By Bill Robinson
For a while Wednesday, four words looked like they would keep Eastern Kentucky University President Doug Whitlock and the EKU Center for the Arts Community Operations Board from coming to terms.
The search for a new executive director of the center can proceed proceed now that an agreement has been reached, said Harry Moberly, the board chair.
After nearly an hour of discussion that included some heated exchanges between Moberly and Dr. Skip Daughtery, Whitlock’s executive assistant, Daughtery asked for a five-minute recess.
The recess lasted nearly 15 minutes, but that was long enough for Daughtery to get Whitlock’s agreement to overcome the final sticking point.
The issue came down to whether the center’s executive director would report to the university president or the operations board.
In the end, the “president or president’s designee” were replaced by “board,” to specify to whom the center’s executive director would report.
The board and president had already agreed that a director could be neither hired or fired unless both agree, which was as far as the university was prepared to go, Daughtery said as the meeting began.
A reworded memorandum of understanding reflecting the university’s position was waiting on board members when they arrived for the meeting in the center’s Black Box Theatre. New wording that would require joint agreement before a personnel action against a director could proceed was highlighted in yellow.
That was not enough, however, to suit Moberly and some of the board’s more outspoken members, Madison Judge/Executive Kent Clark and Cathy Eidson.
Moberly, who while a senior member of the state House of Representatives wrote the legislation that secured funding for the center and established its board, said state law did not require the board to make the compromises it had already made.
Just a week earlier, both Moberly and Clark said Whitlock had acted in bad faith during the negotiations by recently asking Madison County legislators if they would support rewriting the law and giving the university control of the board. As now constituted, the university appoints six of its 13 members with four appointed by the county judge/executive, two by the Richmond mayor and one by the Berea mayor.
At the close of the board’s regular monthly meeting last week, when Daughtery said the university had already compromised all it could, Moberly called for a vote on resolutions that would have ended negotiations by solidifying the board’s position.
Daughtery then asked for a week’s delay so he could attempt to reach a compromise.
However, what he brought to the board did not appear to go far enough.
After Daughtery in response to another member’s question said the university had no interest except to see that its policies and procedures were carried out, Moberly said, “I think he’s leading you down a path.”
Unless the director reports to the board, the board would have a voice only in selection of programing and in either hiring or firing the director, Moberly said.
After nearly an hour of discussion in which neither side appeared it would budge, Moberly called for the vote that had been postponed a week earlier.
This time, Daughtery asked for a delay of only minutes rather that days, and when the board reconvened, the president’s assistant said the board would get the language it wanted in the memorandum.
When a new director is hired, he or she will report to the board instead of the university president.
That issue had to be settled, said both Moberly and board member Jan Tunnell, who heads the search committee. No candidate would agree to take the job without a clear line of authority, they said.
The committee will meet next week to begin its search, Tunnell said after the meeting.
“We will conduct a national search to find the best-qualified candidate,” she said. “The center is such a gift to the whole state and region, and we’ll find the kind of director it deserves.”
She expressed relief that the matter had been resolved.
“We finally got there through lots of thought and concern,” she said.
Bill Robinson can be reached at editor@
or at 624-6690.