Deja vu at Suffolk U
A correction was added to this story clarifying that the Suffolk trustees sent a letter to the Suffolk community Thursday evening. That letter said McKenna had been terminated but did not explain why.
Suffolk University’s trustees voted to fire President Margaret McKenna and her chief of staff on Thursday, but they bungled her removal just the way they did when they tried to remove her earlier this year.
The board held an emergency meeting in the morning to hear the results of an investigation by attorney Dan Goldberg, who had been retained to check out a series of allegations made against McKenna. Those allegations included some made by PR executive George Regan, whose firm McKenna fired after her earlier dustup with the board.
By early afternoon, word was leaking out that McKenna and her top aide were fired. But the board made no official announcement until the early evening, and then only to members of the Suffolk community. The university’s website still carried no mention of the president’s firing Friday morning.
McKenna’s statement indicated the board found Regan’s charges to be baseless, and recently installed board chairman Robert Lamb agreed with that assessment in a brief phone chat with the Globe. (Regan nevertheless issued a statement to the Globe in which he applauded the board for showing “great courage by standing up and recognizing the tremendous mistake that they made by hiring Margaret McKenna.” For a fuller Regan take on McKenna, click here.)
McKenna said the board raised concerns about three issues: her communications with the board about an accrediting agency, her dealings with the accrediting agency, and a meeting she held with the Globe’s editorial board. She did not elaborate.
Herald columnist Joe Battenfeld reported that the trustees were concerned that McKenna’s dealings with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges could have cost Suffolk its accreditation. But he had no other details.
In the news vacuum created by the failure of the Suffolk trustees to explain their actions, McKenna took the offensive, as she did earlier this year when the board challenged her. She indicated she was again being treated unfairly by the board and, in the absence of any facts, most Suffolk officials, students, and alumni initially sided with her.
But the contents of Goldberg’s report must have been damaging for the board to fire her and her chief of staff. After all, McKenna was going to be leaving anyway in 2017 under an agreement McKenna previously worked out with the board. That agreement mandated a number of changes in the way the board operates and also required that its then-chairman, Andrew Meyer, step down in May.
At the time of that earlier deal, McKenna and Meyer issued a statement saying the action of the trustees was “guided by the principle of doing what is in the best interest of the institution.” Something obviously changed between then and now.
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