The Insider revealed a few weeks ago the existence of a new website, The Paine Project, which claimed to be created by Paine College alumni, staff, faculty and students at Augusta’s historically African-American college who were demanding the immediate ouster of the college’s President George Bradley.
The website, thepaineproject.net, claimed Bradley has brought “unprecedented mismanagement to the college’s financial and fiscal affairs, and intimidation and threats to faculty, staff, and students.”
Earlier this year, Paine College was placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges after the school was found to be in violation of several standards including fiscal stability, control of finances and the handling of federal student financial aid programs.
If Paine College doesn’t correct its violations by next June, the private university’s accreditation could be revoked.
In Bradley’s closet
While these allegations against Bradley are serious enough, the website also brings up some personal information about the Paine College president that is difficult to ignore.
The Paine Project discusses an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General relating to allegations that “Bradley had misappropriated unaccounted for Title III funds” involving a woman with whom he allegedly had a child out of wedlock.
To make matters worse, this woman apparently was a former student at Norfolk State University. The same college that Bradley served as associate vice president for development from 1993-1995.
Now, readers might be thinking, who cares what happened almost 20 years ago?
Well, it apparently didn’t happen 20 years ago.
An April 20, 2012, memo from Wayne Kendall, a former Paine College trustee and then chairman of the board’s Audit Committee, stated he was concerned about information he received regarding an investigation by the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Education into allegations of misappropriation of funds.
“This investigation concerns allegations that the president of the college has made payments to a woman who had an out-of-wedlock child by the president,” the 2012 memo states, adding that there has been no evidence to indicate the allegations about the Title III funds are true.
However, Kendall stated in the memo that he had received proof of Bradley’s out-of-wedlock child.
That’s pretty damaging stuff when you are president of a church-related private institution like Paine College. Especially when you are a married man.
“Proof was provided to me in the form of a state of Virginia Department of Social Services Release of Income Withholding Order that had been served on the college on or around October 15, 2008,” Kendall wrote in the 2012 memo, adding that two Paine College employees also told him that they had been interviewed by Special Agent Rodney Fair of the Inspector General’s Office about the matter. “Also, according to this employee, the subject matter of the questioning was his knowledge concerning the fiscal affairs of Paine College and his knowledge of any payments made to the mother of the president’s out-of-wedlock child. He stated that his understanding was that the child was born to a former student at Norfolk State College and that the child should now be about 5 years old.”
If that is the case and the child was only 5 years old in 2012, at least that means Bradley didn’t have an affair with the student at Norfolk State College back when he worked for that particular university from 1993-1995.
It was allegedly sometime after he was employed at the Norfolk State College.
That’s something to be thankful for, at least.
But there is still the question: Where did the allegations against Bradley misappropriating funds to this woman come from?
Show Paine the money
The memo by Kendall to the Board of Trustees also details major delays in preparing the 2012 audit report and significant turnover at the university that year.
By 2012, Kendall said that vice president for administrative and fiscal affairs was fired along with the controller and the student accounts manager.
“As a result of this sudden turnover of employees in the business office, the fiscal management of the college was throw into disarray,” Kendall wrote.
“In the span of three weeks time, the entire mid to upper level management in the business office at the college was gone,” he added. “Chaos ensued in the aftermath of these terminations and resignations. Student refund checks bounced.”
After speaking to Kelly Kindell, the college’s former controller, the 2012 memo outlines that Paine College allegedly made a draw of funds of approximately $800,000 in December 2011.
These funds were used entirely for payroll.
“(Kindell) estimated that at the time the college had over $1.2 million in bills due, or past due,” Kendall wrote.
Therefore, Paine College allegedly used the $800,000 to pay bills that were over 60 days due.
“In January of 2012, another draw was taken,” the memo states. “According to Kindell, the draw was approximately $1,000,000.”
Once again, these funds were used to pay bills that were past due.
“Again, the student refund portion of the draw was not made to the students as required by federal financial aid requirements,” Kendall wrote, adding that by the end of the calendar year 2011, student refunds that were still outstanding totaled about $1.2 million.
The memo also outlined that the spending was “way out of control” and that Bradley would “randomly give out raises and bonuses to his favorite employees.”
For example, Bradley allegedly gave one employee a $15,000 bonus and another a $28,000 raise.
In 2011, Kendall stated that Paine College had received almost $17.5 million in federal funding, of which almost $13.6 million came from the Department of Education.
With this 2012 memo, Kendall tried to warn the Board of Trustees where the college was headed, stating the university was “in jeopardy of receiving crippling future sanctions or suspensions of funding from the Department of Education.”
Kendall stressed the importance of addressing the issues facing the college, no matter how uncomfortable it might be for the Board of Trustees.
“An OIG investigation implicating the character and integrity of the college’s CEO is particularly detrimental to the reputation and status of the college,” Kendall wrote. “This investigation, combined with the extremely poor audit, particularly as it relates to federal awards, is an ominous sign to governmental regulators. I have been told they are watching this Board to see what, if any, corrective action will be taken.”
But the memo seemed to fall on deaf ears.
By this time next year, Paine College could very well have its accreditation revoked.
As more and more students, faculty and alumni are asking questions, how does Bradley respond to the criticism?
Behind closed doors.
Late last month, Bradley hosted a town hall meeting at Gilbert-Lambuth Memorial Chapel to allow “face-to-face dialogue” about the college’s accreditation and the implementation plan that will address the recent findings by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-Commission on Colleges.
There was only one catch: Media access was denied for the event.
When you don’t shine a light on serious problems, there will only be darkness in the end.
Let’s hope that darkness doesn’t occur in the form of Paine College permanently closing its doors.