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January 9, 2013

Doctors, Trustees and Farewells

Norman M. Covert

Being fired from a job these days means you are frog-marched out of the building without as much as a “by your leave.” In addition, someone else packs your coffee mug and other personal belongings; you are suddenly persona non grata.


Apparently that is the fate of Dr. Federico J. Talley, who I believe used to be president of Frederick Community College. I can’t confirm any police escort from the administration building where his office was on the second floor. I suspect, though, his “access” was suspended post haste.


Nevertheless, Dr. Talley is gone. FCC Trustee Donald Linton says he “wasn’t fired,” and he “didn’t resign.”


Another trustee was in defensive mode when queried about the dismissal of Dr. Talley.


“All I can say is the decision was unanimous.”


Interesting that a search of the FCC web site Friday had no “Message from the President,” and a search of the on-line staff database came up with no hits for “Talley.”


By Tuesday, an announcement had been placed on the website regarding appointment of Doug Browning as interim president until June 2014 and wishing Dr. Talley well. Browning, the former Frederick County manager, also served as interim for the 2010-11 academic year.


That’s quick work by FCC to declaim Dr. Talley. In the “closed shop” world of academia, it could signal a knockout blow to his future as an educator as well as administrator. It also seems a devastating hit on Dr. Talley’s personal reputation.


The tale takes on new intrigue with news that the Board of Trustees is to begin negotiating the financial settlement on the three-year contract, which began July 1, 2012. This seems to eliminate criminal wrong doing and there seems little doubt Dr. Talley may have them by the tail.


It is normal to have a contract clause which calls for nullification for “cause,” that is to say, criminal or moral mischief; neither seems alleged here. Any police or legal investigative actions would have been made public.


The board consists of Chairman Dixie Miller, Vice Chairman Debra Borden, Marvin Ausherman, David Bofter, Nick Diaz, Linton and Doris White. The group held a special session Thursday night and voted early enough to meet The Frederick News-Post deadline for Friday’s paper.


Such swift action, especially enough to influence the newspaper to tear up its original front page, has serious implications. The dribs and drabs of info sneaking through the news stone wall, ask more questions that they answer.


Speculation is rampant, of course. It is unlikely that the search team was snookered by any falsified curriculum vitae.


It was suggested the board may have been uncomfortable about Dr. Talley’s commitment to FCC, considering he apparently leased an apartment rather than buy a house. It is not a good market for the kind of home which would meet the requirements of hosting political, financial and academic elite.


I cannot imagine he was in a position to juggle the books, understanding that his primary task is not to educate rather to establish a pipeline for donations and government funding – especially enough to fund his and his staff’s pay checks.


He follows in the footsteps of a line of presidents who have steadily enhanced and grown the 54-year-old college.


The dynamism of its presidents was embodied in the late Dr. Lee Betts, an administrator who lived by the admonition, “When in charge, be in charge.” He retired after 11 years of leading remarkable maturity for FCC, giving the mantle to Dr. Patricia Stanley in 1998. She, too, enjoyed a warm relationship with the community and especially the Board of Trustees.


Dr. Carol Eaton, now at Daytona Beach, FL, was hired in 2005. She also understood that the president’s mission demanded leadership and she wasted little time launching a visionary plan for the future of FCC.


Now in Daytona Beach Community College, Dr. Eaton became involved in the business, professional and religious communities in Frederick. Her reputation was superb and FCC benefited in her five-year tenure marked by insistence to nurture staff, faculty and facilities to meet the needs of the growing campus.


Dr. Talley had big shoes to fill and the local media took the lead from the search committee, which patted itself on the back for hiring the “first Black president of FCC.”


I first met Dr. Talley at the Rotary Club of Frederick. Three weeks ago he assisted my veteran’s organization, La Societe des 40 Hommes et 8 Chevaux, in presenting a $1,000 Nurses Training scholarship to Sarah Anne Ridenour.


Dr. Talley was affable, asking about the 40/8 and its scholarship partnership with the school and FCC Foundation. He was at our disposal in taking the obligatory photograph, which appeared in The Frederick News-Post Sunday morning, marking, perhaps, Dr. Talley’s public relations finale here.


Until the board or Dr. Talley provides some insight into the situation, one might opine that he knocked heads with the governing board, which may have insisted on implementation of something it liked and he didn’t.


Here’s hoping the hiring of Dr. Talley was not flawed and that there is just a serious disagreement in management principle, not personal issues.


One observer said, with a smirk: “What if they found out he wasn’t a left wing liberal like so many in academic circles?”


The Frederick Community College Board of Trustees has served the college well through its history; let’s hope they haven’t shot themselves in the foot on this one.


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