Former Burlington College President Unloads on Board, Jane Sanders | Off Message

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Former Burlington College President Unloads on Board, Jane Sanders


Updated September 6, 2016 at 5 p.m. with comments from Carol Moore.

Carol Moore, the most recent president of now-closed Burlington College, is publicly excoriating its board of trustees and People’s United Bank for backing previous president Jane O’Meara Sanders’ decision to buy a $10 million lakeside campus in 2010.

In a letter to the editor published in the Chronicle of Higher Education on Thursday, Moore describes the land purchase, which plunged the college into debt, as an “appallingly inappropriate business deal.” She blames it for the school’s demise.

Moore, a former Lyndon State College president who was appointed interim president of Burlington College in December 2014, demurred from criticizing her predecessors during her time in that post. (O’Meara Sanders was forced to resign in 2011. Her chief financial officer, Christine Plunkett, took the helm until she resigned suddenly in July 2014.)

But in her explosive letter to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Moore doesn’t hold back. She writes:

BC’s fate was set when its former board members hired an inexperienced president and, six years later, approved the imprudent purchase of a $10 million piece of property for campus expansion. Enrollment that year was about 195 and the budget just over $4 million, less than half of this ill-advised investment. What were they thinking? Where was the Finance Committee when these decisions were being made?
Former Burlington College interim president Carol Moore - FILE: ALICIA FREESE
  • File: Alicia Freese
  • Former Burlington College interim president Carol Moore
She suggests that People’s United Bank, which gave the college a $6.7 million loan to buy the land, was improperly influenced by O’Meara Sanders’ status as the wife of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). And she alludes to allegations that O’Meara Sanders overstated the donations she’d lined up to get that loan approved:

More interestingly, what bank lends a small, private, unendowed college of that size and financial status an amount that so obviously outweighs its ability to repay? People’s United Bank of Vermont. And the collateral? One planned gift of a revocable trust, payable upon the death of the donor, and the "promise" of another million-dollar gift. But, alas, no written record of such a "promise" could be found, anywhere in Burlington College’s records.

Who is to blame for this appallingly inappropriate business deal? Perhaps a board that steered clear of the tough questions which needed to be asked. Or a bank in the state of an influential senator — a senator, as it turned out, with bigger ambitions?

Reached by phone on Tuesday, Moore said the decision to approve the land sale warrants greater scrutiny — for the sake of the displaced students and staff. “I think it’s very, very important that somebody or some group of people get to the bottom of it and make it public.”

“I don’t have the answers,” she added. “I just happen to be personally involved in
the situation where students and faculty and staff were disadvantaged.”

The senator and O’Meara Sanders could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

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