WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Despite persistent concerns from some faculty and staff about his abilities to lead the college, Cape Fear Community College President Jim Morton got a five-year extension on his contract during the most recent Board of Trustees meeting.
On July 30, the Board went into closed session to discuss a personnel matter, according to meeting minutes. After returning to open session, board member Patricia Kusek announced Morton’s evaluation had been completed and that the review was “very favorable.”
A motion was made by board member Zander Guy and seconded by Mary Lyons Rouse to approve extending Morton’s employment agreement for a term of five years and to increase his severance package to a term of one year. The motion carried unanimously.
At the same board meeting, the Nominating Committee recommended Kusek serve as chairwoman of the board for the upcoming year. The suggestion was approved unanimously. Bill Cherry will serve as her vice-chair, with Morton serving as secretary and his assistant, Michelle Lee, serving as recording secretary.
College faculty reached out to WECT to inform us of Morton’s contract extension. The board’s discussion and vote on the topic took many employees by surprise. While the college sent public notice of the meeting, the agenda was not advertised.
Public agencies in North Carolina are required by law to give notice of public meetings. In practice, most government agencies in New Hanover County also have the meeting agendas available online, and sometimes, the entire agenda packet with attachments that help explain topics set for discussion.
While CFCC will provide meeting agendas upon request, it takes that additional step for outsiders to learn what board members plan to discuss at upcoming meetings. That’s at least in part why the public was caught off guard two years ago when the board made Morton the college president during a board meeting. Many thought that decision was still months away from happening.
WECT has reported concerns about management at the college since January. That’s when the outgoing directors of Human Resources and Information Technology came forward, publicly expressing concerns about Morton’s leadership. Dozens of other current and former CFCC employees reached out to us in the days following that report, with similar stories of a hostile work environment.
They claimed Morton was running the college like a police state. Moreover, they said Morton played favorites, promoting friends and allies, and pushing out longtime college employees who he perceived as threats. Morton staunchly denied those claims.
The college board met to discuss the publicized concerns at a meeting in January. They ultimately dismissed the significance of the concerns from the two outgoing executives who went on-the-record with WECT.
Kusek went so far as to criticize WECT for being the only station to be following this story. That was before state and national media outlets picked up the story, criticizing the board for failing to provide proper oversight of the college president.