Winthrop trustees discuss possible lawsuit in closed-door meeting

Winthrop University trustees met behind closed doors Sunday night to receive legal advice about a possible lawsuit and to discuss acting President Debra Boyd’s pay.

The 90-minute meeting of the Board of Trustees’ executive committee was a specially called session – the first time trustees have met since firing President Jamie Comstock Williamson on June 26.

Through her attorney, Williamson has threatened to sue the university and individual trustees for breach of contract, slander and defamation. Chosen as Winthrop’s 10th president to begin leading the school in July 2013, Williamson spent just less than one year in office.

The school’s trustees have levied several claims against Williamson, including that she abused her authority, lied to the board, violated state ethics law and Winthrop’s nepotism policy in the hiring of her husband, and tried to destroy an email related to his employment.

Most recently, trustees chairwoman Kathy Bigham told The Herald for a story in Sunday’s newspaper that Williamson told a campus technology staff member to “purge” an email she wrote last August that initiated Larry Williamson’s hiring.

Williamson has denied all the board’s allegations. Trustees made their accusations against the president in a June 13 letter after suspending her and giving her formal notice of her pending firing.

Since then, Boyd – Winthrop’s provost and vice president for academic affairs – has been working as the university’s president. Trustees have said it could be weeks before they name an interim president, who could serve for up to one year as the school searches for its next leader.

On Sunday, trustees said they spent some time in executive session discussing Boyd’s employment contract and compensation. Boyd told The Herald last month that she assumed the acting president post while retaining her same salary. As provost, she is paid $159,350 annually.

Trustees also talked about Williamson’s employment and her contract, according to the motion made before the executive committee entered executive session on Sunday.

When the executive committee returned to a public portion of Sunday’s meeting, its members did not vote or hold any discussion. Trustees also did not provide any reports from executive session.

Trustees plan to meet again Monday night in a specially called meeting of the full board. The only item on the agenda is to discuss “presidential contractual matters.”

Trustees have said they plan to meet again in executive session.

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