Edison College considered leasing castle
Photo: Video by fox4now.com
FORT MYERS, Fla. - During the height of the recession in Southwest Florida, Edison State College, funded by your tax dollars, considered leasing a castle in France. The college discussed using tax dollars to open a branch campus in northern France.
Four In Your Corner's Matt Grant investigated.
The castle looks like something out of the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous Nestled in a park, the Chateau de Pourtales describes itself as an 18th century fairy tale castle. One brochure reads, "why live in the dorms next semester when you could live in this castle." Complete with a nearby golf course, "five star gala dinners" and modern amenities, the 100 bed chateau has seen its share of royalty.
Edison's former president Ken Walker wanted to bring Fort Myers to France according to Edison professor Ellie Bunting, "It's just so typical Walker, he just wanted a dynasty you know?"
Bunting says faculty heard rumors about a castle. At first she thought it was a fairy tale since administrators were telling them money was tight. "I find it very interesting that they are looking at coming up with another campus in Europe, particularly at a time they're telling faculty there is no money and we never got a raise in 2008 and 2009. It kind of makes you wonder where they're priorities were"
And it might make you wonder too. Since your tax dollars fund Edison State we did some checking. Documents show when the college couldn't keep its own house in order, top officials wanted a castle and in 2010 considered leasing the French chateau.
The same year it was discovered students were improperly substituting courses like accounting for theater and the college was misleading nursing students their program was nationally accredited when it wasn't.
All the while Walker was making more than any other college president in the state with a compensation package worth almost $1 million.
Bunting says the idea sounded ridiculous, "It seems we've already got five campuses and another campus is going to cost us a tremendous amount of money so I find it odd that they were even thinking about this when the economy was so bad"
In April 2010 Edison's Vice President of Strategic Initiatives wrote in an email that she: "May have a contact in France who wants to lease a castle to us for a start up community college there." Edison considered it in an internal presentation saying they would need to fill 80 out of 100 beds year round and faculty would be deployed to teach abroad.
In an email a college spokeswoman told us it was just a discussion that didn't cost taxpayers money saying "There are no college expenses. The idea was discussed in 2010 and then rejected by administration."
The college never explained why simply saying nothing further came of it. They also would not tell us how much this college in a castle would have cost you, the taxpayer.
The fairy tale dream of an Edison castle wasn't the only thing that wouldn't have a happy ending. Two years after the castle idea collapse, Dr. Walker was fired after a series of scandals threatened to strip the school of its accreditation.
Back in her cramped corner office Bunting says she's glad Walker's exotic expansion never made it past the idea phase, "You're talking France, that's a little more than moving to another city, I know he thought big."