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Bergen County Community College trustees fire President Ryan

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Bergen County Community College’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday evening to fire President G. Jeremiah Ryan. The acting president will be Jose Adames.

G. Jeremiah Ryan

Ryan didn’t show at a scheduled trustees meeting Tuesday night to discuss his future, a source close to the decision told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . The board went into closed session at 5:10 p.m., deliberated for roughly an hour, then emerged for its vote.

“It was over quickly,” the source close told CLIFFVIEW PILOT , minutes after the final vote was cast.

was the first to report the board’s intentions after Ryan rejected an offer to resign with a year’s severance ( BCC trustees voting to fire Ryan ).

This left the board “no choice” but to schedule a vote, a source close to the decision told the website. Although some trustees pushing for the move originally asked for a decision last week, it was postponed to give Ryan time to consider the offer, the source said.

Although they initially resisted demands by the faculty to fire Ryan, the trustees made his tenure the central point of a retreat at the school on Wednesday, source with direct knowledge of the event said.

It was there that the board offered Ryan the opportunity to step aside, the source said.

Trustees convened a public meeting hours later, but Ryan was a no-show.

The board in February gave him an 18-month extension — half of what he was seeking — onto a contract that expired last month. They set a $192,400 salary for this year, with a 4-percent bump next year.

The trustees brooked a graduation rate of 12.6% and a dropout rate three times that amount. They withstood an uproar after cuts in students’ work hours were made – at a time when Ryan was hiring administrators without following college guidelines.

Then came revelations that he ran his expense account to nearly $100,000 last year, mostly for booze for political cronies.

Ryan, in turn, wrote a scathing letter to The Bergen Record taking county Executive Kathleen Donovan to task for $5 million in county budget cuts that were aimed at addressing concerns of students and faculty.  This, he said, could “compromise quality” at the school.

Donovan issued a blistering response that was first published on CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

“What ‘quality’ are you concerned about compromising?” the county executive snapped. “The only ‘quality’ you have defended is your choice of high-priced watering holes.”

Ryan insisted he was trying to drum up business for the college. But an examination by Donovan’s office, the results of which were shared with CLIFFVIEW PILOT , show the president feting trustees, staff and politicians — none of whom are significant contributors.

It is for reasons such as that, Donovan said, that she has pushed for greater oversight of the school.

CLIFFVIEW PILOT ‘s ongoing coverage of President G. Jeremiah Ryan’s troubles at Berg e n Community College — including EXCLUSIVE REPORTS can be found by clicking here: T HE RYAN FILE

As CLIFFVIEW PILOT reported exclusively, the BCC faculty cited wasteful spending — including the bar tabs — as reason for a 92-26 “no confidence” vote against Ryan in advance of a June 1 meeting at which the board refused the group’s demands that he resign. ( SEE: BCC faculty approves ‘no confidence’ vote against Ryan )

Ryan last year avoided censure by the faculty, which instead OK’d a memorandum of agreement aimed at resolving the differences on both sides. The official tally was 118-51 in favor of the MOA. ( SEE: BCC faculty reaches agreement with Ryan )

The booze bashes came after faculty members went public about Ryan’s spending practices, including bonuses for his staff following cuts in wages and hours for those in work-study programs.

The faculty union also was upset over three appointments they said Ryan made without a search committee, as required by the Middle State Commission of Higher Education and the State of New Jersey ( SEE: ‘No confidence’ vote pending )

As Donovan noted, Ryan blamed tuition hikes, faculty pay deferments and the county cuts for BCC’s financial troubles while “not reducing one dollar of administrative overhead.”

One construction project alone had 71 change orders, she said.

Ryan himself pointed out that student tuition and fees now account for more than three-quarters of the school’s operating budget.

“In the last 10 years, our state aid shrunk from 22 percent of the budget to 9 percent,” he wrote. “County aid has fallen from 24 percent to less than 11 percent…. Continuing to cut county and state support is a local error of global proportion.”

This would seem to put the onus on him, as the school’s chief administrative officer, to keep non-education-related expenses down, his detractors said.

Yet a budget audit showed actual BCC revenue at roughly $500,000 — a fraction of the targeted goal of $4.8 million.

“Perhaps you can explain why as your expenses go up, foundation revenue goes down?” Donovan asked Ryan in her letter.

The trouble began even before Donovan ousted Dennis McNerney as county executive last November:

As first reported in CLIFFVIEW PILOT , Ryan hire Dennis C. Miller angered students and faculty with a private September symposium attended by vendors who do business with the college — each of whom paid $60 to attend. The fee included the purchase of Miller’s book.

Before landing the Bergen job, Miller was president and CEO of Somerset Medical Center in Somerville — the hospital that employed serial killer Charles Cullen, who admitted snuffing 13 patients and trying to kill two others.

Miller, a former Woodcliff Lake resident who now lives in Denville, quickly left after Cullen was arrested, citing personal reasons. He eventually surfaced at BCC thanks to Ryan, who worked with him at the Alman Group. And although he has been a full-time employee at the college the past three years, Miller also has maintained a consulting business: Dennis C. Miller Associates in Morristown.

After CLIFFVIEW PILOT publicized Miller’s special session, Ryan created a position for him as “interim chief development officer.” Miller continued holding symposiums this past semester.

Amid the turmoil, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that the federal scrutiny of the Bergen County Improvement Authority amid a mortgage fraud scandal could extend to the college, given the circumstances:

Of $50 million worth of bonds sold during the improvement authority’s biggest year, more than half went toward the purchase of a building for BCC in Lyndhurst, even though the Rutherford campus of Felician College had been offered.

The chairman and former commissioner of the BCIA at the time was Ronald J. O’Malley, who was named last summer in a a 68-count federal mortgage fraud indictment returned against him and a partner of his Ridgewood firm.

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