Apr 202012

By Teri Walker —

Northland Pioneer College (NPC) and the NPC Foundation will not be parting ways, after all.

The Navajo County Community College District Governing Board voted this week to rescind the decision it made in March to sever ties with the foundation after hearing a brief presentation from Bonnie Adams, president of the NPC Foundation Board of Directors, during the governing board’s meeting on April 17.

In March, the governing board voted unanimously to sever ties with the NPC Foundation in 30 days because of the college’s understanding, based on a series of e-mails between the foundation and the Arizona Office of the Auditor General, and an e-mail exchange between NPC Foundation Executive Director Lance Chugg and NPC President Dr. Jeanne Swarthout, that the foundation was refusing to submit its financial information as part of the college’s annual audit. The college was advised by its legal counsel to take the action because the Auditor General’s office had issued an opinion that refusal by the foundation to submit to the audit would have a detrimental effect on the college’s audit findings.

Adams asked that the board reverse its decision, calling the entire situation a misunderstanding and miscommunication.

“The board’s decision to sever ties with the foundation was a real shock to a lot of us,” Adams said, addressing the college’s governing board.

She said the foundation had been in the process of determining whether to undertake an audit, and whether a decision not to would cause problems for the college.

“We have found there would be repercussions to the college, so we have decided we will continue to do the audit and not hinder the college,” said Adams.

“We have a common goal and it’s for the students.”

Governing Board Chairman Bill Jeffers was conciliatory toward the foundation and expressed his pleasure that the issue had been resolved.

“Do you understand why the board took the action we did at the last meeting?” he asked Adams.

“Yes. We know there was a lot of misinterpretation and misunderstanding (of the foundation’s intentions). We apologize for that,” she replied.

Governing board member Ginny Handorf commented that she would think contributors to the foundation would want to see periodic audits to know they’re contributing to a legitimate organization.

“I assume it would be to your own benefit to conduct the audits,” she said.

Handorf spoke of the amiable relationship she has with NPC Foundation Executive Director Lance Chugg, and then added, “I have regularly missed his presence at our meetings. Not that it’s mandatory, but I fear too much time has gone past. We need to have more intercommunication and it should happen here.”

The board noted in its March meeting that Chugg had not attended an NPC governing board meeting since the previous April. Chugg explained in an interview that as part of cost saving measures for the financially struggling foundation, he opts to attend the NPC board meetings only when he has something of significance to share with the college.

During this week’s meeting, Adams referenced scholarships that are not being awarded because of a lack of awareness of availability, and the foundation’s practice of providing gas money to cash-strapped students who need to drive to take a final exam.

Handorf said the college board was unaware of these issues, and it is items such as these that would be good for the foundation to share with the governing board during its monthly meetings.