April 28, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: Wild, Wild West

Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em: Elaine Perilla, chair of the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees, and Charles Carlsen, former college president, enjoy the lawlessness of the old west in a media photo for the college's 2005 Dollars for Scholars fundraiser. Carlsen voluntarily retired following allegations of sexual harassment. Perilla, implicated in the cover-up, remains board chair.

April 20, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: Chuck gets Chucked

This message was sent on the college listserve this evening:
From: InfoList
Sent: Thu 20-Apr-06 7:12 PM
To: InfoList
Subject: Announcement

April 20, 2006
Tonight the Johnson County Community College board of trustees met in special session regarding the letter below. The trustees accepted Dr. Carlsen’s request for immediate voluntary retirement.

Ms. Elaine Perilla
Chair Board of Trustees of the Johnson County Community College
12345 College Boulevard
Overland Park, KS 66210
Dear Elaine:
I am writing to advise you that I am taking voluntary retirement from my employment as president of the college. For the reasons described in this letter, I ask that the board of trustees make my retirement immediately effective pursuant to Section 417.01.0 of the Personnel Policies of the college.
The past two weeks have been difficult ones. On the one hand, I have a strong desire to establish what those who know me already know to be true: I have done nothing wrong. On the other hand, however, I have been pained to see the college distracted by issues that have nothing to do with its educational mission. My paramount concern now, as always, is that the college be able to continue to serve this community and provide outstanding educational opportunities for its students.
As I have talked to members of my family, I have also taken into account considerations relating to my health. I have had two heart attacks, an angioplasty, and quintuple bypass surgery. It is apparent to me from the stress of the last two weeks that immediate retirement is the appropriate step to take.
I am deeply honored to have been given the opportunity to serve the Johnson County Community College as its president for more than twenty-five years. I was privileged to work with trustees, administrators, students, and faculty and staff members who rendered wonderful service to the college over many years. I am profoundly grateful for the many members of this community who during my tenure as president rendered volunteer service to the college, made a donation to the college foundation, or simply served as one of the many vocal supporters of this institution.
While I will no longer serve as its president, please be assured that my love for the Johnson County Community College, and my commitment to its mission, will remain as strong as ever.

Sincerely,

Charles J. Carlsen

April 14, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: Good Friday

On April 11, I did what most editors in chief never get to do – I stopped the presses.

My 13-month investigation concerning allegations of sexual harassment against my college’s president by a female employee came to a head.

The college’s Board of Trustees met twice in six days in closed-door sessions. While the local media started digging, I accommodated each new twist. However, knowing other media may break the story, I stopped the presses asking the staff to use the next 24 hours to ensure our story package would be superior.

“They might scoop us, but they can’t tell the story -- we can,” I thought. “I have the sources, the documents, and the best support team allowing me to frame the story -- not just report it.”
I’ve learned so much about investigative reporting from this enterprise – things they don’t teach in a classroom. I promise to break down my process into steps soon. Perhaps my insight will help other student journalists.

Now, I’m learning how to manage the aftermath of having scooped every media organization in the city. Reporters want me as their source. They want my year-long research and access to my sources. Most importantly, I'm trying to learn how not to become the story.

That last one is the hardest because I still have to report the result of these allegations, attend class, work my other job, and manage with my freelance responsibilities.

This was indeed, a good Friday.

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