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Edison sets timeline to find new president

Edison sets timeline to find new president

By Matt Grant. CREATED Dec 16, 2011

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Embattled Edison State College president Ken Walker may leave the scandal-plagued school with more than $1 million - even though the board of trustees wants to fire him after placing him on administrative leave.

The locks on Dr. Walker's office have been changed and this week the college hired a professional moving company to box up his belongings. It's a sign they are moving on without him - but that could come with a big bill for taxpayers.

The college is preparing for a legal showdown hiring law firm Fowler and White to prove Walker deserves to be fired "with cause."

"Thank you very much for this opportunity to come in and help serve," one of the firm's attorneys said to the board of trustees Friday.

The firm's contract won't exceed $20,000. But the idea of a lengthy, drawn out legal battle has some board members nervous, sparking talks of buying out Walker's contract.

"We have to look into this," said board member Pamela Seay. "Do we pay the lawyers or do we pay Dr. Walker? And that's really what it boils down to."

So how much will Walker get? A college spokesperson says she didn't know what it would cost you to pay out Walker. But with an $832,000 compensation, and two years left, Walker could be walking away with as much as $1.6 million.

"What we have to do is an absolute cost benefit analysis," said Seay. "Litigation is costly."

While the college has to navigate negotiations with their past president, they still have to look for a new one and figure out their salary.

"Fair to say it would be less than [Walker's]?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.

"I don't, you know that's something that the board's going to decide," said acting Edison president Dr. Pat Land. "Thank you for that question."

The college will hire a search firm early next year to find its next president. That could cost $20,000 or "a lot more," according to Land.

Seay wants to see candidates focused on education and turning the college around - not on a high priced salary.

"They might see that we had a president making 838,000 a year and might want the same," said Seay. "Well we don't want them."

The board set a timeline for hiring a search firm by Jan. 20. They hope to offer a contract to the college's next president on June 29 - in time for that person to start next fall.

"Oh, it's ambitious," admitted Seay. "There's no question about it. Can it be done? Of course it can."

The board has selected two candidates to be interviewed for interim president to help them get through the re-accreditation process. They are former Florida state Rep. Dudley Goodlette and Interim Miami Dade College President Kathie Sigler.

We also reached out to Gov. Rick Scott's office to see when they plan to fill board member Washington Baquero's empty seat after he resigned Thursday.

The governor's office says "there is no timeline" right now.

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com