Skip to main content

A. Scope of Investigation

The Minutes of the December 12, 2019, meeting of the Board of Trustees of Johnson County Community College reflect the following action of the Board at that meeting:

Following discussion, upon motion by Mr. Snider, seconded by Mr. Cross, which motion unanimously carried, the Board of Trustees approved the onset of an investigation required by JCCC Policy 114.3 preceding a motion to censure Trustee Angeliina Lawson for violation of JCCC Policy 114.01, Code of Conduct of Trustees

JCCC Code of Conduct Policy 114.01 was revised by unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees on January 18, 2018, and provides:

In carrying out their functions on the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees, Board members are expected:

  • To recognize that to serve on the Board of Trustees of Johnson County Community College is to commit oneself to achieving the stated missions of the College with vision and perspective and supporting the community college movement in general.
  • To devote time, energy, thought and study to the duties and responsibilities of this elected office so that the Board member may render effective and creditable service to the citizens, employees and students represented by the Board member.
  • To work with fellow Board members in a spirit of harmony and cooperation in spite of differences of opinion that arise during vigorous debates of points of issue. Civility and mutual caring for one another and for the employees of the College shall guide the conduct of Board members. Board members shall not engage in attacks which are purely personal in nature and shall not attack the integrity of individuals without factual foundation. Board members shall promote mutual respect among one another and among all College employees and shall not use their position to embarrass, intimidate or threaten employees. Members of the Board of Trustees are leaders in the community and their conduct is important to the College and to the community.
  • To base personal decisions upon all available facts in each situation: to vote their honest conviction in every case unswayed by partisan bias of any kind; therefore, to abide by and uphold the final majority decision of the Board.
  • To remember at all times that as an individual, the Board member has no legal authority outside the meetings of the Board; therefore, the Board member must conduct relationships with the College employees, the local citizenry and the press on the basis of this fact and engage in no private action that will compromise the Board.
  • To avoid the reality or the appearance of conflict of interest and to refuse to use the Board position for personal or partisan gain, thereby ensuring that the welfare of the institution is placed above personal interest or the interests of family members or others who may be personally involved in substantial affairs affecting the institution. Board members shall not use their position to advance their own economic, professional or social status.
  • To resist influencing the vote or other action of other Board members, or the actions of any employee, through threat, promise of award, deception, exchange of vote or by other means other than legitimate open discussion.
  • To forward through the Board Chair or College President any request for information about College employees.
  • To bear in mind that the primary function of the Board is to establish effective policies for the College and to delegate authority for the administration of the educational program and the conduct of College business to the President and his employees.
  • To recognize that it is as important for the Board to understand and evaluate the educational program of the College as it is to plan for the business of the College operation.
  • To follow all applicable College Policies, Procedures and Board of Trustees guidelines.
  • To welcome and encourage active cooperation by citizens of the district.
  • To keep confidential all information of a confidential or sensitive nature provided to the Board, including information received during executive session, the disclosure of which would be contrary to the fiduciary obligations of a Board member, compromise the attorney-client privilege, or violate any law or court order.

JCCC Resolution of Censure Policy 114.03 provides:

In accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order, the Board of Trustees may, after investigation and upon the adoption of written findings of fact, adopt, by majority vote, a resolution of censure with respect to any Trustee who violates the provisions of the Board’s Code of Conduct or Code of Ethics.

Given that the Minutes of the Board’s December 12, 2019 meeting reflect that the motion was made following discussion of an anonymous letter purporting to be from a member of the Board of Trustees, the investigation focused primarily on the circumstances surrounding that letter and the author’s statements about the College and its employees, practices, and operations.

