing state audit of the institution he leads, there are signs that Quinn has been working very hard to convince anyone who will listen that he’s not to blame for the problems at ECC and can fix them.

Sources say Quinn has reached out to Carl McCall, the former state comptroller who is now chairman of the State University of New York Board of Trustees, in an attempt to deflect the public relations damage he has suffered in the recent audit of ECC by current State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli that confirmed much of what I have been reporting for the last several months about the rampant problems at ECC under Quinn who often travels on non-college related assignments despite his $192,5000 salary, the highest paying public job in WNY.

Quinn also had a meeting last week with County Executive Mark Poloncarz about the audit of the college released earlier this month that found “a lax control environment in which significant decisions were made out of the view of the board, the public and students.”  In other words, Quinn and company did things their way without much oversight from or accountability to the board or the public.

Judging from the tenor of the message from Poloncarz’s spokesman abut the meeting with Quinn, it was hardly a social chat although, as usual, Poloncarz does not provide much in the way of detail about his meeting.

Peter Anderson, who does most of the speaking for the county executive on hot-button issues, sent an email saying Poloncarz and Quinn met last week “for a line-by-line review of the audit, which as you know was not very complimentary of ECC.  The County Executive expressed his displeasure at the audit’s findings to President Quinn, along with his recommendations for needed changes in areas identified as deficient by the audit.  The two will be meeting again to allow President Quinn to report back on progress with these necessary changes and to identify further steps to address the audit’s findings.”

I sent an email back to Anderson asking for some specifics about the recommendations from Poloncarz, but there was no response.

Kevin Hardwick, Republican and chairman of the legislature’s community enrichment committee, said he expects Quinn and crew will face some tough questions today at the hearing in Old County Hall at 3 p.m., although it remains to be seen if lawmakers—especially the GOP majority,

(Quinn being a Republican) have the political will to take Quinn to task for running the college without any public accountability or strong board oversight as spending careened out of control and ECC squeezed students with a steady diet of tuition hikes with another one certainly looming.

Hardwick, who has expressed concern about the college’s fiscal trajectory, said people must be aware that “ECC is a future lifeline to a lot of people,” and it is an extremely important resource to the local community.

Despite the downward spiral and declining enrollment, the Quinn administration found money—without board approval—to create 10 senior executive positions between 2010 and 2015 with yearly salaries averaging $75,600 and totaling close to $800,000.  In addition, all senior staffers receive 2 percent raises, again without board authorization as is required.  All this as another round of tuition hikes looms in the coming year.  Oh, it is also worth noting the college now has a half-million legal department under Quinn appointee Kristin Klein-Wheaton, a possible candidate to take the heat for ECC’s plight although officials are guarded about what might happen, if anything, despite the brutal audit report.

The audit apparently hasn’t deterred Quinn as we have learned he plans to appoint a successor to Dr. Marsha Jackson, the former associate vice president for student affairs, in the coming weeks even before the dust has settled on the audit findings.  Jackson left late last year after filing a discrimination complaint against ECC with the State Division of Human Rights alleging she was passed over for promotion based on race.  It is one of many legal complaints filed against ECC over the last 18 months.

The ECC board has commissioned a task force to respond to the state audit and is expected to implement all 22 recommendations by DiNapoli as part of the response.


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