Suspended Winthrop president will not address trustees

adouglas@heraldonline.comJune 20, 2014 

— Suspended Winthrop University President Jamie Comstock Williamson will not appear at a hearing next week to address allegations that she abused her authority, lied to trustees and acted unprofessionally in her first year on campus, the university said Friday.

When the Winthrop Board of Trustees voted last week to suspend Williamson and give her a formal notice that they intended to terminate her employment, they gave her until Friday to decide whether she would meet with trustees June 26 to formally answer their concerns.

Winthrop spokeswoman Judy Longshaw confirmed Friday evening that Williamson had notified trustees that she would not attend that meeting.

Trustees have said they could vote as early as next week to fire Williamson.

Last week, Chairwoman Kathy Bigham wrote a letter on behalf of the trustees explaining to Williamson the reasons for her suspension and pending termination. The board voted 12-1 on June 13 to take the action against Williamson. Through her attorney -- Bev Carroll of Rock Hill -- Williamson has refuted all the trustees’ claims, including an accusation that she violated state ethics laws in the hiring of her husband to work part-time in the president’s office. Larry Williamson was paid $27,000, which has since been returned to the school.

The board also accused the president of “explosive, berating, demeaning, hostile, condescending, rude and other unprofessional behavior.” Trustees claim Williamson has knowingly misled them on various matters. Carroll has said that trustees “have their own agenda and are not pleased to deal with a woman who is direct in her approach and is not concerned with stroking personalities.” Williamson denies having misled trustees and has said her husband’s Winthrop employment was legal.

Trustees knew Larry Williamson was working in the president’s office months before he resigned in May, Carroll said. Characterizing his employment, she said, as an “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.”

Williamson might sue the trustees for “breach of contract, slander and defamation” and other claims, Carroll has said.

Last week’s suspension and termination notice came 17 days shy of what would be Williamson’s anniversary as Winthrop’s 10th president. Trustees voted unanimously to hire Williamson in February 2013, and she took office on July 1.

Anna Douglas 803-329-4068

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