Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

August 15, 2013

SWCC president rejects call for probe of college

WARDELL, Va. — The president of Southwest Virginia Community College is rejecting calls by the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors for an independent investigation into the operations of the institution.

The supervisors are asking Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Russell, and Delegate James W. “Will” Moorefield, R-Tazewell, to oversee an independent investigation into the operations of SWCC. But the board request is flawed for several reasons, SWCC President Dr. Mark Estepp said Wednesday.

“It ignores the fact that, as a state entity, in a state well known for its best business practices, we are audited constantly,” Estepp said. “I imagine there are plenty of audits one could look at by just asking the Virginia Community College System or state for them.”

Estepp said the board’s request for an investigation is based on unfounded “rumors and innuendoes.”

When contacted Wednesday regarding the board’s motion, Puckett said he has no intention of launching an investigation into the operations of the community college.

“I’m not doing an investigation,” Puckett said. “If there is something that merits it, someone else will do it. If I felt there was merit in it, what I would ask is the chancellor of the community college system to review the situation.”

Puckett said as of Wednesday afternoon, he had not received a copy of the motion passed by the supervisors on Aug. 6, which called for an independent inquiry or investigation to completed by Puckett and Morefield through either the Joint Legislative Review Committee’s auditor of public accounts or an other appropriation agency. The motion for the investigation was made by Northern District supervisor Tommy Childress, seconded by board chairman John Absher, and passed unanimously.

Puckett said he won’t ignore the board’s request. However, he said the Joint Legislative Review Committee is an agency that mostly reviews General Assembly matters — and not that of community colleges.

“If and when I get the letter — and it has been reported in at least two newspapers now — I don’t think I can ignore the board of supervisors in the body of a county I represent,” Puckett said. “If it has merit, I’ll try to work through the community college system to have the chancellor to have someone look at it.”

Puckett said the motion, and the request from supervisors, is “highly unusual.”

“Most of the time situations like this will be handled at the local level,” Puckett said. “As you know from my background, I’m a strong supporter of the community college. It has opened the doors for educational opportunities for a lot of kids. I don’t want to micro manage the community colleges.”

The supervisors didn’t elaborate in their motion why they felt an independent investigation of the college was needed.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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