Winthrop deposits $27K returned from president, husband

adouglas@heraldonline.comJune 18, 2014 

— Just days after suspended Winthrop President Jamie Comstock Williamson and her husband, Larry, returned his $27,000 university salary, school officials say they were notified of a “stop payment” on the Williamsons’ check to Winthrop.

But on Wednesday, Winthrop officials confirmed the university has since deposited the check.

Winthrop spokesman Jeff Perez provided a copy of the Williamsons’ $27,000 check and a record of the university’s deposit. The Williamsons announced on June 12 that they were returning the money the president’s husband made while employed part time at Winthrop.

Larry Williamson worked as a temporary employee in the president’s office from Sept. 1, 2013, to May 31, 2014.

Winthrop accepted the check from the Williamsons on June 12, Perez said. At the request of Larry Williamson, the check was held in order for funds to transfer by June 16.

On Monday, – nearly three days after the trustees suspended President Williamson – Larry Williamson told Winthrop’s vice president for finance and business, J.P. McKee, that he had put a “stop payment” on the check, Perez said.

When McKee and another employee tried to return the check to the Williamsons at their home on campus, no one answered the door, Perez said.

The next day, Larry Williamson called McKee and said that “if Winthrop elected to deposit the check, it would clear,” Perez said.

The check appears to be signed by Larry Williamson and is written from a bank account with his and his wife’s names on it.

The Williamsons initially placed a stop payment on the check because they were upset over the outcome of last Friday’s Winthrop board meeting, said Rock Hill attorney Bev Carroll, who is representing the president.

After nearly six hours behind closed doors on Friday, trustees voted 12-1 to suspend the president and give her notice of termination. The board vote came just one day after the Williamsons returned Larry Williamson’s Winthrop salary.

The Williamsons later consulted with Carroll and reconsidered the stop payment, she said. They lifted the stop payment, she said, in order to honor their original gesture of returning the $27,000.

On Friday, in a letter to the president, Board of Trustees Chairwoman Kathy Bigham accused Jamie Williamson of misleading trustees on Larry Williamson’s employment. And, Bigham wrote, Williamson “intentionally caused documents to be prepared which falsely characterized” her husband’s employment, in violation of South Carolina ethics law and Winthrop’s Nepotism Policy.

President Williamson has said her husband’s employment did not violate any policy or law because he did not report directly to her, nor did she make the decision to hire him. In returning the money, Williamson said she and her husband wanted to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

Earlier this week, Carroll and the president defended Larry Williamson’s employment and said trustees knew about his position months before he resigned in May.

“To now try to characterize Larry’s lawful engagement at Winthrop as some type of undercover operation by Dr. Williamson is ridiculous and is solely designed to save face for those parties who were a part of this entire engagement after being questioned about it,” Carroll wrote.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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