SMC will not investigate president

DOWAGIAC — Following months of community outcries, the Southwestern Michigan College Board of Trustees has announced that it will not investigate further into allegations of misconduct by chief leaders at the college.

During Monday’s board of trustee meeting, chairman Tom Jerdon responded to requests by community members in attendance that SMC officials, notably President David Mathews, had not acted with misconduct in the case of contributions to the Michigan Public School Employees’ Retirement System for part-time student employees and that there was no need for an internal investigation that many community members have called for on social media and in the press.

The allegations of misconduct stem from a February 2018 report by the Office of the Auditor General that accused the college of misconduct in the case of part-time student employment retirement payments. The report also alleged that from July 1, 2010, through April 28, 2017, SMC intentionally excluded approximately 500 part-time student employees from enrollment into the state teacher’s retirement fund, known as MPSERS. The audit also alleged that the college could owe between $388,600 and $10.4 million in fees and interest for not including part-time student workers into the retirement fund.

Tom Jerdon

The released report caused controversy and community outrage. And though 28 of Michigan’s community colleges owed money into the state retirement fund for part-time student workers, SMC became one of the most visible and talked about colleges relating to the MPSERS controversy.

The matter was settled in December, as former Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law an act that clarified that part-time student workers whose predominant relationship with a college is that of a student must not be put into the retirement program from this point forward. SMC also paid $257,569 to the Office of Retirement Services and withdrew a lawsuit it had levied against the OAG.

During Monday’s open comment session, Tom Buszek, who ran for a board of trustee seat last November, once again called for the board of trustees to conduct an internal investigation into the conclusions of the OAG report and the Mathews’ actions. He pointed to claims in the report that Mathews and other SMC officials may have committed a misdemeanor offense by making a false statement in a report or record required under the retirement system.

“We need to investigate the conclusions of the OAG report stating that the president falsified documents,” Buszek said.

Buszek also requested a session to discuss the investigation before or after a regularly scheduled board meeting, personal meetings with individual board members and to have the president’s report and other meeting materials made available online.

Following Buszek’s comments, Jerdon responded by reading a letter prepared in July 2018 by the chief legal counsel to the Michigan Attorney General. The letter revealed that following the OAG report, the Attorney General did not open an investigation against SMC or President Mathews, nor was there any investigation pending.

In his own words, Jerdon said that there was no need for an internal investigation.

“This matter is closed, and SMC is now concentrating all its efforts on student success, which is our core mission,” Jerdon said.

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