Former CFCC president Ted Spring and his attorneys issued a statement Thursday responding to the Cape Fear Community College Board of Trustees announcement last month about Spring's lawsuit settlement.
The attorneys said in a news release that the CFCC Board of Trustees "continued misleading the public when the board recently stated that it continued to stand by its defense of Spring’s lawsuit for violation of his due process rights after agreeing to pay him $468,000 to avoid trial."
A statement issued by the board immediately after its Oct. 26 meeting
said, "The Trustees had looked forward to proving Dr. Spring's allegations to be false." Those allegations were related to his resignation in 2015.
Gary K. Shipman, an attorney for Ted Spring and managing partner of the Wilmington firm Shipman & Wright LLP, said in the release from his office, “That’s like throwing in the towel and declaring you would have won the fight in the next round; it’s ridiculous. The board can’t hide from the fact that it falsely accused Ted Spring of wrongdoing and wrongfully terminated him to further the political agenda of certain board members. The board can’t run from the fact that it paid Ted Spring to avoid a shellacking for that disgraceful conduct, not to mention what it cost to defend the indefensible.”
When asked for a response Thursday to the release issued Thursday afternoon by Spring and his attorneys, CFCC chief communications officer Rachel Nadeau emailed a copy of the Oct. 26 statement.
That statement from the Board of Trustees also said, "as the case continued to drag on for several years, the insurance carrier for the College retained Charlotte counsel for the College and took a more active role. The Trustees looked at the mounting costs to the College—in out-of-pocket expenses, in negative attention away from the mission of the College, and in personnel time for employees to testify away from the College—and it became apparent that a settlement should be pursued."
Additionally, Mat White, chair of the CFCC Board of Trustees, said in the Oct. 26 statement, "Sometimes finding a resolution is the best course action, even when you believe strongly in your position. With a settlement, the College can move forward without the cloud of this past history with Dr. Spring overshadowing it."
Shipman responded to those assertions in Thursday's release.
“The board paid because the evidence against it was overwhelming. The trustees cannot defend their conduct now. However, that conduct is symbolic of the larger problem that is this Board and its continued disregard for its proper role and the oath that each trustee took to follow and uphold the law. Their statement that they ‘believe strongly’ in their disregard for the law is outrageous,” Shipman said in the release.
Spring and his attorneys said they were free to respond to an October statement by board Mat White after a U.S. District Court judge entered an order Tuesday dismissing the case and ordering the board and its insurer to pay Spring as they had agreed, according to the release.
Spring said the settlement would not repair his reputation but hoped it would bring greater accountability and adherence to the law by the CFCC Board of Trustees, the news release stated.
“My career was destroyed by lies, innuendo and political agendas, all to the detriment of the College.” Spring said in the release. “The settlement of this case will not restore the damage done and everything that has been taken from me. The Board’s actions have come at a tremendous cost to the college, financially and in terms of its reputation, and the damage is ongoing.”
The release said that during debate over funding for CFCC's Advanced & Emerging Technologies Center, board member Woody White "threatened 'consequences' to Spring over the College’s public response to [Woody] White’s criticism of funding for the building. During the course of litigation, attorneys obtained some of [Woody] White’s 'off the record' communications with a local news reporter and evidence of active efforts by him and other trustees to undermine Spring’s work at the College through the media." The release did not say who that reporter was.
Woody White, who is also an attorney and chairman of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners, said in a text message Thursday that he addressed "each and every false claim Mr. Spring has made in the 14-page affidavit
filed in July 2016."
In fall 2014, Spring "became the subject of numerous false and misleading media reports regarding certain benefits and reimbursements, all related to the business of CFCC, that Spring was provided. Spring’s contract provided for the reimbursements and benefits that he received, all of which were in furtherance of his work on behalf of CFCC and were promised to Spring before his employment at the college began," according to the release.
The reimbursements he received were approved by the college’s chief financial officer, a 40-year CFCC employee, the news release said.
"The evidence showed that nothing Spring received was improper in any way, given the process that others followed in providing them," the release stated.
Woody White said in Thursday's text message, "His [Spring's] statement today fails to account - in any way - for the unrebutted finidings of the state auditor as to his actions while at the college."
Woody White also stated, "I echo the college's statement last week. CFCC looks [forward] to getting back to what it does best, which is develop our local workforce to meet the challenges facing a global economy and will now be undistracted by Mr. Spring's lawsuit."
He added that the $468,000 settlement with spring "does not require the college to use any local money to resolve the case. The college's insurance carrier can spend what it chooses to in order to save costs."
The news release from Shipman's office and Spring includes a description of what happened when Spring resigned.
"On January 20, 2015, the County Commissioners approved bonds to fund CFCC growth, over White’s sole dissenting vote. On January 22, 2015, Spring was called into a closed session and told he could either resign or he would be publicly fired that night. His requests for an explanation and time to consider the ultimatum were denied. He was promised a severance package. Based upon that, he tendered his resignation under the threat of an immediate public termination, which he did not know the Board could not legally do, and without knowing of false accusations that had been leveled against him," the news release from Spring and his attorneys said.
According to the release, after Spring resigned, the board withdrew the severance package it had promised.
"Trustees asked for a criminal investigation regarding his actions, which ultimately concluded that Spring had done nothing wrong. Spring was left without a job and without the promised severance package, and he was deprived of the opportunity to work at another college in any capacity because White and other Trustees were publically disparaging him," the release stated.
At the Oct. 26 Board of Trustees meeting, the resignation of Amanda Lee, who replaced Spring as CFCC president, was announced with no reason given, and CFCC Executive Vice President Jim Morton was appointed acting president if Lee took leave and interim president after her resignation date of Dec. 31. Lee is not coming back to CFCC, Nadeau said, as she is currently on extended leave until her resignation date.