UVM Trustees Say No Policies Broken In Kahn-Fogel Case

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(Host) University of Vermont trustees say employee morale suffered because of a relationship between the former president’s wife and a senior UVM fundraiser.

Trustees said no laws or university policies were violated. But they said the relationship created tension in the fundraising office because of the perception that some employees were favored over others.

The trustees’ report capped a three month investigation. And trustees said they themselves bore some responsibility for failing to exercise sufficient oversight.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Trustees asked for the investigation after they learned that the president’s wife, Rachel Kahn-Fogel, had sent romantic letters and emails to Michael Schultz, an associate vice president for development.

The two had worked together for years on various fundraising events. And Trustee Chairman Rob Cioffi said a key conclusion of the internal investigation is that there should be a more clearly defined role for presidential spouses.

(Cioffi) "It wasn’t defined at all in our policies and procedures. And if you look across universities – and not just UVM. And frankly, at other universities it’s taken a situation like this to put procedures in place."

(Dillon) Kahn-Fogel was a volunteer and not a UVM employee. But as the president’s wife, she clearly had influence at the school and in the development office.

The report said the ambiguity surrounding her role created tension in the fundraising office. According to the report, some employees thought the president and his wife protected or advanced certain employees over others.

Cioffi said that situation made for poor morale in the workplace.

(Cioffi) "I think that some people left and some people’s jobs were affected along the way as well."

(Dillon) Cioffi said trustees also bore some responsibility for allowing the situation to continue on their watch.

(Cioffi) "Individuals along the way probably knew pieces of this. But it took this thorough review to sort of bring it all together and show that it was ongoing pattern. … We would be remiss as a board if we didn’t take some responsibility in having to allow that to happen over time."

(Dillon) As the trustee investigation was under way, Dan Fogel announced he was stepping down a year earlier than planned. Trustees agreed to give Fogel a 17-month paid leave of absence, at a salary, and other benefits that total more than $500,000 dollars.

The pay-out triggered public outrage, including pointed criticism from Governor Peter Shumlin.

(Cioffi) "I understand the criticism. It’s a lot of money. Remember, I grew up in Vermont, too. I get this. It’s a lot of money. But that’s the salary that’s earned by like presidents around the country or like administrators around the country."

(Dillon) Cioffi said the university was obligated under Fogel’s employment contract to fulfill his pay package, including the leave of absence.

Meanwhile, trustees disclosed that Michael Schultz, the senior fundraising official, has left his job. Schultz will be paid his salary through the end of next year under the terms of his severance agreement.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon.

(Host) Dan Fogel issued a statement today after trustees released the report. He says he supported the review and endorses developing new policies to avoid similar problems in the future.

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