Winthrop trustees meet in second closed meeting to discuss potential lawsuit

For the second time in two days, Winthrop University trustees met Monday in executive session to discuss a potential lawsuit against the school. Board members said they also talked about the settlement of possible legal claims and the compensation of the “immediate past president.”

Trustees did not offer specifics about their conversation during the closed-door meeting.

The board had taken no public vote as of late Monday.

This week’s two specially called, conference call meetings come on the heels of the firing of President Jamie Comstock Williamson, who spent just less than a year in office. After an initial 12-1 vote on June 13 to suspend Williamson, trustees unanimously decided two weeks later to fire her.

Williamson has threatened to sue the university for breach of her employment contract, slander and defamation.

In a June 13 letter to the president, board chairwoman Kathy Bigham listed several grievances against Williamson, including an accusation that she lied to board members and violated state ethics law and Winthrop’s nepotism policy in hiring her husband.

Last week, Bigham told The Herald that Williamson told a campus technology staff member to “purge” an email she wrote last August that initiated Larry Williamson’s hiring.

The fired president has denied the trustees’ claims. Williamson’s attorney has argued that the president should have been given 30 days to fix any job performance problems before being suspended or terminated.

Debra Boyd, Winthrop’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, is temporarily serving as president until an interim president is named. A former professor and English department leader, Boyd is in her 30th year at Winthrop. Williamson promoted her to be the university’s chief academic officer last year.

State officials announced on Monday that they plan to discuss Boyd’s $159,350 salary at a Wednesday meeting of the S.C. Agency Head Salary Commission. Winthrop officials have said Boyd assumed the acting president position on June 13 while retaining her current provost pay.

On Monday night, trustees said they also would discuss Boyd’s employment contract and compensation.