Written by John Face
April 27, 2023
As the investigation into the complaint filed by Stephen Greenhaugh and Bill Dobbins on April 12, 2022, begins, it would have been evident by any observer the Attorney General’s (AG) office was taking it seriously.
It’s About the Money
This is an email City Watch received via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) from the Attorney General’s office. It shows that around two weeks after the complaint is filed, they are actively working on the case. As you can see, after a cursory look at the Dobbins/Greenhaugh complaint, the Attorney General’s office sees things differently.
From: Heckman, Brien (AG)
To: Mertens, Scott (AG); Evans, Jason (AG); Fowler, Darrin (AG)
Subject: FW: Albion College
Date: Thursday, April 28, 2022
Scott, Jason, and Darrin,
We received a Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA) complaint yesterday afternoon regarding Albion College. See attached. The gist is that they’ve been using their endowment to pay budget deficiencies. The documentation provided isn’t clear. The claimant, a former trustee, claims the amount drawn was $100 million over 10 years. Cassi and I spoke, and she estimated the value (if true) to be more around $50 million. However, the chart provided isn’t clear, and we don’t have the supporting documentation.
For the moment, the complaint is just from the former trustee and his counsel.
I have a plan to address the allegation. I’m not sure if you want to meet to discuss.
Regards, Brien Winfield Heckman Assistant Attorney General
Let’s not think $50 million is chump change, as the $50 or $100 million are obscene numbers. We will look deeper into the claims of overspending at a later date, but this email shows that things were moving fast.
In an email dated May 23, 2022, sent by Brien Winfield Heckman, Assistant Attorney General, Corporate Oversight Division, to Tom Delano, another employee of the Attorney General’s office, stated:
Without notifying the College, can you please get me contact info for the heads of the respective Department’s of Albion: Math, etc. I think you can likely find the info online.
The same for the following individuals:
1. Kim – a high ranking institutional advancement employee perhaps under Mark Neuman
2. Mark Neuman
3. Vicki Baker-Harris
4. Mark Holbrook
By next week Wednesday is fine.
Regards, Brien Winfield Heckman
The response from Delano came on May 26:
I’ve attached the compiled contact list. Some of the professors don’t have personal office phones listed, so I noted that the number listed is the department’s phone number. Let me know if I can add anything.
Here is the attachment (City Watch edited out phone numbers and email addresses)
Marc A. Neuman VP for Institutional Advancement
Kimberly Frick Arndts Chief Advancement Officer – Alumni Relations
Vicki Baker-Harris Professor, Economics and Management
Mark Holbrook Controller
Dr. Brad Chase Chair, Anthropology and Sociology
Michael Dixon Chair, Art and Art History
Kenneth J. Saville Chair, Biology
Kevin Metz Chair, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Karen Erlandson Chair, Communication Studies
Carrie A. Menold Chair, Earth and Environment
John B. Bedient Chair, Economics and Management
Suellyn Henke Chair, Education
Danit Brown Chair, English
Lynn Verduzco-Baker Chair, Ethnic Studies
Marcy Sacks Chair, History
Bindu Madhok Chair, International Studies
Heather H. Betz Chair, Kinesiology
Mark E. Bollman Chair, Mathematics and Computer Science
Dianne Guenin-Lelle Chair, Modern Languages and Cultures
Dr. David Abbott Chair, Music
Bindu Madhok Chair, Philosophy
Nicolle Zellner Chair, Physics
William D. Rose Chair, Political Science
Drew Christopher Chair, Psychological Science
Peter Valdina Chair, Religious Studies
Zach Fischer Chair, Theatre
Dr. Scott Melzer Chair, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
When this author first read this email, I was puzzled at the “secrecy” involved, “without notifying the College.” City Watch has been unable to find in any of the emails we have received from the FOIA why Heckman wanted this information so early on. Did he want them for quick reference in case he wished to contact them as witnesses or for questions? He could have quickly asked the College but chose this route. Only he can tell us, but the Attorney General’s office will not comment on pending investigations.
Albion City Council and Marshall School Board Actions Questioned?
Another email sent the morning of May 23 shows that Heckman is full steam ahead for the investigation. It is sent to Scott Mertens of the Attorney General’s office. The former President mentioned is Mat Johnson:
Subject: Albion College Public Integrity
In processing the Albion Foundation matter, a witness has made some second hand (hearsay) allegations regarding impropriety of the former president, and well as local public offices: paying off debts, being given jobs, etc. I wanted to make you aware in case we need to refer the matter to another division. I do not believe Albion is regulated by the Board of Education as it’s a private college – so it wouldn’t be HEFS.
