Hodge/Carlsen Bromance Continued

It seems Trustee Benjamin Hodge had quite a bromance with former JCCC President Charles Carlsen as another article published in The Kansas City Star dated April 21, 2006 reveals.

The board’s newest trustee, Benjamin Hodge , praised Carlsen’s vision, boldness and perseverance, saying, “I respect Dr. Carlsen and think he’s a good man.”

Hodge voiced his admiration for Carlsen’s after a special JCCC Board of Trustees meeting on April 20, 2006 where Carlsen resigned as president of the college following allegations of sexual harassment.

Read the article below:

Carlsen leaves JCCC post

The Kansas City Star – Friday, April 21, 2006
MELODEE HALL BLOBAUM ; BRAD COOPER

Charles Carlsen, the man credited with making Johnson County Community College one of the most admired in the nation, stepped down as president of the college Thursday night.

The announcement came one week after he began a voluntary leave of absence following publication of allegations that he had sexually harassed an employee in 2003.

In a one-page letter to the college’s board of trustees, Carlsen, 67, wrote that he was taking voluntary retirement, effective immediately. He did not attend a hastily called special meeting of the board of trustees and did not return telephone calls to his home.

Trustees approved the retirement request in a 6-0 vote at the meeting, the body’s fourth since April 4.

In his retirement letter, Carlsen wrote that he had done nothing wrong but that he had been pained to see the college distracted by issues having nothing to do with its educational mission. He also cited health considerations and the stress of the past two weeks.

The board will proceed with plans to conduct an independent review of the allegations and college policies and procedures.

Trustee Jon Stewart said he was not surprised by Carlsen’s retirement, given his age and recent circumstances.

“But I think this is another example of his leadership, of putting the college first,” Stewart said.

Jerome Nerman, a donor to the college who lives in Leawood, said it will take a while to find someone who can equal Carlsen. “I truthfully believe there will be a cloud over the college for a while,” he said.

The board’s newest trustee, Benjamin Hodge , praised Carlsen’s vision, boldness and perseverance, saying, “I respect Dr. Carlsen and think he’s a good man.”

Board members would not comment on whether any new allegations had surfaced.

The harassment allegations came to light when The Campus Ledger, the school newspaper, reported them a week ago.

According to the student newspaper’s report, Teresa Lee, an employee, told her supervisor about incidents that she said occurred between May and November 2003. She said Carlsen had repeatedly isolated her in his office and rubbed against her breast with his forearm and made unannounced visits to her office that made her uncomfortable.

The newspaper reported that Lee documented the incidents and the conversation with her supervisor in a 22-page narrative eventually given to board chairwoman Elaine Perilla.

Carlsen denied the allegations to The Ledger.

News of Carlsen’s retirement startled many community leaders.

“It’s a surprise and just a huge loss,” said Robert Clark, vice chancellor of the University of Kansas Edwards Campus in Overland Park.

Clark said he and Carlsen shared a vision to have a partnership between KU and the community college, so that students could easily transition between the two-year and four-year programs.

“We both had the same vision, and that vision was embodied in kind of a dreamy hope that we could build a monorail between our two campuses,” Clark said.

Walter Hiersteiner, a college donor and education advocate who lives in Fairway, said he would have liked to have Carlsen stay.

“I hate to see him resign at a time when I was positively confident that he was not guilty as accused,” Hiersteiner said. “… I was satisfied he was handling it perfectly by asking for an outside investigation. I felt sure that when this was over his reputation would be enhanced.”

Former Overland Park Mayor Ed Eilert credited Carlsen with tailoring the college to help meet the community’s needs.

“I don’t think there’s any question at all that his leadership and his staying in touch with the community was very important,” Eilert said.

As an example, Eilert pointed to an occasion about 20 years ago when Carlsen approached the city about issuing bonds to build a training facility for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. The city issued bonds that were repaid by the college and the railroad. The college now owns the training facility.

But Molly Baumgardner, a former trustee who repeatedly voted against renewing Carlsen’s contract, was not so complimentary.

“He saw a community that was willing to spend its tax dollars to support an institution, and he used that to promote himself,” she said.

“He is a very charming individual when he is catering to community members that he feels will be donors or contributors to his brick-and-mortar projects, but that is not what goes on on the inside at Johnson County Community College.”

Perilla said the board would discuss how to search for a new president, as well as an interim president, at its regular meeting on Wednesday.

Carlsen’s contract pays him a salary of $208,248, including a $20,000 retirement annuity. His total compensation for the year that ends June 30 is $234,430.

Asked whether the board had been prepared to stand behind Carlsen had he not retired, Perilla said the situation was being reviewed and “we would take a look at those facts when they came in.”

Lee didn’t comment on Carlsen’s retirement.

However, she said, “I am hopeful that the upcoming independent review will be effective in helping the college correct any inadequacies and gaps in current policies and procedures, and I look forward to assisting in any way that I can.”

The board has met four times since April 4 to discuss personnel matters. At one point, the board announced that one employee was fired, another resigned and another was suspended.

Trustee Lynn Mitchelson said he didn’t know whether the allegations would hurt the college’s image.

“History has not been written yet,” he said. “…Those who are more than just superficial readers of these recent events are going to know what a tremendous college it is. We believe that our role is to make sure the college sustains meeting its mission. Learning comes first, and we intend for that to happen.”

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