Ex-Edison president Ken Walker inks $540K settlement
PUNTA GORDA - Fired but still getting a big settlement.
Edison State College officials agreed to pay fired president Dr. Ken Walker $540,000 of your tax dollars Tuesday and will let him "retire" so he won't sue the college.
The board of Trustees fired Walker with cause in January following a course swapping scandal, nursing school accreditation problem, and questions about administrative hires and pay raises.
Walker had a compensation package close to $1 million.
"We will suggest to you that settlement at this junction is in the best interest of the college," said Joseph Coleman with the college's law firm Fowler, White and Boggs.
In a 7-to-1 vote, the board of trustees voted to give Walker more than a half million dollars to drop his lawsuit against the college Tuesday.
Board member Chris Vernon was the only one to vote against it.
"I think the payment is a little rich," said Vernon. "I'm gonna vote my conscience which is what I'm obligated to do."
The college's law firm recommended settling with Walker as the cheaper option. Litigation could last two to three years and could cost taxpayers $300,000 to $500,000 in legal fees, according to Coleman.
It would cost another $3.4 million if Walker had won.
"If this board votes no I'll continue the process," said Coleman. "And you'll continue to receive bills."
Board member Marjorie Starnes-Bilotti called the $540,000 figure a "bargain."
"When you consider trauma to this campus," said Starnes-Bilotti, "bad publicity to this campus will continue for two to three years if we litigate; it makes me believe to this being a bargain."
So what does Walker get?
- The college will pay him $540,000 by May 11.
- Walker can submit a symbolic retirement letter dated Jan. 23, 2012 - the date he was fired with cause.
- Walker "waives any right to any additional compensation or benefits provided by any contract."
- Walker agrees not to sue at any time in the future.
"[This] ends the Walker era," said Coleman.
The money used to pay Walker will not be taken out of student services or tuition dollars, according to a school spokesperson.
"What would you say to people who think Dr. Walker shouldn't be getting anything?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.
"I would say that they need to look at the discussion of the board," said board of trustees chair Ann Berlam, "to hear the recommendations from our attorney based on a mediator who is trained to resolve disputes."
It's a dispute fired VP Steve Atkins feels shouldn't have ended with Walker walking away with more money.
"It's unfortunate that he's gonna pull in another half million dollars," said Atkins, who attended the meeting with another fired VP Bob Beeson.
Both are suing the college.
"I scratch my head," said Atkins, "and wonder shouldn't [Walker] be paying the college?"
Dr. Walker said he was "pleased" with the settlement, saying it was in the "best interest" of the college. Below is his full response:
"I am pleased that the Board of Trustees and I were able to reach an agreement that focuses on the best interest of the college.
I now leave this outstanding institution with a sense of pride and accomplishment, knowing that the college I began serving in 1991 with a student body of 9000, today serves some 27,000 students, and offers far more opportunities than ever before, including four year degree programs pioneered here on our campus.
My greatest affection and wishes are with both the students and the highly competent personnel who have chosen to be a part of this great and growing institution."