The story of Louisiana College and its embattled President, Joe Aguillard, reminds me of Denmark. Not the literal country, mind you. Rather, a popular expression that includes references to the country and rotten smells. As one who admittedly has no dog in this fight and has not closely followed the ongoing shennanigans at LC, I have not had an interest in writing on this subject until now. For excellent background, analysis, and opinion from a variety of perspectives, you can check out posts by Joshua Breland at The Daily Bleat (here, here, and here) and Peter Lumpkins at SBC Tomorrow (here, here, and here).
It was actually Peter’s most recent article, “Lawyers exonerate whistleblowers and LC Trustees exonerate Aguillard, but who will exonerate the Trustees?” whch peaked my curiosity. How could I not get interested when he drags lawyers into the mix! After cutting through all the smoke and mirrors,it seems that the main issues surrounding the controversy at Louisiana College, a school affiliated with and supported by the Louisiana Baptist Convention, are not primarily related to Calvinism (although Calvinism has no doubt played a supporting role in the kerfuffle), but rather to Character. Or, the lack thereof. As Alabama Pastor and “Cousin” CB Scott rightly pointed out in a comment on the aforementioned post at SBC Tomorrow:
The issue at LC was always about and continues to be about the absence of Christian character.”
What, prey tell, is Mr. Scott referring to? Could it have anything to do with certain conclusions contained in a written report that was the product of an independent investigation commissioned by LC’s own Board of Trustees? The investigation was conducted by the New Orleans law firm of Kinney, Ellinghausen, Richard & DeShazo. You can read the full report, issued on March 17, 2013, here. Did the Trustees vote to accept or reject the March 17 report or to merely receive it without accepting or rejecting the report’s findings? If the Trustees did not vote to accept, reject, or even receive the report as part of the official record, why not? Is all of this so privileged that Louisiana Baptists must be shielded from knowing the truth? A little bit of sunshine is always the best kind of disinfectant.
From an outsider’s perspective, the facts of this case and the conclusions of the lawyers charged with investigating the allegations against Dr. Aguillard are quite damning if true. I say “if true,” because apparently a majority of the erstwhile Trustees at LC either rejected the statements of fact and conclusions contained in the report OR ignored the findings of the report altogether. The first is indefensible absent another double secret report or additional evidence that was not available to the law firm. The second is unconscionable. Of course, the lack of mitigating evidence — if it exists — can be attributed to Dr. Aguillard’s refusal to attend any scheduled interviews with the lawyers investigating the serious charges leveled against him.
If the Board, in its April 30 meeting, received additional evidence , facts or testimony that would contradict the findings of the independent investigation, it is incumbent upon the Trustees to reveal that. As of now, no one outside the Board is privy to any exonerating evidence. The Board cannot hide behind “Executive Session” to shield them from legitimate questions that they should answer. Unless other evidence outside of the March 17, 2013 report exists, I cannot imagine another scenario in which a majority of LC’s Trustees would have rejected the conclusions of an independent investigation commissioned by the Board itself. That borders on negligence, not to mention a complete and utter abdication of the Trustees’ fiduciary duty to the institution they are supposed to serve and protect.
In voting to retain Joe Aguillard as President of LC, absent any other evidence which has not been publicly divulged, at least a majority of the Board of Trustees ignored or rejected the following findings of the independent investigation:
Our investigation confirms the whistleblower complaints of Dr. Chuck Quarles and Dr. Tim Johnson, and corroborates the Cason’s statements. In light of the information we have to date, we find that (1) Dr. Aguillard intentionally misled the Louisiana College administration, the Board of Trustees, and donors regarding a $10 million pledge from the Cason Foundation, (2) Dr. Aguillard misappropriated Caskey School of Divinity funds for expenses related to LC Tanzania and attempted to hide that misappropriation, and (3) Dr. Aguillard intentionally misled the Louisiana College Board of Trustees and Louisiana College donors regarding promised funding for LC Tanzania. . . .
Based on the actions and misrepresentations of Dr. Aguillard, it is our opinion that the Board of Trustees has more than enough evidence to terminate Dr. Aguillard’s contract on any of these three grounds. Professional demeanor notwithstanding, Dr. Aguillard has engaged in falsehoods and misrepresented material information to the Board of Trustees on countless occasions. While it is not our role to recommend to the Board outright that Dr. Aguillard be terminated, we do strongly advise that there is more than enough evidence for such termination to occur. . . .” (full report here)
How many lies is too many? How many “countless occasions” of the President engaging in falsehoods and misrepresenting material information does it take for the Board of Trustees to terminate Dr. Aguillard’s contract or, at the very least, ask for his immediate resignation? In light of the lawyers’ report and in light of all available public information to date (maybe a double secret report has been hidden somewhere in the Bayou), how could the Chairman of LC’s Board of Trustees make the following statement with a straight face (unless he simply does not know the definition of the word “exonerate”):
After a long, thorough investigation, the board has exonerated Dr. Aguillard of all allegations that were brought forward in the whistleblower complaints.”
Peter Lumpkins asks a penetrating question, one I’m quite sure that Trustee Chairman Gene Lee and other Aguillard supporters do not want addressed, ever:
A very simple question remains: how did the trustees come to exonerate the president given the indisputable conclusion the independent investigation confirmed that, given the factual information they collected, the president appeared guilty as charged?”
Indeed, that is the question that needs to be answered by those purporting to be Trustees of Louisiana College. Silence is not an option. To not answer, in the face of overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing that has not been publicly refuted, is to tell Louisiana Baptists (as well as other Southern Baptists) that “all is well,” when, in fact, the integrity and reputation of the college — and, by extension, the LBC — is being trampled upon by those who should know better.
Standing before reporters and proclaiming that “the board exonerated Dr. Aguillard of all allegations” is like saying that the jury exonerated O.J. Simpson of all murder charges brought against him. Just because the Simpson jury inexplicably voted to acquit the Juice does not mean that he is innocent. Likewise, just because a majority of the Board of Trustees at Louisiana College inexplicably voted to retain Aguillard as President does not mean that he is “exonerated.” Those are complete fictions that only an L.A. jury or an LA Trustee Board could believe!