Tri­coli speaks out

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - AM­BER PITTMAN apittman@cov­

Fol­low­ing his res­ig­na­tion on the heels of Ge­or­gia Perime­ter Col­lege’s mas­sive deficit ear­lier this year, former pres­i­dent An­thony Tri­coli feels vin­di­cated af­ter a spe­cial au­dit found that the deficit didn’t fall solely on him.

A Septem­ber au­dit by the Univer­sity Sys­tem of Ge­or­gia found that although Tri­coli ini­tially al­leged fraud by his fel­low former em­ploy­ees fol­low- ing the an­nounce­ment that the school had to make more than $25 mil­lion in cuts to bal­ance this school year’s bud­get, au­di­tors did not find any in­stances of fraud. Rather, the ul­ti­mate blame for the fi­nan­cial mess was laid at Tri­coli’s feet.

“We con­cluded that se­nior GPC ad­min­is­tra­tors failed to per­form cer­tain key fidu­ciary du­ties,” the au­dit stated. “Chief among th­ese fidu­ciary du­ties was

See Tri­coli, 8A

re­spon­si­bil­ity to un­der­stand and man­age the in­sti­tu­tion’s fis­cal af­fairs. Re­spon­si­bil­ity for the in­sti­tu­tion’s man­age­ment rests with the pres­i­dent.” The au­dit’s con­clu­sion is what many sus­pected — namely that Tri­coli and other’s “em­pha­sis on en­roll­ment growth and pro­gram ex­pan­sion took prece­dence over sound fis­cal prac­tice as man­age­ment and lead­er­ship pri­or­i­ties,” ac­cord­ing to a pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cle.

Ac­cord­ing to leg­isla­tive Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Karla Dren­ner, “GPC’s former fis­cal lead­er­ship team re­lied on in­ac­cu­rate, in­ter­nally gen­er­ated spread­sheets that did not cor­re­spond to the Gen­eral Ledger. Specif­i­cally, it ap­pears that mem­bers of GPC’s cab­i­net, to in­clude the former pres­i­dent, and both the pres­i­dent’s coun­cil and the strate­gic bud­get com­mit­tee were pro­vided in­com­plete and in­ac­cu­rate bud­get pre­sen­ta­tions made by the CBO and the bud­get di­rec­tor at var­i­ous group meet­ings… To sum­ma­rize, it can­not be de­ter­mined where the bud­get was over­spent be­cause it was not al­lo­cated cor­rectly and con­tained er­rors and omis­sions… It is clear from our re­view that GPC’s CBO did not pro­vide GPC’s pres­i­dent with timely and re­li­able fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion for the pres­i­dent’s use in man­ag­ing the in­sti­tu­tion.”

Tri­coli said Thurs­day that Univer­sity Sys­tem of Ge­or­gia Chan­cel­lor Hank Huck­aby ini­tially con­tacted him and of­fered him a po­si­tion at the state level if he would step away from his po­si­tion at GPC. Tri­coli said he agreed to do so and within days of mak­ing the agree­ment, the chan­cel­lor called him back and told him there was no other po­si­tion for him.

“I would have thought that the chan­cel­lor and the board would have wanted the facts of the sit­u­a­tion to be known by them be­fore they made a de­ci­sion to not re­new my con­tract,” said Tri­coli.

“I think the find­ings stand on their own whether or not peo­ple be­lieve whether or not I was in­ap­pro­pri­ately treated by the univer­sity sys­tem… Their ac­tions were cer­tainly not in line with the find­ings,” he said.

“Each year, the Univer­sity Sys­tem holds bud­get hear­ings with each col­lege pres­i­dent and the col­lege lead­er­ship team to re­view how the col­lege is do­ing fi­nan­cially. Dur­ing each of the years be­tween 2006 and 2012, not one time did the USG Chan­cel­lor, two-year col­lege sec­tor head, vice chan­cel­lor for fis­cal af­fairs, as­so­ciate vice chan­cel­lors, or USG Au­di­tors ever in­di­cate they had any con­cerns about GPC’s bud­get, not once, never. The Univer­sity Sys­tem called th­ese hear­ings and led th­ese bud­get hear­ings an­nu­ally, and they asked dozens upon dozens of ques­tions, but they never once raised any con­cerns about GPC’s bud­get.

