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10/9/97 William Carey official resigns after federal probe of grant

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (BP)–James W. Edwards resigned Oct. 6 from his positions as chancellor and chief executive officer of William Carey College, Hattiesburg, Miss., in the aftermath of an investigation that concluded he “falsely represented” information on a 1994 federal grant application.
The Baptist-affiliated school’s board of trustees immediately appointed Larry Kennedy, WCC vice president and dean of the Cooper School of Missions and Biblical Studies, to serve as chief executive officer.
Kennedy had been serving as interim president since the June departure of Rory Lee, who left to accept the president’s post at Baptist-affiliated Louisiana College in Pineville.
The trustees also elevated Cloyd Ezell, dean of the school of arts, humanities and sciences, to the positions of vice president for academic affairs and chief operating officer.
Edwards was placed on temporary leave of absence Sept. 29 after the school’s trustees agreed to a $345,666 settlement with the federal government.
WCC, Edwards and a consultant for the school will repay the money to the U.S. Department of Education to settle federal claims of false representations on a 1994 Strengthening Institutions Program grant application.
Brad Pigott, U.S. Attorney for the southern district of Mississippi who handled settlement negotiations for the federal government, identified the consultant as Barbara Jones of Senatobia, Miss.
Pigott said in a Sept. 26 press release a two-year DOE investigation revealed Edwards “falsely represented” that:
— WCC academic programs and services were annually assessed and developed by a long-range planning committee, which in turn created a long-range strategic plan updated annually with input from all segments of the college community.
— governance of the college included a management and student information task force made up of specified members.
— a faculty development committee with named members had developed a strategy for faculty development on WCC campuses.
“The government’s investigation revealed that all such representations were false, in that no such committees or task forces in fact existed,” Pigott said.
Pigott also reported that in addition to repaying the specified amount under the settlement agreement, the school will not receive from DOE an additional $983,534 scheduled for the remainder of the multi-year grant.
A Sept. 25 press release from Edward’s office that predated his resignation characterized the grant problems as “possible errors or inaccuracies” that were “immaterial and unintentional and that no college employee has committed any wrongful act.”
Ben Carlisle, chairman of the WCC board of trustees and pastor of Arlington Heights Church, Pascagoula, said Oct. 6 that an independent investigation ordered some time earlier by the trustees had concluded the accusations were overstated and in fact were a “tempest in a teapot.”
“The press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office on Sept. 26 revealed publicly the seriousness of the situation at WCC. This news has been both disturbing and disruptive,” Carlisle said.
According to the Sept. 25 press release from Edward’s office, WCC agreed to repay $126,289 over a four-and-a-half year period, while the college’s insurance company will repay $209,077 and consultant Jones will repay $10,000.
WCC is one of three separate institutions of higher learning affiliated with the Mississippi Baptist Convention. WCC has three campuses: Hattiesburg, the Gulf Coast and New Orleans.

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  • William H. Perkins Jr