Nass requests investigation in college president's 'secret deal'

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Staff | August 27, 2013

WHITEWATER--State Rep. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) is asking for a Wisconsin Department of Justice investigation into a contract addendum for a retiring college president that was made in a closed-door session of the school's board.

Nass, who is chairman of the Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee, believes that the Madison Area Technical College Board (also known as Madison College) reached an improper agreement behind closed doors for a lucrative contract addendum for retiring President Bettsey Barhorst.  The agreement was first made public in a Wisconsin State Journal article on August 18, 2013, even though the agreement was approved by the Madison College Board in closed session on June 8th.

Nass submitted a request for an investigation to Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen Friday.

“The secret deal is bad enough.  However, paying someone $88,000 to be on-call to answer a few, if any, questions is a scam,” Nass said in a press release from his office. “I believe the arrangement and the process used to grant it violates the Wisconsin Open Meetings Law. The DOJ needs to seek the maximum fine against board members and attempt to void the agreement.”

Nass said the agreement allows Barhorst to collect her full salary of almost $240,000 until the end of 2013 as an “on-call resource” for the college's new president, and he questioned the costly post-retirement health insurance benefits allowed for Barhorst and her husband.

In a letter to Van Hollen, included in the release, Nass accuses the Madison College board of violating the state's open meeting law.   

“It's important to note that the 'executive session' meeting minutes for June 12, 2013 contains a motion and approval by the board of the addendum elements requested by President Barhorst,” the letter reads. “In fact, the meeting minutes specifically state that the board's legal counsel, Mr. Jon Anderson, presented a list of items requested as she retires from the college.

“These facts raise the likely scenario that the board had previously discussed this matter at another executive session for which no clear public notice exists.  It also raises the strong possibility that President Barhorst and administrators/board members were discussing such an arrangement outside of appropriate channels.”

See the Wisconsin State Journal story HERE.

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