Regards, Brien Winfield Heckman
Assistant Attorney General
The reply from Mertens was soon to follow at 3:01 the same afternoon:
Subject: RE: Albion College Public Integrity
Thank you, Brien. Is this something we need to act on now or are we waiting for anything?
Scott A. Mertens
As you can see, the Attorney General is aware of issues from a separate complaint filed with them. The alleged gifts for votes with the Albion City Council, Marshall Public School Board members, then board president Richard Lindsey and their Superintendent by the college President Johnson and others are on their radar. City Watch reported on this in the past in our original interview with Johnson. Click on this link to view the original story Click here for link to original story
City Watch has in its possession the entire second complaint that involves claims of criminal activity of the former college president Mat Johnson, and we plan on sharing it with you soon. City Watch cannot confirm whether Johnson, Albion City Council, and Marshall Public School Board are or were investigated. Still, it seems unlikely that this email ended here without action. The reader must be aware that many items are redacted from FOIA requests. Since the second complaint would be a criminal investigation, it certainly would be handled by another division at the Attorney General’s office, so that any further information would require another FOIA.
Yeah, Still About the Money
This email from Heckman to Jeff Ott, Board of Trustee (BOT) member and legal counsel for the College for this investigation on June 21, 2022, gives the reader an idea of where the investigation is going. As you can see, they have expanded the period they wish to look at.
From: Heckman, Brien (AG) Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2022 3:27 PM To: Ott, Jeffrey
Subject: RE: [EXTERNAL] Albion Meeting
I’m following up on our previous conversation. I have some follow up questions and would like the financial documents from Plante Moran and the prior accounting firm concerning the endowment for the period 2000 to now. At a minimum, I want them to show the balance, any additions, and the draws.
I have additional questions concerning funds given to specific schools, departments, or programs. If a gift was made to the chemistry department, or the football program, I’d like an accounting of those funds since the current CFO assumed his office. I’m assuming these may be easier to obtain than the documents pertaining to the endowment, and if so, I’d like them sooner. I basically want the financial records showing additions, and draws to the respective funds, and if consolidated, any spreadsheet that shows the balance of the funds owing to each individual.
While you indicated that you were representing the school. Feel free to pull in another attorney. I know Skidmore is at your office. If foundations and trusts are not your expertise, I have no problem working through another attorney.
Brien Winfield Heckman
Ott pushes back some:
From: Ott, Jeffrey Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2022 2:17 PM
To: Heckman, Brien (AG)
Subject: RE: [EXTERNAL] Albion Meeting
Brien: In re-reading your message, I note that in the first paragraph you ask for data going back to 2000. Do you really intend for us to dig up 22 years worth of information? That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I can understand going back to 2010. Please let me know.
Best, Jeff Ott
Heckman was clear about what he wanted in his reply a few days later:
From: Heckman, Brien (AG) Sent: Tuesday, June 28, 2022 3:41 PM To: Ott, Jeffrey
Subject: FW: [EXTERNAL] Albion Meeting
Jeff, If it’s available, it’s available. That said, if your client can tell me what the corpus was as of 2010, we can start from that date for now.
Brien Winfield Heckman
In other emails, Heckman asks for, in some cases, line-by-line accounting, almost as if he was looking for something. Indeed, it’s not a surprise as it’s his job, but the investigation has taken a serious look into Albions’ financial activities. Asking for draws during the current “CFO”, Gary Blacks’ tenure is also interesting. Makes one question, what is he looking for? What has he found?
Board of Trustees Needs to Make Changes
As this weekend is graduation for several Albion College students, it also means the BOT is in town for one of their annual meetings. The BOT has been at the root of Albions’ problems these last few years. As some members that have spoken to me try to throw shade at previous Presidents, the fact is they allowed this craziness to continue over many administrations.
Some members, like Jeff Ott, have overstayed their welcome on the board. A few more have run the school and bullied the remainder of the board to go along with them. These “captains” of industry spent entire careers running corporations but can’t figure out how badly they screwed up with hiring Mat Johnson because it would make them look foolish.
This writer has spoken with dozens of current and past employees and Alums. Everyone can list the top three things wrong at the College, and an ineffective BOT is on each list.
Part 3 coming soon.
Want to speak to us? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Leave a Reply