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Friday, May 6, 2016

Doug Rush fired from Ozarka

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Doug Rush
The legal battle is about to begin.

A July 7 decision by the Ozarka Board of Trustees to remove President Douglas W. Rush from office will likely land the Melbourne based college in court.

"I'm certainly considering legal action," said Rush from his home July 10. "I was wrongfully dismissed. I'm not going to roll over and play dead."

He said he has hired two law firms from Little Rock to represent him in a possible civil case.

"At the very least I think they need to pay me the rest of the money on my contract," Rush said.

Rush's contract with the school was terminated because he failed to comply with state laws, was dishonest and insubordinate and didn't follow college policies after being warned, according to Ozarka Board of Trustees Chairman Barbara Perryman of Viola.

"It's something we've been pondering and we decided it was time," said Perryman.

Perryman refused to give specific details about the allegations that led to Rush's dismissal.

"A lot of that was discussed in executive session," Perryman said. "Unless the board votes to release that information I wouldn't feel comfortable commenting on it."

Perryman, along with board members George Thomas of Salem, Bonnie Wyatt and Ben Cooper, both of Melbourne, voted to fire Rush.

Board members Paul Valentine of Mountain View and Lawrence Billing of Horseshoe Bend voted to keep Rush, and board member Sharon Mathis of Cherokee Village abstained from voting.

Rush, who has served as the president of Ozarka College since its inception as an accredited junior college in 1992, said the charges leveled by the board were groundless.

The charge that he violated state law stemmed from a contract to build a workout gym at the college last year, Rush said.

He said the school was required by state law to place an ad in a state newspaper before bids could be accepted on the project.

"We had a young man (the chairman of the institutional assessment committee) who was in charge of the project," Rush said. "He was a little zealous and accepted three bids over the telephone without placing an ad."

Auditors warned the college about the infraction last year, Rush said. The board's charge that he was dishonest arose out of his meeting with the auditors, Rush said.

He said some board members think he placed all the blame for the error on the chairman of the institutional assessment committee, who he would not name, when he met with the auditors.

The board charged Rush with insubordination for not drafting and then releasing a memo giving the names of employees who had worked at Ozarka College over the last four years but are no longer employed there, Rush said.

"It's something I should have done sooner, but I didn't think I would get fired over it," he said.

The final charge -- that Rush didn't follow college policy -- stems from the dismissal of a teacher in June.

Ozarka College policy states that if a teacher's contract isn't going to be renewed the following year, the president's office has until March 15 to notify that teacher, Perryman said.

The teacher, who was not named, wasn't notified until April, Rush said.

"His work wasn't up to par and I think some of the board members had a problem with that," Rush said.

He said he knew his time with the college was running short, but it still shocked him when they announced his termination.

"The reality is there are three or four board members who have an ax to grind," Rush said. "To grind their ax they terminated me."

He said he angered members of the board last month when he informed them that two meetings they had -- one at Gaston's Resort during the board's annual retreat in May and another meeting at the college in June -- were illegal.

"As a public institution they are required to adhere to the Freedom of Information Act," Rush said. "Those meetings should have been public."

The Freedom of Information Act dictates that a public entity such as a state funded college is required by law to inform the public about any meeting of its board members.

Perryman admitted that both meetings took place and the board has received an opinion about those meetings from the Attorney General's Office.

"According to the Attorney General's Office, if we came out of that meeting and made a decision, the action could have been overturned in court," Perryman said.

No decisions were made at either meeting, Perryman said. The meeting at Ozarka College was to discuss a personnel matter, she said.

Rush said another reason for his firing was a personal vendetta between him and board member Bonnie Wyatt.

He said she has been angry with him since her son, Sanders Lee Wyatt, lost a bid in 2002 to become an alderman for the city of Melbourne.

"She thinks I had something to do with him not getting elected," Rush said. "I didn't vote for him. He lost because of himself."

Sanders Lee Wyatt was defeated by Wayne Langston by nine votes.

Bonnie Wyatt was unavailable for comment.

Perryman said she didn't think Wyatt's vote was the result of a personal grudge.

"I've served on this board for a long time and if there was a personal vendetta (by Wyatt towards Rush) I haven't seen any evidence of it," Perryman said.

She said the board will choose an interim successor to Rush this week and then begin looking for a permanent replacement.

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