September 6, 2007

Opinion: Meet the FOC-ers

Walking on the Ledge:
Former JCCC president accused of unlawful harassment returns to public life thanks to low friends in high places

Charles Carlsen, former president of Johnson County Community College, has slithered his way back into public life thanks to the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).

A unanimous vote by the BOCC named Carlsen and six others to the newly formed Johnson County Public Arts Commission Aug. 30.

In 2005 while celebrating his silver anniversary as president of JCCC, Carlsen abruptly resigned when the student newspaper, The Campus Ledger, published allegations of sexual harassment against him.

Despite his public resignation and a statement from JCCC's Board of Trustees acknowledging other harassment victims, Carlsen continues to sit on the Board of Directors of the JCCC Foundation.

What does this have to do with the Public Arts Commission?

Annabeth Surbaugh, BOCC chair, and David Lindstrom, commissioner, currently serve on the JCCC Foundation's Board of Directors with Carlsen.

It was Lindstrom who nominated Carlsen to serve on the Public Arts Commission.

According to GuideStar, an organization that tracks public information provided by nonprofits, Lindstrom and Carlsen also sit on the Board of Directors of the Shawnee Mission Medical Center Foundation.

But Lindstrom and Surbaugh aren't the only commissioners with ties to Carlsen.

In 2005, The JCCC Foundation honored Commissioner Ed Eilert as Johnson Countian of the Year.

Commissioner Ed Peterson worked with Carlsen on the Bistate II tax proposal.

In 2002, JCCC hosted an Ingram's magazine event where Carlsen, Peterson, Surbaugh and others discussed Johnson County's economic future.

And while not incriminating, Commissioner John Toplikar attended JCCC as a student when Carlsen presided as its leader.

Upon his unanimous approval by the commissioners, Carlsen will represent the third district. But more importantly he now has the clout to strut around Johnson County and perhaps onto the JCCC campus free to terrorize his alleged victims and their families.

Teresa Lee, the woman who brought the first allegations against Carlsen, told the Kansas City Star that neither Carlsen nor his supporters ever faced the reality of the situation.

"It’s a small community, a tight-knit community,” she said. “I just don’t think they understood."

This is not the first time Friends of Carlsen, or FOCs, have tried to restore Chuck to his former glory.

Last December, at JCCC Foundation event "Some Enchanted Evening," Calrsen took his first steps in public. In support of Chuck, the benevolent Polskys committed thousands o
f dollars to a scholarship in Chuck's name and urged other FOCs to contribute.

I know his victims and others on campus would like to see his name removed from the Carlsen Center. And Chuck slithering back into public life might just be the incentive
they need.