ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) — A Baptist college president has apologized for comments about a state convention executive director made in conversations secretly recorded by one of the college’s former vice presidents.
Joe Aguillard, president of Louisiana College, issued the apology to David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, the Baptist Message state newspaper reported March 28.
Aguillard had said that he suspected Hankins was fomenting an anti-Calvinism controversy at Louisiana College and that he had heard a rumor that Hankins wanted his son, Eric Hankins, currently a pastor in Mississippi, to replace Augillard as the college’s president.
Hankins had publicly supported Aguillard during extended controversy over Aguillard’s leadership of the college involving various issues, from its accreditation to alleged financial irregularities. Aguillard survived a close no confidence vote by trustees in April of last year.
Several secret recordings were made in 2012 by Charles “Chuck” Quarles, former LC vice president for the integration of faith and learning and dean of the college’s Caskey School of Divinity. Quarles now is professor of New Testament & biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
In the recordings, Aguillard was speaking with Quarles and, at other times, other members of the Louisiana College administration at the Pineville campus. A local newspaper, The Town Talk in nearby Alexandria, first reported in early March on recordings it said Quarles had provided.
The secret recordings are among a number of issues that have festered at the college in recent weeks, including:
— A potential investigation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
— A lawsuit filed by a former executive vice president of the college. Timothy “Tim” Johnson, the VP, and Quarles had filed separate whistle-blower complaints against the college in December 2012 over alleged misappropriation of funds for the divinity school.
— A Town Talk report citing “multiple” anonymous sources March 26 that Aguillard has been asked to resign as college president.
Hankins, in releasing the apology by Aguillard, told the Baptist Message, “When Dr. Aguillard was confronted with these disappointing revelations, he sent the following letter of apology to me”:
“Dear Dr. Hankins,
“I want to deeply apologize for things that I said about you and Eric on a recording by Chuck Quarles. I haven’t heard the tape, but I’ve seen typed quotes from the recording and I am so remorseful in having said those things. What I said does not reflect in any way my true heartfelt feelings for both you and Eric.
“In addition, I will share with anyone that you did not use undue influence in any way and never pushed your way onto the Academic Affairs committee. Your leadership on that committee is invaluable.
“My position is one of full support for you and Eric in every way. I fully admire your leadership and Godly statesmanship and consider you a mentor and friend. I pray that you will forgive me and we can continue to work closely together for Christ.
“Again, I am so sorry for what I said.”
The Baptist Message asked Aguillard for a statement but did not receive one by its March 28 deadline.
An official with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools told the Baptist Message it is “standard policy for us to look into unsolicited information we receive about member institutions.” The comment by Michael Johnson, SACS senior vice president and chief of staff, was in reference to a Town Talk report about “authenticity” questions over several signatures on Louisiana College’s SACS reports.
A committee appointed in 2012 by then-trustee chairman Marc Taylor consisting of three LC trustees and two college employees, however, reported that it could find no evidence of wrongdoing in LC’s SACS reports, according to the Baptist Message’s March 18 story on the pending SACS inquiry.
SACS reaffirmed Louisiana College’s accreditation in December after two years on warning status.
Former executive VP’s lawsuit
Timothy “Tim” Johnson, LC’s former executive vice president, filed a lawsuit in Louisiana District Court in Alexandria alleging that Aguillard retaliated over Johnson’s whistle-blower complaint filed under LC policies, the Baptist Message reported in a March 18 story. Johnson’s suit seeks damages for loss of past and future income, mental anguish, pain and suffering but does not specify an amount.
Johnson, in the suit, alleges that Aguillard gave him a poor mid-year evaluation, versus previous perfect scores, after the whistle-blower complaint that Aguillard had misled trustees in December 2012 by stating that Cason Foundation funding had been committed for a building for the Caskey School of Divinity and a proposed law school when he knew the foundation had declined to fund the project. Johnson also alleged that funds designated for the divinity school had been improperly used for a overseas college initiative called LC Tanzania.
Trustees, however, after a daylong meeting on April 30 of last year, announced through a statement, “After a long, thorough investigation, the board has exonerated Dr. Aguillard of all allegations that were brought forward in the whistle-blower complaints. Concluding the vote, the board, led by Chairman Gene Lee, circled the president, laying hands on him in prayer, asking God for love and unity amongst the board and the administration.” For the Baptist Press/Baptist Message story on the trustee meeting, click here.
Baptist Message reports on recent developments at Louisiana College can be read by subscription to the state newspaper at www.baptistmessage.com.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston from reports in the Baptist Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, and from The Town Talk in Alexandria, La.