Yvonne Kennedy Fails to Fire Felon, Loses Office Space at Bishop State

MOBILE Ala.

Former Bishop State Community College President Yvonne Kennedy did not fire a convicted felon in the administration as instructed and will not receive post-retirement office space at the campus as planned, the state’s two-year chancellor Bradley Byrne said.

Byrne sent Kennedy a strongly worded letter expressing his great disappointment in her “insubordination in failing to terminate” David Thomas, an administrator who pleaded guilty to a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident in which a girl was injured.

“This causes me to have concerns about your cooperation with the College after your retirement,” the chancellor wrote.

Kennedy had requested the office as part of a deal negotiated for her retirement as president of the 3,600-student college. Her last day in that position was Tuesday, the day Byrne’s letter was dated.

Kennedy had five weeks to fire Thomas, who was impeached from the Mobile County school board last year for using school funds to buy Mardi Gras throws, but Kennedy left without taking that action. Thomas has served as director of adult education and economic development at Bishop State.

Bishop State spokesman Herb Jordan told the Press-Register in a story Thursday that interim president James Lowe sent Thomas a letter Wednesday announcing the college’s intent to fire him.

A call to Kennedy’s lawyer, J. Cecil Gardner, was not immediately returned Thursday.

The chancellor had laid out details of Kennedy’s retirement agreement in a June 28 letter to her. Those terms included her own office, clerical help for her to write a history of the college and a recommendation that Kennedy be named “president emeritus” of Bishop State.

Byrne’s Tuesday letter said that Kennedy would no longer be allowed a permanent office on campus. She must instead arrange with Lowe every time she wants to work from the college campus on her history project, or to receive on-campus clerical help. Byrne also asked Kennedy to tell him how long it would take her to write the history.

“If you fail in any way to cooperate with the college, or if you interfere with its operations, we will deny you any access to the college or its employees,” the letter said, “and I will recommend that your President Emeritus status be withdrawn.”

Kennedy’s retirement followed numerous investigations by state and federal officials over the past year. The Mobile County District Attorney’s Office has charged 27 people with the theft of more than $200,000 from the college, most of it financial aid.

The college has also been placed on probation by its accrediting agency.

Thomas is a tenured employee and will be notified of his options to appeal his termination. He would continue to receive his $89,078 annual salary during the appeals process, Byrne said.

“That’s one of the parts of the Fair Dismissal Act which is absurd, but it is nonetheless what that statue requires,” he said.

– Associated Press

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