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Texas Southern Makes Presidential Firing Official

Dr. Priscilla Slade’s firing from Texas Southern University became official yesterday, after the university’s board of regents denied her appeal to keep her job as president. The board voted 8-0 to terminate Slade’s contract after it was discovered she used public funds for personal gain. Slade will officially leave office on June 17.

The board immediately named Dr. Bobby Wilson acting president. Wilson had been serving as provost and vice president for academic affairs and student services when he was tapped this spring to oversee the university’s day-to-day operation while Slade was on paid administrative leave.

Slade was a no-show at the hearing, although it was held at her request. In her absence, the board quickly approved the decision it made in April to fire her. During her seven years at the helm, Slade spent $650,000 of the historically Black public university’s money on personal purchases not tied to her contract, according to an internal audit.

University officials say questions about Slade’s spending first arose after a board member Slade had invited to see her new home was told that its furnishings had been paid for by the school. A search into the school’s records found that $85,000 in furnishings at Slade’s new home had been charged to the school. The school also paid a $138,159 bill to cover landscaping on the home. Slade paid the bill a week after it was discovered by the regents, claiming it was sent to the school in error.

The subsequent audit that revealed $650,000 in questionable spending showed the university bought the furniture and paid for the renovations on Slade’s previous home, says Winifred King, a university spokesperson. The school did not recoup its investment when Slade sold that home.

In recent weeks, Slade’s home has been searched as part of a criminal probe into her spending of public funds. She and her attorney recently met with local prosecutors and she’s scheduled to testify later this month before the grand jury investigating her case, according to the Houston Chronicle. Slade’s attorney had informed the board that Slade planned to skip the hearing because it appeared the board had already made up its mind about her future there, the paper reported.

King says employees who are fired for cause don’t generally qualify for a severance package. Adding insult to injury, the board is considering whether to repossess Slade’s furniture, which is technically owned by the university.

Slade has filed a lawsuit against the board, saying it should have held a hearing before terminating her.

— Diverse staff reports

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