Dickinson State University McCallum verdict: Fire himRichard McCallum should be fired from the Dickinson State University president position, Administrative Law Judge Bonny Fetch said Friday.
Richard McCallum should be fired from the Dickinson State University president position, Administrative Law Judge Bonny Fetch said Friday.
A hearing was held in October to determine if William Goetz, North Dakota University system chancellor, was justified in dismissing McCallum in August.
McCallum faces many accusations, including inflating enrollment numbers and creating an intimidating environment at DSU.
Fetch gave a written recommendation Friday to the State Board of Higher Education stating there is just cause to fire McCallum.
SBHE President Grant Shaft expects the board to agree with Fetch’s recommendation during its Thursday meeting.
“Given that it’s fairly consistent with what the board’s prior action has been, I don’t anticipate that the board would do anything different than the judge’s recommendation,” Shaft said. “My opinion is that it pretty much mirrors what our internal audit investigation indicated so the decision doesn’t come as a surprise to me and I suspect that it’s not going to come as a surprise to the board members.”
The recommendation was not difficult to make, Fetch said in a telephone conversation from her Bismarck office.
“It was clear to me that the university made its case, so from that perspective, no it was not difficult to decide that the case was made,” Fetch said. “I do a good number of personnel hearings and decisions, and sometimes it’s real murky or whatever, but in this case it wasn’t. It was pretty clear.”
She has been considering evidence from the hearing since its conclusion more than a month ago.
“It takes a long time to go through that and I try to do that very carefully and make a very considered decision,” she said.
The SBHE will likely discuss how to fill the president’s position during its Thursday meeting, Shaft said. D.C. Coston is acting president. McCallum hasn’t been allowed on the DSU campus since August.
“Options we have would be we would extend the interim position of Dr. Coston or we would start a presidential search,” Shaft said. “To the best of my knowledge right now, Dr. Coston has not indicated that would be a permanent position that he would want to seek, but he hasn’t indicated otherwise.
“The truth is until we had the McCallum matter out of the way, we just weren’t really able to discuss that position beyond being an interim position.”
Coston did not return a call from The Press, but did send a statement via email Friday.
“In my time at DSU, I have been impressed as I have observed the quality of education and the interactions among faculty, staff and students,” he wrote in the email. “This commitment to excellence in service to students is part of what defines DSU and will continue as a core value.”
Shaft said the McCallum matter does not reflect negatively on DSU or NDUS.
“I think this situation is really an anomaly and I think that judge’s decision really underscores that,” he said. “The actions at Dickinson State were not driven by any funding formulas, policies or directives of the board or the chancellor and the university system doesn’t even have a funding formula based on enrollment or student numbers.”
Pat Seaworth, an attorney for NDUS, said McCallum will not be able to appeal the SBHE’s decision.
“There are other remedies available,” Seaworth said. “A public employee that is fired can always file a lawsuit.”
Testimony at McCallum’s hearing outlined many people in leadership positions at DSU allegedly involved in the actions McCallum is under fire for, Shaft said.
“We had taken the position that until we had resolved Dr. McCallum’s position that we really couldn’t address these others,” he said. “And now we expect that Dr. Coston would have to review those personnel decisions based on the judge’s ruling and we would expect that would fall under his job as interim president.”
Fetch said McCallum violated polices and did not comply with requirements.
Testimony at the hearing also implicated McCallum may have violated laws. The Office of the State Auditor is conducting an audit at DSU, Seaworth said.
A message left at OSA was not returned.
Messages to Benjamin Thomas, McCallum’s attorney, were not returned. The Press has also made numerous attempts to contact McCallum since August, including Friday, but has not received a response.