Skip to main content
Caption reading “Rubber Stamp”

In August, 2021, The Lexington Herald Leader reported:

"Less than two months before M. Christopher Brown II abruptly resigned as president of Kentucky State University on July 20, the school’s Board of Regents awarded him a new four-year employment contract, extending his roughly $425,000-a-year position through June 30, 2025, according to documents obtained by the Herald-Leader."

"In January, the board handed Brown a $43,200 bonus following a positive review of his job performance."

According to a September, 2021, article in The State Journal, and a whistleblower complaint filed in Franklin Circuit Court, KSU's regents made these decisions in spite of the fact that -- at least one year before -- KSU staff regent, Chandee Felder, shared with them, as well as several state officials, her concerns about the university’s looming financial crisis and a bloated and overpaid administration.

The former KSU Board of Regents appeared far more interested in disclaiming knowledge of, or responsibility for, the university’s crisis than addressing Felder’s concerns — much less reigning in a president whose leadership skills had been directly called into question. 

KSU terminated Felder's employment one day after she spoke with The State Journal about her concerns. KSU maintained that she violated “Kentucky State University’s Human Resources Policy Manual and the Ethical Principals and Code of Conduct,” specifically provisions relating to disclosure of confidential information and conflicts of interest. 

Financial information is not confidential. And — in the retaliatory atmosphere at KSU she had also remarked on in the past — Felder could hardly be accused of seeking to advance her own interests by taking these concerns public when all else failed. 

As noted, Felder has since filed a complaint in a whistleblower action in Franklin Circuit Court. That case is pending. 

Why resurrect this dark chapter in KSU’s history as the university begins a new and, we are optimistic, bright chapter?

Certainly, not to open old wounds.

Instead, we do it to suggest that governing boards empowered to extend contracts and award bonuses should at least consider what internal critics and public records inquiries have exposed about the leadership skills and/or the questionable conduct of the captains of these public agency "ships."


In the most recent example, Murray State University's Board of Regents voted on June 2 to extend President Robert Jackson's contract for another year and to raise his salary by at least 3.3%.…

The regents' vote was unanimous.

The board of regents ignored a trove of public records obtained by WPSD Local 6 through the open records law that placed President Jackson’s at the center of a coordinated effort to undermine MSU’s  public radio affiliate, WKMS, and suggested his acquiescence to state and local officials’ entreaties to obstruct unfavorable reporting.

(WPSD has been forced to pursue open records litigation against MSU to gain access to additional public records responsive to the news station’s request that the university’s refuses to disclose.)…

The Board of Regents also ignored concerns expressed by the university’s union representative at the June 2 meeting:

“Too many workers are expressing fear of retaliation, and too many rumors have spread about workers being blacklisted or worse for organizing for better pay and conditions. We're worried these perceptions have grown, and certainly more damaging in light of recent reports published by Paducah-based WPSD news station about the administration's treatment of WKMS.”

In an official release, MSU Public Relations tersely reported:

“Murray State President Dr. Bob Jackson received a positive four-year performance evaluation for the period of 2019-2023 by the Board of Regents, who extended Jackson’s employment contract through June 30, 2027.”…


In a non-academic setting, the Board of Trustees of the Kentucky Public Pension Authority on May 26 extended Executive Director David Eager’s contract by an additional year and awarded him a 14% salary increase.

To its credit, the board considered potential issues relating to retirement spiking and a ten percent cap on the executive director’s salary increases, as well as a statutorily mandated evaluation of the executive director that has not yet been conducted. 

Our reading of the statute mandating annual evaluations of the executive director — which took effect on April 14, 2022 — suggests that the deadline for the first evaluation has already passed.…. (See Section (8)(a) “The Authority shall annually conduct a performance evaluation of the executive director.”)

The board failed to consider the fact that within the last year:

• two significant open records cases involving public access to the $1.2 million taxpayer funded Calcaterra Report — prepared at the conclusion of the New York law firm’s investigation into “specific investment activities conducted by the Kentucky Retirement Systems to determine if there are any improper or illegal activities on the part of the parties involved” — were resolved against KPPA;…

• a lawsuit alleging an illegal bid rigging conspiracy behind the hiring of the New York law firm — Calcaterra-Pollack — contracted to do the report was filed; and…

• the former chief investment officer of the Kentucky Public Pension Authority, Stephen Herbert, filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the agency, alleging he was fired for bringing up concerns about improper oversight of pension funds and the possible theft of millions of dollars.……

Although the KPPA Board of Trustees’ vote on David Eager’s one year contract extension was unanimous, the vote on his salary increase was not. By a 6-2 vote, the trustees voted to raise Eager’s salary despite the fact that no statutorily mandated evaluation has been conducted. 


In each case — except perhaps KSU’s — it is unlikely that circumstances were sufficiently grave to warrant the respective boards in taking dramatic action, up to and including removal, to address questions of leadership these reports raised. 

At a minimum, however, it would be fair to expect governing boards to address the deficiencies in leadership this highly unfavorable reporting revealed — and that prompted these lawsuits — in a candid evaluation of their highest ranking officials.

Evaluations, we are told as public employees, are at best a useful corrective tool. Public agencies must use them as such across the range of public agency employees — top to bottom. Failure to do so disserves the public by encouraging the conduct that landed these officials  in hot water rather than discouraging, and ideally, curtailing that conduct.


Support Our Work

The Coalition needs your help in safeguarding Kentuckian's right to know about their government.