Trustee Angeliina Lawson was interviewed for 3 ½ hours on January 18, 2020. She was interviewed again for two hours in the presence of her attorney on February 7, 2020. Others interviewed include Kate Allen, Associate Vice President, Institutional Advancement and Government Affairs; Paul Churchill, Monarch Fine Arts Services; John Clayton, Executive Director, Institutional Effectiveness, and Dr. Sheri Barrett, Director, Office of Assessment, Evaluation and Institutional Outcomes; Tom Clayton, Director, Insurance and Risk Management; Dr. Jerry Cook, Trustee and former Board Chair; Bruce Hartman, Executive Director, Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art; Justin McDaid, Director, Audit & Advisory Services; Greg Musil, Trustee and Board Chair; Tom Pagano, Vice President, Information Services/Chief Information Officer; Terri Schlict, Executive Assistant to President and Board; Dr. Joe Sopcich, President; and Janelle Vogler, Associate Vice President, Business Services, and Jim Feikert, Director of Procurement Services. Documents received from those individuals and other College employees and Trustees were reviewed and considered.

Each item below labeled as “Fact” is a finding of fact for the Board’s consideration. 

B. “Anonymous Letter”

  1. Fact: Trustee Angeliina Lawson drafted the letter, writing as “an elected trustee of Johnson County Community College” and signing the letter with her name and “Trustee, Johnson County Community College.” No other person assisted in drafting the letter, and no one saw it before it was sent. (Interview of Lawson)
  2. Fact: Trustee Lawson emailed the letter to two members of the Kansas House of Representatives and one former member of the Kansas House of Representatives on October 6, 2019. (Interview of A. Lawson)
  3. Fact: The recipients of the letter did not ask Trustee Lawson to send the letter. (Interview of A. Lawson)
  4. Fact: Trustee Lawson participated in the November and December 2019 meetings of the Board of Trustees by telephone; in both meetings, she did not respond to repeated questions asking whether she authored the letter.
  5. Fact: At the December 12, 2019 meeting of the Board of Trustees, Trustee Lawson provided her sworn affidavit stating: “I have not directly spoken to or sent electronic communication to any member of KBOR [Kansas Board of Regents].”

C. Statements in Trustee Lawson’s Letter to State Representatives

The first part of Trustee Lawson’s letter pertains to JCCC’s works of art displayed throughout the campus and in the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art or stored at an off-campus facility. Trustee Lawson insists that the statements contained in her letter are based on what she was told during a tour of the art storage site on September 11, 2019. The other five persons who were present during the tour insist that many of Trustee Lawson’s statements are flatly wrong and were never said by anyone at any time.

Some of the disputed statements can be resolved by reviewing documentation such as emails. Regarding other disputed statements, the actual facts are set out, since JCCC Code of Conduct Policy 114.01 mandates that Board members “shall not attack the integrity of individuals without factual foundation.”

Note: In Trustee Lawson’s November 21, 2019 email to former Board Chair Dr. Jerry Cook, she suggested that she has “audio recordings of those at the caves.” Trustee Lawson was asked to provide any audio recordings of the September 11, 2019 tour that she has in her possession, but nothing was received. If audio recordings are produced in the future, they may resolve disputes regarding what was said, and by whom, during the tour of the art storage facility.

Statements from Trustee Lawson’s letter are set out below, along with facts related to each statement.

1. “I have spent a year trying to gain access to the JCCC art warehouse that the private organization JCCC Foundation manages but the public pay[s] for.”

Fact: On August 14, 2019, Trustee Lawson sent an email to Justin McDaid, Director, JCCC Audit & Advisory Services, asking to tour the facility in the “caves” where JCCC stores some works of art. Mr. McDaid sent an email to Trustee Lawson on August 15, 2019, asking “when a good time to go see the art in the caves would be.” Trustee Lawson replied several weeks later, on Wednesday, September 4, asking “if there is a time to visit the caves next week?” Mr. McDaid called Whitney Williamson of the Nerman Museum, and the visit was scheduled for Wednesday, September 11, 2019. (Emails of A. Lawson, J. McDaid, W. Williamson (Exhibit A-PDF)); interviews of A. Lawson, J. McDaid, B. Hartman, K. Allen)

Fact: The JCCC Foundation does not manage the off-site storage of the Nerman Museum’s works of art; off-site storage is provided by Churchill Fine Arts Services pursuant to a contract with JCCC.