“Yet the as­so­ciate vice chan­cel­lor for fis­cal af­fairs told me on April 26, that the of­fice of fis­cal af­fairs knew for three years that GPC’s bud­get di­rec­tor was spend­ing down the bud­get. Nor did they tell me he was in­ap­pro­pri­ately man­ag­ing the bud­get, or that he mis­re­ported and mis­rep­re­sented the facts of the bud­get to me and the col­lege’s ex­ec­u­tive team,” said Tri­coli in an email.

“The Univer­sity Sys­tem staff has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate th­ese is­sues with the col­lege pres­i­dents, es­pe­cially if they are go­ing to hold col­lege pres­i­dents ac­count­able for in­for­ma­tion the Univer­sity Sys­tem had for three years. I agree with what many have said over the past eight months — the Univer­sity Sys­tem’s bud­get over­sight process failed GPC, it was weak, in­suf­fi­cient and in­ef­fec­tive and if they had been on top of their game none of this would have hap­pened at GPC. At any point be­tween 2009 and 2012, the Univer­sity Sys­tem could have stopped this sit­u­a­tion at GPC from oc­cur­ring with one phone call to me. The fact that on June 5, the chan­cel­lor com­pletely rewrote the USG’s bud­get over­sight process should com­mu­ni­cate to all that he rec­og­nized the USG’s bud­get over­sight re­view process was a fail­ure, and it was that process that en­abled the sit­u­a­tion at GPC to oc­cur in April of 2012.”

Tri­coli de­nied that his sole fo­cus dur­ing his time at GPC was in grow­ing en­roll­ment as some have sug­gested, say­ing he fo­cused in­stead on in­creas­ing ac­cess for stu­dents who wanted to come to col­lege. How­ever, the en­roll­ment grew from 13,000 stu­dents to 27,000 dur­ing his ten­ure. It has since fallen to roughly 24,000 stu­dents.

“When you run an op­er­a­tion the size of GPC with 27,000 stu­dents, five cam­puses and 3,000 em­ploy­ees and a bud­get $170 mil­lion, it is a very com­pli­cated or­ga­ni­za­tion to lead. As a re­sult of those is­sues that sur­face it is rea­son­able that I should have been able to rely upon the data that was pre­sented to me by the bud­get team to be ac­cu­rate. It was not rea­son­able for me to as­sume that the bud­get in­form I re­ceived from the bud­get in­for­ma­tion team was false. Nor that the hu­man re­sources of­fice was mis­man­ag­ing cal­cu­la­tions of fringe ben­e­fits for ev­ery sin­gle em­ployee at the col­lege,” he said.

Roughly two years ago, Tri­coli spoke to the Cham­ber of Com­merce and said that GPC was primed for growth in New­ton County. When asked Thurs­day if he still be­lieved that, Tri­coli said he did not.

“For an in­sti­tu­tion to be primed for growth, the in­sti­tu­tion needs to have the right cul­ture across the cam­puses,” he said. “Ev­ery­body has to be on the same page as to why that growth is im­por­tant. For us, it was about in­creased ac­cess for stu­dents for the op­por­tu­nity for a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion. And chan­cel­lor [Er­roll] Davis’ goal was to in­crease the en­roll­ment by 100,000 stu­dents by 2020 and I be­lieved we could help him meet that goal… And you have to have an ac­tion plan that is rea­son­able, mea­sur­able and will help you get to your end goal and a leader that be­lieves in the process and knows how to man­age that process. With­out any one of those things, that goal of bring primed for growth is not likely to be a success.”

Tri­coli is cur­rently work­ing with other col­lege lead­ers across the coun­try to as­sist them in some con­sult­ing ser­vices.

“I’m in the process of look­ing for a new po­si­tion. I love the job and the work of lead­er­ship in higher ed­u­ca­tion and I would like to con­tinue that work at some ad­min­is­tra­tive level at a col­lege or univer­sity in the fu­ture,” he said.

“I have tremen­dous re­spect for Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dren­ner and I am pleased that she has the for­ti­tude to stand on the prin­ci­ple of truth and jus­tice, as well as be­ing in­no­cent un­til proven guilty.”

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