The State Fair Community College Board of Trustees met in special session Thursday morning at 9 to consider a voluntary retirement incentive program.

The meeting was held online and was open to the public.

Approval of the agenda was approved by five of the six board members. The sixth member, Jim Page, vehemently opposed the agenda, saying it was selfish of the outgoing board members to hold the meeting before the new members were sworn in.

Page also objected to the name of the video conference referred to as a “national emergency” due to COVID-19.

“I think that's misleading. I think we should be meeting on campus and putting these meetings out to the public in both ways. Second of all, I think this meeting should have been delayed until after the new board members were sworn in. I think it's selfish of those leaving the board to take that away from them,” Page stated.

SFCC Board members serve six-year terms, it is noted on the college's website. They meet on the fourth Tuesday of the month in the William C. Hopkins Student Services Center board room.

Rachel Dawson, executive director of Human Resources, explained the proposal to the board.

“The intent of the plan was to generate some savings by giving an incentive for folks to retire who are normal retirement eligible ... The intent was to give $500 per year of service to a max of 25. So that would be a maximum of $12,500 to any one person, and it would be on a first-come, first-served basis,” Dawson explained.

The program has to be approved by the SFCC retirement system. A certain amount of money has been set aside for the incentive program, Dawson said, but she did not disclose the exact amount. “If we go above that, then it definitely would not be a savings. Once you apply for it, then we deduct from that incentive amount, and when it's gone, it's gone.”

Trustee and Treasurer Jerry Greer asked Dawson if the program will allow for incentives retroactively for those who already retired. Dawson said no.

Page asked about the savings through such a program. “Are we guaranteed savings with this program? Or is it possible to hire somebody and pay them more than the person who leaves?” Page asked. “Are we guaranteed we're not going to exceed the $200,000?”

SFCC President Joanna Anderson told Page that the goal is not to fill positions to realize savings. “That's how we get savings, to leave the position vacant for a year,” she said.

“Is there a plus or minus margin of error?” Page said, referring to the $200,000 limit. “I noticed in the statement that it gives the president discretion to apply this. And I'm concerned about that. I don't have confidence in this president, or this administration, to manage this type of policy,” Page said, adding that he was concerned about implementing the program fairly.

“I can assure you, Jim, that we will treat people fairly. And we are going to follow the guidelines,” Dr. Anderson responded during the ZOOM Meeting. “There's no guarantee on the savings we're going to get. Because we are not forcing people to retire, we are just making this program available to them. And we do not know how many people might end up taking advantage of it.”

Page said the college should learn from its past mistakes. “We've been done this road before. And we should not go down it again.”

Page added that he feels if that 26 employees leave at the same time, it is not in the best interest of the students or the institution.

Greer pointed out the maximum the incentive program budget would allow for is 16.

“That's a lot of people, Jerry. I can think of 16 people this institution cannot afford to lose. And they're not in administration. Perhaps some of those people will take be eligible and take advantage of it.

Dawson said that if the board elects not to do the retirement program, then there will have to be other ways to find the savings.

Page said he felt the program was hastily put together and “we're rushing it through, and I think it's wholly inappropriate to do business this way.”

Dr. Anderson said a lot of thought has gone into the incentive program. “I take offense to that, Jim, because I think I have a good leadership team, and we've looked and researched this a lot,” she said in response.

Page said he has been in contact with at least three other SFCC employees who expressed similar concerns about Anderson's leadership abilities. “I don't think you're the leader who can make this happen and do it well,” Page shot back in a contentious exchange with both Anderson and Board President Randy Eaton.

Trustee and Secretary Ron Wineinger charged Page with “throwing the entire administrative team under the bus. He of course blames Dr. Anderson. You asserted that Jerry and I were here for selfish reasons,” he said.

“I believe that to be true,” Page responded.

“Well you believe it wrongly,” Wineinger shot back.

The vote was taken, with yes votes from Wineinger, Greer, Nick La Strada, VP Patty Wood, and no votes from Page and Eaton (4-2 in favor).

Eaton urged Page to abstain from the vote, but Page refused, saying his no vote was recorded. “You can't go back,” he said.

“I don't want anybody to believe I support your wreckless behavior,” Page said. “Me voting no in no way benefits me.”

Another special meeting for the SFCC Board of Trustees is scheduled for June 11 at 4 p.m., followed by a regular meeting June 25.

The board then adjourned to go into closed session for personnel reasons. Page noted no.

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