Spot­light on City Col­lege of New York as pres­i­dent quits amid money ques­tions

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS -

NEW YORK >> A col­lege that had its most high-pro­file mo­ment ear­lier this year when first lady Michelle Obama gave a com­mence­ment ad­dress is now grap­pling with its pres­i­dent’s abrupt res­ig­na­tion amid ques­tions over the han­dling of her per­sonal ex­penses and a call for a state in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Lisa Coico, who had been City Col­lege of New York’s pres­i­dent since 2010, re­signed Fri­day, a day af­ter The New York Times asked ques­tions about how $150,000 in her ex­penses had been doc­u­mented.

Nei­ther she, nor the chan­cel­lor of the City Univer­sity of New York sys­tem of which City Col­lege is a part, gave a rea­son for her de­par­ture.

The Times had raised ques­tions ear­lier this year about Coico’s per­sonal spend­ing in 2011 and about how a foun­da­tion that fundraised for City Col­lege had paid thou­sands of dol­lars in Coico’s ex­penses in­clud­ing house­keep­ing, fur­ni­ture and food and was in turn re­im­bursed by another CUNY foun­da­tion that over­sees re­search funds for the en­tire sys­tem. A few weeks af­ter that story came out, the U.S. at­tor­ney for the East­ern District of New York is­sued a fed­eral sub­poena as part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mat­ter.

The Times said its most re­cent ques­tions on the sub­ject on Thurs­day had con­cerned whether an in­ter­nal memo on the re­im­burse­ments was gen­uine and, sep­a­rately, whether Coico had paid back a $20,000 se­cu­rity de­posit on a rental home.

In an­nounc­ing Coico’s res­ig­na­tion, CUNY Chan­cel­lor James Mil­liken de­clined to give any specifics beyond nam­ing an interim ad­min­is­tra­tor in charge pend­ing the ap­point­ment of an interim pres­i­dent later in Oc­to­ber.

He said a na­tional search for a new pres­i­dent would be un­der­taken and called City Col­lege “a re­mark­able in­sti­tu­tion with a rich his­tory and a very promis­ing fu­ture.”

The sit­u­a­tion spurred the chair­man of CUNY’s board of trustees, Wil­liam Thomp­son Jr., to send a let­ter to the state on Sun­day, ask­ing the in­spec­tor gen­eral to look into all of the schools in the CUNY sys­tem and their af­fil­i­ated foun­da­tions.

CUNY is New York’s pub­lic univer­sity sys­tem, made up of se­nior col­leges, com­mu­nity col­leges and grad­u­ate schools through­out the city’s five bor­oughs. City Col­lege, in Man­hat­tan, was founded in 1847 as the Free Acad­emy of the City of New York and be­came the flag­ship school in the CUNY sys­tem.

In the 1930s, Jewish in­tel­lec­tu­als kept out of elite pri­vate col­leges were ed­u­cated there, giv­ing it the rep­u­ta­tion of the poor man’s Har­vard Univer­sity. Among its alumni are 10 No­bel Prize win­ners.

In June, Obama, the wife of Demo­cratic Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, picked the school to give her last com­mence­ment ad­dress as first lady. She said she chose it be­cause of its di­ver­sity, with its stu­dents com­ing from 150 coun­tries and speak­ing more than 100 lan­guages.

“You rep­re­sent just about ev­ery pos­si­ble back­ground,” Obama told the grad­u­ates, “ev­ery color and cul­ture, ev­ery faith and walk of life.”

In the speech, Obama took a mild swipe at Don­ald Trump, who at the time was the pre­sump­tive Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, by say­ing that “some folks” don’t value di­ver­sity but that Amer­ica doesn’t “build up walls to keep peo­ple out.”

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