But some board members who had supported Sullivan knew nothing of the plan to remove her until Dragas notified them late last week, according to former board members and a university official with knowledge of the situation but who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Dragas said the board’s concerns with Sullivan’s leadership had been the subject of “ongoing dialogue” for “an extended period of time.’’ She declined to comment on this issue Thursday, saying it was a personnel matter.
The move to replace Sullivan after less than two years has thrown the historic campus in Charlottesville into turmoil. On Thursday, the Executive Council of the university’s Faculty Senate passed a unanimous resolution voicing lack of confidence in the rector, vice rector and the entire Board of Visitors. The faculty group expressed strong support for Sullivan. Sullivan’s supporters have launched a petition and Facebook page.
In Charlottesville, the pro-Sullivan campaign claimed a casualty: Peter Kiernan, a New York investor, resigned as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Darden School Foundation. In a leaked e-mail, the business-school advocate acknowledged he had played a role in Sullivan’s ouster, which he kept confidential at Dragas’s request. His involvement sparked a backlash against him and the business campus, which prompted his resignation.
The sources said Dragas, a Virginia Beach developer with two degrees from U-Va., spearheaded the ouster along with vice rector Mark Kington, president of an Alexandria management company who was in business with Sen. Mark R. Warner (D).
The 16-member Board of Visitors never met or took a vote on Sullivan’s ouster. Instead, Dragas spoke to board members individually over a series of months.
Last week, after she had enough votes, Dragas phoned McDonnell to inform him. He and his staff were surprised, but have not questioned the decision or involved themselves in the aftermath.
Finance executive Macdonald Caputo, medical executive Heywood Fralin and attorney Vincent Mastracco did not know of the plan until its final days, the sources said. They, and possibly others, were contacted only after Dragas had the votes to remove Sullivan, and they acquiesced to the decision, according to the sources. None of the three board members replied to requests for comment.
Maria Everett, executive director of the FOIA Council, said state law allows boards to poll members by phone and e-mail and then take action, but she said the technique should not be used to circumvent the law.