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Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Ind. Gov't. - "Ivy Tech refuses to explain why a top South Bend official left"

Margaret Fosmoe reports today in a lengthy story in the South Bend Tribune:

SOUTH BEND — Ivy Tech Community College is refusing to release information about recent departures of top regional administrators and changed its answer about whether the area’s financial director quit, was fired or was pressured to resign.

And the college’s leaders vow in the future to release no information about employee resignations and terminations, a stance that violates state law and an opinion from Indiana’s public access counselor that the state-funded college must make the information available to the public.

Meanwhile, Ivy Tech’s four-county region, which includes the South Bend, Elkhart County and Warsaw campuses, faces a projected $2.67 million budget deficit for this fiscal year that may result in employee layoffs.

Karen Vargo, executive director of finance, facilities and security for the college’s north-central region, left the college on Sept. 30. Her salary was $116,091 per year.

The South Bend Tribune on Oct. 11 filed a public records request with Thomas Coley, chancellor of the north-central region, requesting information about Vargo’s status. If Vargo was suspended, demoted or terminated, the factual basis for that discipline is required to be public under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act. * * *

On Dec. 7, The Tribune filed a complaint against Ivy Tech with Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt. The complaint included a copy of the human resources report describing Vargo’s departure as a termination.

Indianapolis attorney J.D. Lux, assistant general counsel for Ivy Tech, filed a response for the college to the PAC office. “Whenever anyone leaves their job it can be said that their employment has been terminated,” Lux wrote.

“There were no formal charges or disciplinary action against Ms. Vargo,” the attorney added.

In his response, Lux did not explain why some employees on the human resources report had “resignation” listed as their reason for leaving, while Vargo’s reason was listed as “termination.”

Britt sided with The Tribune. In his written opinion, he noted that the staffing report provided by Ivy Tech “clearly indicates the employee’s status is listed as ‘termination’ as opposed to ‘resignation’ like the other listed employees.”

Britt further wrote that the dismissal of a public employee “becomes a matter of public business.”

“It is clear ‘termination’ and ‘resignation’ are not used synonymously by Ivy Tech; therefore, there must be a factual basis as to why the employee was let go,” he wrote.

The day after Britt issued his opinion, Lux, the Ivy Tech attorney, asked Britt to reconsider and claimed the college made a mistake by listing Vargo’s departure as a termination.

“The word ‘Termination’ should not have appeared as the reason for the employee’s departure from employment with Ivy Tech on (the human resources report). That description was an error. It was a mistake in the Human Resources department in the South Bend Region,” the attorney wrote.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 7, 2017 01:05 PM
Posted to Indiana Government