Harrison to serve as interim LMC president as board searches for full-time leader
BENTON TOWNSHIP — Robert Harrison is coming out of retirement to serve as the interim president of Lake Michigan College until the college’s board of directors finds a full-time replacement following the termination of the new president just four months into the job.
Harrison, who worked at the college for 16 years before retiring at the end of 2015, was already working for LMC as a part-time consultant and mentor for Jennifer Spielvogel, who was terminated May 5.
The board cited several reasons for finding just cause to fire Spielvogel, including that she allegedly made unapproved and unauthorized expenses to the college, violated multiple board policies and behaved improperly.
During a special meeting Monday, the board voted unanimously to extend Harrison’s consulting role until board members hire a new president.
Candice Elders, the college’s marketing director, said Harrison would continue being paid $5,000 a month.
“This was a very unanticipated and unfortunate thing that has happened, but Dr. Harrison loves Lake Michigan College and wants to help us,” said Mary Jo Tomasini, board president.
The board also discussed the possibility of pursuing Rob Spohr, the man who finished runner-up to Spielvogel in the college’s search to find Harrison’s replacement, as LMC’s next president.
Although no action was taken, the consensus among board members was that they would determine if they are interested in Spohr as a candidate by their May 24 board meeting.
Spohr is the vice president of student and academic affairs at Montcalm Community College in Sidney, Michigan. He made a presentation to the board Monday, indicating that he is still interested in the job.
“We are all of one mind that we are committed to making the right choice no matter what time it takes,” Tomasini said. “If we have to open up the search and do exactly what we did last year we will do it again.”
Also Monday, Doug Schaffer, vice president of student enrollment and management at LMC, presented an update on financial aid after Spielvogel accused the college of firing her after she uncovered evidence that LMC was in non-compliance with federal guidelines regarding financial aid. Her accusation came during the board’s just cause hearing for Spielvogel’s termination May 5.
Schaffer told the board that independent annual audits have found no issues in regard to financial aid over the past 15 years.
“The auditor’s tests disclosed no — zero instances — of non-compliance or other matters that are required to be reported under government auditing standards,” he said.
In addition, Schaffer said the college also does regular self-assessments where it invites external consultants to review LMC’s practices and policies within student services, including financial aid. These include one performed by the Robert Evans Consulting group in 2011 and another by Cuyahoga Community College — where Spielvogel worked as vice president of evidence and inquiry before being hired at LMC — in March of 2016.
Schaffer said the college hired a law firm to review the findings of those assessments following Spielvogel’s accusations.
“They very quickly came back and said, with a formal legal opinion, that we are doing everything we can to maintain federal compliance and that they see no reason for us to be alarmed by anything that was brought up in that [just cause] hearing,” he said.
Leslie Kellogg, LMC’s vice president of academic services/career and workforce education, also told the board that the college’s reputation with the Higher Learning Commission, which provides accreditation for post-secondary educational institutions, has not been damaged since the situation with Spielvogel.