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Brewton-Parker’s Holmes resigns as president

MOUNT VERNON, Ga. (BP)–Y. Lynn Holmes has resigned as president of Brewton-Parker College, Mount Vernon, Ga.
A Nov. 10 announcement by the Baptist-affiliated college made no mention of a lawsuit against the college and several administrators for allegedly awarding grants to unqualified students and other financial aid irregularities.
The lawsuit was initiated last winter by a former assistant financial aid director at the college, filed under the federal False Claims Act, commonly known as the whistle- blower law; the federal government joined the lawsuit Oct. 20. The federal complaint could result in Brewton-Parker owing the federal government up to $25.2 million in reimbursement and penalties, nearly twice the college’s $12.7 million budget, according to an article in the Oct. 15 issue of Southeast Journal, a regional publication of The Wall Street Journal.
The Georgia Baptist Convention also has been named as a defendant in the initial lawsuit, but the convention has not been named in the government’s case, according to news reports. Through the Cooperative Program, the convention provides financial support to Brewton-Parker and its 2,000- plus students and other Baptist-related colleges.
In a news release issued by the college, trustee chairman Ben Cochran of Dublin, Ga., said, “Dr. Holmes has resigned as it is his belief that it is in the best interest of the college at this time. It is with regret that the trustees have accepted the resignation of Dr. Holmes who has been a dedicated and devoted college leader; we will miss him.” Cochran told a reported from The Macon (Ga.) Telegraph that trustees had not requested Holmes’ resignation.
Holmes, a Brewton-Parker alumnus who has been the college’s president 14 years, has led the institution in gaining senior college status and greatly expanding the campus facilities and academic programs.
He will continue in a teaching role, according to the news release.
Holmes said in the news release, “My 14 years as president of Brewton-Parker have been the most enjoyable and meaningful in my professional career. However, I believe it is in the best interests of Brewton-Parker College for me to step aside at this time.”
Dan Parker of Atlanta, a trustee spokesman, said in the news release, “President Holmes has led the college faithfully and has stepped aside in the best interest of the college. His concerns are for the future welfare of the Brewton-Parker students, faculty and staff.”
According to Parker, he and other trustees are fully prepared for the change in leadership. “We have selected an interim president and are in final discussions with the individual,” Parker said. “We will immediately appoint a search committee to seek a permanent Brewton-Parker president.”
Brewton-Parker trustees are scheduled to meet Nov. 13.
In the initial lawsuit, Martha Faw, former assistant financial aid director, claimed Brewton-Parker intentionally administered improper government funds to students for at least 11 years. She also claimed the college terminated her when she identified and attempted to correct the misappropriation.
Holmes had denied the charges but admitted errors were made regarding the distribution of financial aid. However, he blamed the errors on carelessness, overworked staff and outdated computer programs and said the college has taken steps to correct the problems. Financial aid director Cecelia Hightower was removed from her position in August and the college has contracted with a new accounting firm.
College officials also have denied claims by Faw that student athletes were favored in the misappropriation of financial aid. This comes on the heels of the college’s baseball team winning the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics title. The Southeast Journal report quoted an N.A.I.A. official as saying an investigation into these accusations would probably be initiated by the association.
Another complaint, according to the Wall Street Journal publication, is that Brewton-Parker kept aid funds that should have been returned to the federal government when prisoners dropped out of classes taught by the college in Georgia prisons.
The government has made no formal response to an offer by Brewton-Parker to financially settle the federal lawsuit, according to college officials in October.
Holmes had said, “We had hoped that an equitable conclusion would be reached before the beginning of the 1997-98 academic year. Unfortunately, the matter remains unresolved and requires an inordinate amount of my time. It is distracting from my primary responsibility of running the college for our students.
Holmes also was quoted in The Christian Index, Georgia Baptists’ newsjournal, as saying: “Brewton-Parker has taken a number of corrective steps. These steps include: working diligently with our government to determine the amount of overpayment and to resolve the matter equitably; putting in place a series of new policies and procedures; upgrading computer software and hardware programming; replacing the school’s financial aid director with a person with more than 13 years experience; replacing staff of the financial aid office; and hiring KPMG Peat Marwick. KPMG has sent an educational specialist from Washington to review the check and balance system put in place. The firm also will conduct the college’s annual financial audit and the compliance audit in the financial aid office.”
He went on to say that when they became aware of the irregularities “Brewton-Parker officials also notified the proper government agencies. The college immediately hired an outside auditing firm to review the allegations and they found no credence to them. We will continue to work toward resolution of the matter and continue on with our main priority of providing a quality education in a Christian environment.”