2. “Private donors go through the Foundation and sign a contract to have the college either hold their artwork, donate it straight to the public, or have the public buy from them. I don’t know what is in those contracts because trustees are not allowed to review them.”

Fact: JCCC, the Foundation, and the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art do not hold works of art for private donors, and they do not donate or sell works received from private donors. If the Nerman Museum agrees to accept the donation of a work of art, the donor and the Nerman Museum execute a Deed of Gift or a Promised Gift Form. (Interview of B. Hartman; JCCC and JCCC Foundation Accession Statement, Deed of Gift, Promised Gift Form (Exhibit B-PDF)) Although there is no documentation that Trustee Lawson or any other Trustee asked to see copies of executed gift agreements, they are available for review.

a. “This art is blindly accepted and stored in a cave now in Missouri managed by the same art dealer Paul Churchill for Nelson Atkins.”

Fact: JCCC, the Foundation, and the Nerman Museum do not “blindly accept” any works of art. The Nerman Museum abides by a formal written Accession Policy, which sets out the criteria applied by the Museum to determine whether to accept works of art. (JCCC and JCCC Foundation Accession Statement (Exhibit B-PDF); interview of B. Hartman) There have been numerous instances when prospective donors’ offers of art were rejected by the Nerman Museum. (Interview of B. Hartman)

3.  Monarch Fine Art Services “charged $125 per flat piece of art per month and then gave JCCC the same deal even though we were storing crates that were 10ft by 6ft by 8ft. Only recently did [Monarch] change the price to $350.00 per month. . . .”

Fact: For a period of time, Monarch Fine Arts Services charged other clients a storage fee of $125 per month for each work of art; however, Monarch did not charge the Nerman Museum a fee for storing each work of art. Rather, the Museum paid a total of $125 per month to store several large works of art at Monarch’s facility. JCCC, the Foundation, and the Nerman Museum never paid $125 per month (or $350 per month) for storage of each work of art stored at Monarch’s facility. In conjunction with the move of the Nerman’s art storage space from the Carlson Center to Monarch’s facility, JCCC’s Purchasing Department issued a formal Request for Proposals and awarded a contract to Monarch Fine Arts Services. (Interview of P. Churchill; interview of B. Hartman; interview of J. Vogler; interview of J. Feikert)

4. I was led to believe that Monarch Fine Art Services “does not have a contract with the caves but because he stores other art from the Nelson he has this special room that he has been charging the college for.”

Fact: Monarch Fine Arts Services does not store any works of art for the Nelson-Atkins Museum, which leased its own separate warehouse space at Winchester Business Center until 2018, when it moved to larger space at a completely different facility. (Interview of P. Churchill; interview of B. Hartman; email from W. Williamson)

5. “Bruce [Hartman] put a 5 year RFP . . . together and his friend Paul Churchill in the caves received the bid because he was the lowest.”

Fact: JCCC’s Purchasing Department, not Mr. Hartman, issued RFP 20-004 in August 2019, and an Invitation to Bid was sent to 12 vendors. The contract was awarded to Monarch Fine Arts Services. Mr. Hartman and Mr. Churchill are professional acquaintances, but it is incorrect to describe them as “friends,” since have not socialized. (Interviews of J. Vogler, B. Hartman, and P. Churchill; email from W. Williamson)

6. “I have not been given the RFP final price for the 800 square feet space in the cave to house the 400 pieces of art I am told will be there in addition to the 6-7 large sculptures.”

Fact: The RFP for off-site storage space to store JCCC’s works of art was publicly available. There is no documentation that Trustee Lawson asked to see the RFP. Notice of JCCC’s contract with Monarch Fine Arts Services was included in the Board Packet for the November 20, 2019 Board of Trustees meeting.

7. “Nobody is allowed in the room without the art dealer with them because it is a shared space with the Nelson too.”

