A D.C. City Council hearing today and the election tomorrow of a new board chairman of the University of the District of Columbia are expected to strongly influence the future course of the troubled land-grant institution whose president resigned under fire Aug. 23.
The council hearing will focus on the board of trustees' alleged shortcomings in overseeing university spending, according to Council member Hilda Mason (Statehood-At Large), chairman of the Education Committee.
"I can't predict what is going to come out," said Mason, who called the hearing in early July. "What we have to do is document everything we can and make it a matter of record."
UDC President Robert L. Green resigned under pressure after he was accused of misusing thousands of dollars of university funds and awarding consulting contracts to friends and associates. At the height of the controversy, Mayor Marion Barry sharply criticized the board for failing to monitor university accounts, which he said led to the spending irregularities reported in audits by D.C. Auditor Otis H. Troupe and Coopers & Lybrand, the national accounting firm hired by the board to independently review university accounts.
Among those expected to give testimony at the hearing are Troupe and Ronald H. Brown, chairman of the UDC Board of Trustees, as well as university administrators and faculty and private citizens. Troupe, whose audits of UDC accounts were requested by Mason earlier in the year, said he had suggested some of the questions to be asked at the hearing.
"I am going to try and get a comprehensive picture of how the financial controls broke down and allowed the irregularities that our office has already documented and is continuing to look at," Troupe said.
Meanwhile, Brown, whose term expired a year ago but who has continued in his position, will step aside as chairman after the election tomorrow night. The vote on the board chairman, treasurer and secretary was scheduled before Green's resignation, and Brown's departure as chairman is not related to the spending irregularities.
Speculation on his successor has centered on two candidates, trustee Herbert O. Reid Sr., legal counsel to Barry, and trustee N. Joyce Payne.
Reid was nominated for the post in a narrow vote in July but Payne may be nominated from the floor tomorrow, setting up a contest between the two. Several others have been mentioned as possible contenders, including trustees Donald A. Brown, Peter B. Edelman and Thomas A. Hart.
The new board chairman is expected to direct the search for Green's replacement. Trustees have said an acting president, who will serve one year, will be named to replace the interim president, Claude A. Ford, before Oct. 22. After an acting president is appointed, the search for a permanent president will begin.
The expected showdown tomorrow between Reid and Payne has been viewed by some trustees as a referendum on Barry's future influence over the UDC board.
The mayor publicly stayed out of the spending controversy until two days before Green's resignation, when he called on the board to resolve the troubling questions around the UDC president. Subsequently, several trustees admonished the mayor for criticizing the board's role in overseeing spending.
In a meeting with the board Friday, Barry suggested the trustees meet periodically with him in the future, according to Reid. Reid said the mayor agreed that the board is independent but said it should act "within the structure of the District government."
The election of Reid, who is a close adviser to Barry, would reflect closer control over the board's activities, some trustees have suggested.
Brown and trustee Lorraine H. Whitlock, whose term also has expired, will remain on the board until the nominations of their replacements are confirmed by the City Council. The nominees, who were named by Barry, are Nira Long, former chairman of the city's Redevelopment Land Agency, and the Rev. Raymond Kemp, a Catholic priest.
Testimony today will include oral responses to questions from council members and written responses to questions previously submitted by Mason and Council members Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) and Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large), according to Dennis Desmond, legal counsel for the Education Committee.
Among those slated to give testimony in addition to Brown are interim UDC President Ford, Vice President Dwight S. Cropp, university Budget Director W. Louis Stone and university General Counsel Ruthie Taylor, Desmond said.
Also expected to testify are George Zachariah, president of the faculty union, and representatives of several civic organizations.
"As opposed to digging out more dirt on the president," Desmond said, "I think what we are looking at is, What is the state of management of the university? Who is responsible? Have rules been followed?"