RICHMOND — In an occasionally testy final meeting of the year, the community operations board of the Eastern Kentucky University Center for the Arts failed to resolve a key issue that is holding up its search for a new executive director.
The pivotal question is who has the authority to fire the executive director.
Board president Harry Moberly referred to the memorandum of understanding under which the board and the $33 million publicly financed center operate, which says that the authority lies solely with the board, and that would not change. Moberly did propose other changes.
Amid a discussion about revising the memorandum, Skip Daugherty, board member and executive assistant to EKU President Doug Whitlock, said he doubted whether the university would agree to concede that authority to the board because EKU provides almost all financing for the center.
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"The university is the one with skin in the game," Daugherty said. He said that with the school providing the money, "we have to have that trump card."
Moberly said giving the university unilateral power to fire the director was against the law, as stated in the memorandum, and against the spirit of the center's creation as a partnership among EKU, Madison County and the cities of Richmond and Berea.
The issue was at the center of the departure of the center's previous director, Debra Hoskins.
In June, EKU moved to fire Hoskins, but the board blocked her dismissal, saying the university did not have that authority. Hoskins resigned a week later.
The reasons for Hoskins' departure have not been disclosed. The Herald-Leader filed a Kentucky open-records request of a variety of documents relating to Hoskins' tenure at the center. EKU released numerous documents but declined to release several, including personnel files, citing a confidentiality agreement with Hoskins.
The attorney general's office ruled in October that EKU violated the law by withholding the documents, and the university initially said it would release them. But at the urging of Hoskins' attorney, EKU has since appealed the attorney general's decision.
At times Wednesday, exchanges between EKU personnel and community members on the board became heated, particularly between Moberly and Daugherty.
The lingering issue has held up the start of a search for a new director for the center, which is in its second season of performances.
"We need to have all our details about responsibility and accountability worked out before we can start," said board member Jan Tunnell, who chairs the search committee. "I think that will happen."
It is unlikely to happen before the end of the year, however.
Daugherty said Moberly's proposed changes to the memorandum of understanding were being reviewed by university counsel. The board's next scheduled meeting is Jan. 23.