Fact: Neither Paul Churchill nor Monarch Fine Arts Services is an “art dealer.” Monarch does not store any works of art for the Nelson-Atkins Museum. Extensive security is provided at Monarch’s facility, and it is accurate that no person is allowed access to the facility without Mr. Churchill being present. (Interview of P. Churchill; www.monarchfinearts.com)

8. “Some of our pieces have been housed there for awhile because they are too priceless to be exposed to the elements. There is an Eagle piece that the artist recently died and was $20k but now $200,000.00. We have a 1990s piece of art by Kehinde Wiley that recently jumped because he did President Obama’s national portrait. Other pieces went from 12,000.00 to $25 million in valuation.”

Fact: No works of art are stored because they are “too priceless to be exposed to the elements.” Large works of art are stored pending decisions regarding their placement on campus, and some works of art are stored pending repair. The work titled “Eagle” is valued by the Nerman Museum at $25,000. (Email d. 09/13/19 from B. Hartman to J. McDaid with values of JCCC’s art (Exhibit C); interview with B. Hartman) The work of art by Kehinde Wiley is on display in the Nerman Museum, as is the work that Trustee Larson is presumably referencing as worth “$25 million.”

9. “There is no ratchet in place that informs the board of such jumps in appraisals nor options to sell and the college has to accept all donated works by these donors.”

Fact: JCCC is not required “to accept all donated works,” and it does not do so. (Interview of B. Hartman; JCCC and JCCC Foundation Accession Statement (Exhibit B-PDF))

10. “I asked for the list of the complete art collection plus it’s value and I did not receive anything.”

Fact: When Trustee Lawson toured the Monarch Fine Arts Services facility on Wednesday, September 11, 2019, she asked for documentation reflecting the value of the works of art. On Friday, September 13, 2019, Nerman Museum Executive Director Bruce Hartman sent an email to Justin McDaid, Director, JCCC Audit & Advisory Services, with attachments showing the total value of all works of art by location on campus ($39,356,791.46), the value of the large works stored at Monarch’s storage facility at that time ($244,700), and the value of works stored at the Carlson Center at that time ($419,772).(The works stored at the Carlson Center were subsequently moved to Monarch’s storage facility.) (Exhibit C-PDF). Mr. McDaid forwarded the email and attachments to Ms. Lawson that day, and two of the attachments were included with her email to the Kansas Representatives on October 6, 2019.

11. “These numbers [regarding the value of art in the Nerman Museum, on campus, and in storage] are off and would make the collection close to 80 million instead of $50million which was told to me when I was visiting in the caves.”

Fact: This sentence (and similar sentences regarding the value of JCCC’s works of art in the letter) misinterpret the documentation that was provided to Trustee Larson. The total value of all art is $39,356,791.46. (Exhibit C-PDF) Note that the first page of the attachment to Mr. Hartman’s email in Exhibit C (showing the value of all works of art) includes the value of the large works that were stored at Monarch’s storage facility ($244,700) in September and the value of the works stored at the Carlson Center ($419,772) at that time.

12. “Because there are no triggers or mechanisms to sell, we simply sit on pieces of art that escalate in value, and have no way to know how we are reporting and accounting for these pieces of art.”

Fact: While it is true that the works of art collected by the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art have increased in value over the years, it is not correct that JCCC has “no way to know how we are reporting and accounting for these pieces of art.” The Nerman has written appraisals of its 30 most valuable works of art. The Nerman’s professional staff values all other works on an annual basis. The values are provided to JCCC’s Risk Management and to its insurer each year. (Interview of B. Hartman; interview of T. Clayton)

13. “The art museum receives $60,000 a year to purchase new art. They will now invest that sum into one piece, rather than smaller, multiple pieces.”

Fact:  The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art receives approximately $50,000 per year from a private foundation to acquire art. (Interview of B. Hartman)

14. “We also don’t know if a family can come back and retrieve their art, leaving the college only holding and paying for the upkeep of pieces and later turning it back?”

