A mid-week apology for handing out extravagant raises to his top executives wasn’t enough to silence the growing public outrage, so after calls for his resignation from a bipartisan group of lawmakers, Board of Regents President Robert Kennedy tendered his resignation Friday morning.
“After taking some time to think about what is in the best interest of our state and this new organization, our colleges and universities, the faculty, staff, presidents and, of course, our students, I have decided to submit my resignation to Board Chairman Lewis J. Robinson this morning,” Kennedy said in a statement.
Kennedy, who was the president of the University of Maine before coming to Connecticut, was appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy last August. He was charged with reorganizing and consolidating the state’s four state universities, dozen community colleges, and Charter Oak State College.
On Thursday the co-chairs and ranking members of the legislature’s High Education and Employment Advancement Committee held a press conference where they called on Kennedy to submit his resignation to the board.
“We don’t see how with the damage that’s been done in this case that that reform agenda can be carried through,” Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, said Thursday. “At this point, it’s damaging to the students if that system doesn’t move forward.”
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero and Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney also called for Kennedy to resign.
On Friday, Cafero said Kennedy made the right decision, but the scandal surrounding his departure requires a closer look.
“A full inquiry by the Higher Education Committee is still warranted to answer questions regarding the tenure of the 12 community college presidents. Two college presidents have stated publicly that their future employment was directly linked to the Oct. 31 deadline to respond to offers of and early buy-out,” Cafero said.
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Malloy never called for Kennedy‘s resignation, but he said Friday that “Bob’s decision is the right one.”
Kennedy and Malloy both acknowledged that the raise scandal and to a lesser extent the attempt to offer the community college presidents a “buyout” was becoming a distraction to their efforts to create efficiencies.
“The issues with which we’ve dealt over the past few days have become a distraction to that important work, and, as an educator all my life, the most important thing to me is the success and support of our students,” Kennedy said. “For that reason, I believe my resignation will allow the critical issues of the Board and its agenda to be addressed in a different light than they might otherwise be.”
Malloy, who never joined lawmakers in calling for the resignation of the man he appointed, said “There have been many accomplishments at the Board over the last year, and Bob deserves a lot of credit for those accomplishments.”
“It’s unfortunate that the events of the past week have damaged the credibility of the central office, but they have,” Malloy said.
Kennedy submitted a one sentence resignation letter to the chairman of the Board of Regents saying he would waive a clause in his contract that requires him to give notice in an effort to expedite his resignation. Board of Regents Chairman Lewis Robinson said he has accepted the resignation and thanked Kennedy for his service.
Since he waived the 120 notice period, Kennedy, will not receive any type of severance package, but he may be eligible to receive any unused vacation and sick time as he departs. The Board of Regents will meet this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. It’s unclear if they will take up the resignation at that time.