Saturday, December 16, 2017
Education

PHSC board member resigns amid tensions with college president

After a contentious review of Pasco-Hernando State College president Timothy Beard by the board of trustees last month, longtime board member John Dougherty has resigned.

A financial planner and business adviser from Spring Hill, Dougherty, 59, had served on the board since December 2013, most recently as vice chairman. He came out strongly against the president during the recent state-mandated annual evaluation, pointing to "visioning problems" and then supporting a failed motion to fire Beard and begin a search for his replacement.

The split board ultimately voted unanimously to give Beard, whom members selected to lead the college in spring 2015, a one-year extension to address the concerns presented. But Dougherty said the "frank and awkward discussions" he had in front of the president stirred tensions he thinks would make it impossible for him to stick around.

"After (Beard) heard my concerns, it would have created an awkward situation," he told the Tampa Bay Times after sending his resignation letter to Beard and fellow board members. "I thought it would be a bit of a difficult year — no, more than that — a very difficult year, given my comments and the board's close workings with the president."

In a five-page written review of Beard, Dougherty called out the president for a number of shortfalls, including a lack of leadership and trust. On a numerical evaluation sheet scaled from 1 to 5 that covered topics like board relations, fiscal accountability and leadership, he gave the president only one 5. The rest of Dougherty's ratings were 3's, representing "needs improvement," and below.

Beard said none of the vice chairman's feedback came as a surprise because they have "always had a good relationship" and met months ago to talk about Dougherty's concerns, but said he thinks they could have worked out their differences.

"Evaluations are never easy. …He has convictions, and I do, too, but that doesn't mean we can't be professional," Beard said. "If he would have stayed on, I don't see that we couldn't have done that. But it is what it is."

Traditionally, Doughtery said, the position of chairman of the board, a spot currently held by Edward Blommel, is passed back and forth among members, alternating between those representing Hernando and Pasco counties.

Blommel's term as chairman ends next month, and although the final decision on his replacement would be made by a vote of the board, Dougherty, being the vice chairman and the longest-serving member representing Hernando, would be a likely pick.

"I think the new chairman and the president should have a really, really good and positive relationship at the start," Dougherty said. "I'm not sure that would have been possible, given my comments."

Before his appointment to the board of trustees, Dougherty served on the college's foundation board of directors for more than 10 years, acting as chairman from 2008 to 2010.

Contact Megan Reeves at [email protected] Follow @mareevs.

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