Fact: Neither JCCC nor the Nerman Museum allows anyone to retrieve donated works of art, and JCCC and the Nerman do not hold and provide “upkeep” for any works of art owned by others, except for works loaned to the Museum for periodic exhibitions. (Interview of B. Hartman; JCCC and JCCC Foundation Accession Statement (Exhibit B-PDF))

15. [A prior trustee] had concerns regarding the connection between the foundation and the college, where the college pays for all foundation employees, and yet, we do not receive access to what they are doing.”

Fact: All seven members of the JCCC Board of Trustees are members of the Board of the JCCC Foundation. Two members of the JCCC Board of Trustees are members of the JCCC Foundation’s Executive Board.

16. “The foundation also receives special access and input into the presidential search process ongoing right now, while 5 Trustees are largely cut out of the process.”

Fact: Representatives of the JCCC Foundation are included in the Presidential Search Committee established by the prior Chair of the JCCC Board of Trustees. Two members of the JCCC Board of Trustees are on the Presidential Search Committee. All seven members of the JCCC Board of Trustees will interview the four finalists recommended by the Search Committee, and the JCCC Board of Trustees has sole authority to hire a new president.

17.  “Over the summer, we changed policy – a policy change that seemed to come out of nowhere – changing the guidelines that the college uses to dispose of goods on campus. Prior to this policy change, if the college chose to trade in, sell, or trash any item over $25,000, the board would have to be informed and vote on this decision.”

Fact: The second quoted sentence misstates the prior Policy. Prior to being revised, JCCC Board Policy 215.07 stated, in part: “If the estimated sale value of the surplus personal property exceeds $25,000, the President or his/her designee shall report same to the Board Management Committee.” In other words, if administration sold surplus property for more than $25,000, it was required to advise the Board Management Committee; if it sold surplus property for $25,000 or less, it was not required to advise the Board. Administration was not required to report to the Board regarding surplus property that is traded in when purchasing new property, and there is no Policy allowing the College to “trash” property valued at $25,000 or more. Under both the prior and revised Board Policy 215.07, surplus property (that is no longer needed by any College department) may be traded in, sold, donated to a non-profit, recycled or salvaged, or trashed, provided that best efforts are used “to maximize the value and benefit to the College.” Board Policy 217.07 does not require the Board to vote on the sale of surplus property.

18. "Over the summer we lifted this to $50,000. I raised questions as to why we would want a policy that would allow administration to ‘trash’ something worth $50,000 with no questions asked. I was told such events ‘never happen,’ but when I asked to remove the line regarding just disposal of items over $25,000, the administration and board refused. Right now, if JCCC chose to throw a fancy car into the trash there would be absolutely no accountability, no oversight, no trigger."

Fact: The quoted sentences misconstrue JCCC Board Policy 215.07, which was revised by the Board of Trustees on June 20, 2019, to provide, in part: “If the estimated sale value of a piece or lot of Surplus Property exceeds $50,000, the President or designee shall report same to the Board Management Committee.” Thus, the change from $25,000 to $50,000 merely increased the level at which the Board Management Committee must be advised of the sale of Surplus Property.

The revision does not allow JCCC to “‘trash’ something worth $50,000” or to “throw a fancy car into the trash.” Board Policy 215.07 defines “Surplus Property” as equipment, furniture, supplies, or other personal property of the College that is “obsolete, damaged, worn out or no longer needed by any College department.” The Policy provides that Surplus Property may be disposed of in any of the following manners:

  1. Trade-in;
  2. Advertised public sale (by fixed price, negotiated price, sealed bid or public auction);
  3. Donation to educational institutions or non-profit organizations;
  4. Recycling or salvage; and
  5. Trash.

