BY JOHNNY L. MCCRAY, JR., ESQ. / GUEST COMMENTARY
Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) has been victimized enough by greed, self‑interest, incompetence, and cronyism.
On Jan. 11, Belvin Perry, a member of the B‑CU Board of Trustees (BOT) co‑hosted a press conference with his longtime friend, colleague, and confidante, Interim President Hubert Grimes. It is painfully apparent that Perry and Grimes ‒ both retired circuit court judges ‒ are working in lock-step to avert the hiring of a new president.
Who empowered Perry to speak on behalf of the BOT in a press conference? Why did Perry choose to deliver his public remarks as a capstone to Grimes’ anemic “State of the University” address?
What Perry wants
As Perry addressed the press, he prefaced his self-righteous pronouncements as being occasioned by an obligation to speak out due to the “cloak of darkness” that has befallen B-CU as a result of several attempts by the BOT to terminate Grimes.
He stated his intention to seek the removal of BOT Chair Michelle Carter-Scott for alleged bylaw violations stemming from her efforts to add three new members to the BOT following the resignation of several members in recent months, which dwindled the BOT down from 35 members to 10.
Also, Perry is calling for a halt to the current search for a president to replace Grimes. The search is being conducted by a committee convened by the BOT, which engaged AGB Search, a nationally reputed firm specializing in executive searches exclusively for higher education institutions.
Didn’t reveal self-interest
What’s most troubling about Perry’s press conference is the “cloak of darkness” draped over his self-righteous public revelations. Perry failed to disclose that he, without resigning from the BOT, injected himself into the search process as a candidate to become B-CU president, but his candidacy was summarily rejected by the search committee. Perry failed to make the first cut and was never granted an interview.
Does Perry now have an ax to grind, since the search committee aborted his efforts to lead the B-CU? Is Perry’s decision-making self-serving, or can he be trusted to make objective decisions in the best interests of B-CU after his failed and surreptitious bid to become its next president?
Conspicuously absent from Perry’s public diatribe against Carter-Scott is his failure to reveal his beneficiary status, as he stands to gain from Carter-Scott’s removal. Perry is the vice-chair of the BOT. He would assume Carter-Scott’s leadership role if he is successful in his campaign to have her ousted.
We still remember
Perry’s sophomoric antics clearly suggest he thinks alumni and supporters of the University are gullible or suffering terrible amnesia.
In addition to pushing his agenda to halt the presidential search, among other things, Perry called upon the BOT to conduct open meetings and allow the student government president voting rights. Suddenly, he has become an advocate for student government voting rights on the BOT and the restoration of the National Alumni Association (NAA) membership on the BOT.
Why is Perry just now giving support to these issues after having been a trustee for at least the past four years? When the NAA had to wage a legal battle for its rightful place at the BOT’s table, where was Perry’s support?
When Grimes was first named interim president, I publicly stated that his appointment was ill-advised. Grimes does not possess the experience to make him qualified to serve as a university president, and he played an integral role in former President Edison Jackson’s administration at B-CU. Simply put, he was too close to Jackson, whose tenure at B-CU is marred by the now-infamous dorm deal, mismanagement and the continuing financial fallout.
Grimes is correct in his repeated declarations that he was not the University’s general counsel during the dorm deal. However, the truth he fails to disclose is that Jackson appointed Grimes to represent his position during the negotiation of the dorm deal once B-CU’s then-general counsel, Darlene Bell-Alexander, engaged an outside law firm to review the terms of the proposed transaction.
The thought of a diligent review of the transaction guided by the interests of the University so angered Jackson he brought in Grimes to help get the deal off the ground. With Grimes at the helm to broker the deal, Jackson sought the removal of Bell-Alexander and moved to have the BOT confirm Grimes as general counsel.
While Grimes is beleaguered with his own baggage, Perry now stands as his convenient surrogate to rewrite the history of the dorm deal and Grimes’ intimate involvement in its negotiation and approval.
No personal knowledge
At Friday’s press conference, Perry went so far as to dismiss what he described as “rumors” that Grimes was involved in the dorm deal. Shame on him!
Perry was neither on the BOT nor otherwise associated with B-CU when Jackson engaged Grimes to advance the dorm deal; he has no first-hand knowledge. Perry does, however, have ample motive to go to great lengths to ensure Grimes continues as interim president, especially with his own ambitions for presidency having been short-circuited.
My concerns about Perry and Grimes should in no way be construed as a pass for Carter-Scott. She should also give way to new leadership and step down as chair of the BOT. Once a proud supporter of Jackson and the dorm deal, she has been caught in a power struggle with an ineffective interim president whom she once championed.
Perry and Grimes have strategically attempted to coalesce alumni and student leadership to mount an aggressive campaign to target Carter-Scott, while diverting attention away from Grimes, who is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the University. Perry, fully aware that Grimes has no meaningful game plan to save the University, spoke without specifics about the good things Grimes has accomplished. Nonetheless, he blames Carter-Scott for Grimes’ inability to bring stability to the University.
Let’s face it. Grimes is out of his league in running a multi-million-dollar educational institution, as is his longtime friend, colleague, and confidante, Perry. Both self‑serving former judges must go!
For B-CU to have any hope of survival, the presidential search must continue and the BOT must be reconstituted. Let us exercise diligence and prudence in selecting qualified stewards who can restore the values upon which B-CU was founded. To do so, we must start afresh.
Johnny L. McCray, Jr. is a Pompano Beach-based attorney. He graduated from Bethune-Cookman University in 1974 and served on its Board of Trustees from 2007 to 2016.