Written by John Face
February 3, 2023
Photos John Face & Albion College website
As days have turned into months, months into a year plus, we still have no resolution of the former Albion College President Mat Johnson debacle. Most of us know what happened but allow me to offer a Reader’s Digest version for those who don’t.
A Very Brief History of the Mat Johnson Tenure
In the middle of December of 2021 Mat Johnson, who at the time had been President of Albion College for just 18 months, verbally assaulted Albion matriarch Hazel Lias, at the college gym during a basketball tournament. He was yelling at her, pointing his finger at her face just inches away while accusing local Albion mentor Maurice Barry of causing trouble, saying he was trying to incite students during a mental health rally which was supporting a fellow student at the school on the Quad. For full disclosure, Johnson accused this writer of trying to incite students when I, like Mr. Barry, literally stood around listening to students speak.
Ultimately Johnson was shown the door by the Board of Trustees on Christmas Eve of 2021. He had already left town days after his verbal and near physical assault on Lias after allegedly receiving multiple death threats, leaving the College in shambles and relations with the local community beyond strained.
Now a year has passed, and this writer is ready for a chorus of “let it go” “let’s move on” from readers, but really, we can’t until the college administration and Board of Trustees are held accountable for what they did to the City of Albion and Albion College. The board, as a whole, appeared to be derelict in their willingness to allow a small group of its members to control everything. That normally is a bad thing in big business and for small colleges.
I Wish Maurie Was Still Here
That heading has been a constant phrase around campus and the city for going on two years. Maurie Ditzler, the retired College President whom Johnson replaced, created bridges, hell, he created superhighways of partnership between the college and city. Was he perfect? No, but in my lifetime never have I seen such wonderful cooperation between the two entities, Albion named a street after him upon his announcement to retire. The only people who opposed Ditzler, Albion College and the City of Albion before the Johnson tenure were the same people willing to sell their souls to him (Johnson) because he promised these council members, a few school board members and “community leaders” magic beans, also known as millions in money and gifts. Some from this same group did benefit financially from Johnsons actions.
Attorney General Investigation – Secret Email Accounts
When City Watch broke the story that Albion College was being investigated by the Michigan Attorney General’s (AGO) office most in the community refused to believe the story. Insiders at the college were very aware of the ongoing “inquiry” as they called it. The only problem was that according to sources some Trustees only found out after reading our reporting.
So, the current College administration is now telling Board and staff that they were cooperating and handing over documents when asked by the AGO, yet not once did they come out to the public and admit this was happening. As the weeks went on, more and more college alums and citizens started to believe Albion College staff, current and/or former, may have broken the law somehow. Why else would they remain silent?
City Watch has reached out to Interim College President Joe Calvaruso and Board of Trustees Chairperson, Joey Miller. Neither has released any type of statement to us, not even a generic one as simple as “yes we are currently working with the Attorney General’s office and supplying them with information as they request”. Neither has replied to multiple requests from City Watch for an interview or comment. We even used this link for BOARD OF TRUSTEES FEEDBACK FORM on the college web site to try and get any response. No responses yet. Funny, isn’t it? The Board of Trustees asks for opinions and questions yet are dead silent.
Board of Trustees Need to Answer Questions
Alumni, students, staff, local citizens, businesses and local government do have the right to know what is going on; the last Board Chair Mike Harrington didn’t think anyone needed information. Harringtons email to then Marshall Public School President Richard Lindsey during this Johnson controversy shows where he was at. That was the problem under his tenure and previous Board Chairs; they looked at themselves first and everyone else second.
Today we sit here with nothing but questions and no answers. Is there missing money? Why do the AGO investigators want access to former President Mat Johnson’s encrypted email account? What did they find in regular email accounts that caused them to take serious looks at Johnson and other staff? Is senior staff, both current and past being closely looked at? Can they explain if large amounts of money were spent on WG Construction and staff with little work to show for it? Is the Interim President, as multiple sources have stated, in regular contact with Mat Johnson?
We suspect that most if not all of these questions will never be answered by Albion College. There are answers out there and City Watch is working hard to find them. All we ask from you in the community is to keep supporting Albion College. They are the community’s largest employer and an important part of our history.
I love Albion College and enjoy spending my time on campus for events that they open to the public. I ask that all of us make an extra effort to support them. Now that doesn’t mean we let them off the hook for the actions they have taken against our city, but the college is slowly getting rid of all the senior Johnson appointees who were and continue to bring shame on their fine institution. The long-standing problem that those appointees are causing fear among employees continues sadly. It really is time to clean house of Johnson’s former cabinet and senior leadership appointees. It’s well past time for several members of the Board of Trustees to step down and allow new blood that will try and benefit the college and not trying to cover their own butts. At this point no one knows for sure if board members are a target regarding their potential malfeasance. One can assume that the AGO is looking at how funds were transferred and spent, and who knew about that?
More to come.
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