The Policy also states: “In determining the method of disposal, the EVP or designee shall use best efforts to maximize the value and benefit to the College considering all circumstances, including anticipated proceeds as well as costs associated with each method of disposition.” (Board Packet for June 20, 2019 meeting of the Board of Trustees; Minutes of the June 20, 2019 meeting of the Board of Trustees; Disposition of Surplus Property Policy 215.07)

19.  “The sustainability fund goes through the trash items – again, Trustees are not informed as to where the ‘trash bin’ is – to see if they can recycle anything and put that money back into the sustainability department. Anything else? Trash. I am not aware of where anything is. My general thought is once something is seen as trash, we just let it disappear. I have never seen a record of anything below $5,000 documented in any way being disposed of, creating huge holes in what we know about. We also do not know who determines the value of items to make sure the $50,000 threshold is actually being correctly met. All of this is the exclusive jurisdiction of the college president and labeled ‘operations’ thus preventing trustees from asking questions about it.”

Fact: The quoted language misconstrues JCCC Board Policy 215.07, assumes wrongful conduct without factual basis, and falsely implies that the College does not have documents reflecting the price of all items of surplus property that are sold, including items sold for nominal amounts. If the College is unable to trade in, sell, or donate surplus property, the surplus property is recycled or salvaged if it has any value. Surplus property may be trashed only if it cannot be traded in, sold, donated, recycled, or salvaged.

While it is true that the College administration has not invited Trustees to go through the “trash bin” to determine whether they are able to recycle any items, College employees carry out recycling and salvage functions in the College’s Warehouse. The suggestion that the College does not maintain records of the disposition of property valued at less than $5000 is not true. The College sells surplus property through www.govdeals.com, a third-party site used by governmental entities to sell surplus property. An itemized printout of surplus property sold by the College (often for nominal amounts) is readily available from the JCCC Purchasing Department and was reviewed. (Exhibit D-PDF -- Sold Asset Report 01 Jul 2018 – 30 Jun 2019, listing all items sold in the previous year; the proceeds went into the College’s General Fund.) JCCC Audit & Advisory Services conducted an audit of the JCCC Warehouse and issued a written report in 2017. The following is stated in the report:

We wish to note that Warehouse management has successfully implemented participation in an innovative surplus-property disposal program (GovDeals), resulting in cost savings and efficiencies. In addition, Warehouse staff work closely with JCCC Sustainability initiatives to facilitate recycling of numerous commodities and e-waste, furthering the achievement of strategic goals the college has set regarding sustainability.

With regard to the statement that “[w]e also do not know who determines the value of items, to be sure the $50,000 threshold is actually being correctly met,” the value is determined by the sale price of the surplus property; if the sale price is in excess of $50,000, JCCC Board Policy 215.07 requires the President or designee to report the sale to the Board Management Committee. (JCCC Board Policy 215.07; interview of Janelle L. Vogler, Associate Vice President, Business Services; interview of Jim Feikert, Director of Procurement Services)

20. “Our contract bidding process is closed off to the public, and more than once we have chosen out of state vendors over in-state vendors with similar pricing structures. * * * Because there are no effective guidelines on bidding policies, and attempts to create them are rebuffed, there is room for concern.”

Fact: The statement that JCCC’s “bidding process is closed off to the public” is not true. JCCC’s Procurement Department publishes Requests for Proposals and Requests for Bids on a public website, www.jccc.procureware.com, which may be accessed by anyone, without charge, by simply registering with the site. Additionally, JCCC publishes RFP’s and RFB’s in The Legal Record.

Regarding out-of-state vendors, JCCC Board Policy 215.02 provides, in part: “Preference may be given, when quality and price are comparable, to the purchase of products and services offered for sale by vendors with offices or plants located in Johnson County, Kansas.” The JCCC Purchasing Department also sends solicitation materials directly to potential vendors who are identified by keyword and North American Industry Classification System code searches of the Kansas Department of Commerce site to identify vendors in Kansas.

With regard to the statement that “there are no effective guidelines on bidding policies,” the Board of Trustees adopted written Policies governing purchasing by the College: Purchasing Policy 215.01, Competitive Solicitation Requirements Policy 215.02, and Purchasing Exceptions to Competitive Solicitation Policy 215.04.