Faced by a barrage of faculty criticisms, Northern Marianas College president Sharon Y. Hart, Ph.D., has found an ally in the chairman of the NMC Foundation board.
NMC Foundation chair Dr. Alan Markoff, who also serves as the chairman of the newly created foundation for the college, said yesterday that Hart was not involved in the contract executed by the new foundation with her husband, Steven West.
“First and foremost, this is a contract entered into between the NMC College Foundation and Mr. West. The NMC Foundation is controlled by its own board of directors. Dr. Hart is a non-voting member of this board,” said Markoff in a statement yesterday.
He disclosed that the foundation's board retained West to provide consultative services in relation to fundraising and strategies for the development of a new foundation.
“When the foundation presented this to the college, Dr. Hart identified the potential conflict of interest, recused herself from participation, and delegated authority for review and approval, if necessary, of any such agreement, to the dean of Administration. Thereafter, the president did not participate in the process,” said Markoff, adding that the college's procurement department gave written justification for the sole-source procurement and services, as required by NMC's procurement policies.
Among the allegations raised by the Faculty Senate against Hart was the hiring of her husband as the foundation's consultant.
Markoff said yesterday that West is known throughout the fundraising industry. As a prior chairman of the Board of the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy, a 5,000-(international) member organization, he is a leader in the fundraising arena and is known worldwide.
“West has helped numerous organizations and non-profits over the years to raise millions of dollars. Having his talents here in the CNMI, and becoming aware of what he could bring to our foundation, was remarkable, to say the least,” said Markoff, adding that it is extremely disappointing to see the issue surface in the media.
According to Markoff, “it was great to have Steve West, who is located on island, to conduct the personal interviews with key stakeholders in the community.”
All written deliverables and activities, he said, were performed in an exemplary manner. “I am thrilled with the results. The information Mr. West compiled for us will be extremely useful on the road ahead,” he added.
Markoff said he also wants to correct a Saipan Tribune article that stated that West was paid $14,000 for a five-week contract. “In fact, he was paid that amount over a 10-week time period, as his contract required a substantial amount of work.”
In an earlier interview with the Saipan Tribune Markoff said he expects West to accomplish his consultancy work in a five-week period.
According to Markoff, West was able to meet with a number of key community leaders for one-on-one interviews. He provided a final report that reviewed the fundraising efforts of the college over the years, the community interviews, an organization structure for the new foundation, fund development philosophies, a series of internal operations, public relations and then fundraising guidelines and activities to pursue. With these tools in hand, he said the foundation can now begin to move forward to add qualified community leaders to the foundation board, to raise funds for the betterment of the college, and to especially help support the efforts of the faculty, staff, and students.
NMC Faculty Senate president Amanda Angel-Diaz reiterated yesterday the faculty members' dissatisfaction with Hart's leadership and belied the president's statement that she was not made aware of the faculty's concerns and issues before the no-confident vote was issued last week. Diaz clarified in a letter Wednesday to all NMC stakeholders that that was not the case.
“Despite what has been stated by President Hart in the media, Faculty Senate puts forth that there have been numerous occasions when the President has been made aware of the concerns of the NMC Faculty, especially those that led to this vote of no-confidence. At the heart of these concerns is shared governance (or lack thereof) at NMC, which is not only an accreditation issue but the origin of the plethora of other college-wide concerns,” Angel-Diaz stated her letter.
She said the “statement is meant to introduce how the president's agenda, from the start of her tenure, has been one to override the documented shared governance bodies of NMC and replace them with a management team whose members consist of individuals directly answerable to the president herself, in order to obtain complete control over all decision-making at NMC.”
According to Diaz, serious thought and consideration took place before the faculty held the no-confidence vote.
In the letter issued Wednesday, the faculty leader enumerated the many occasions they believe Hart ignored WASC's recommendations, which they say “illustrates a pattern of deceitfulness and dishonesty” that has instilled in the faculty a sense of no confidence in her leadership abilities.