Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, April 26, 2018

Ladner scandal timeline

N TIMELINE

March 2005 The board of trustees' six-member Executive Committee receives an anonymous whistle-blower 's letter, alleging then-President Benjamin Ladner had used university money for personal expenses, including a French chef, expensive vacations and family parties. The committee begins a preliminary audit of Ladner's travel and entertainment accounts.

April Full board hears the results of the preliminary audit and unanimously votes to continue a more extensive probe of the president's spending. Board votes on a new compensation package for Ladner, which totals about $800,000, including salary and benefits.

May Full board learns of whistle-blower letter. Investigation into Ladner's spending continues.

Aug. 24 Ladner is put on administrative leave with pay. Provost Neil Kerwin is named acting president.

Sept. 28 Faculty and student groups tell trustees they have "no confidence" in Ladner's ability to lead the university during a board meeting. Student activists protest the meeting and are invited in to speak with trustees after staging a sit-in outside Butler Board Room.

Oct. 1 Ladner's longtime executive assistant Margaret Clemmer releases an 11-page statement saying Ladner made no effort to separate his personal and business expenses and insisted on "the best room with the best view" in exclusive hotels, even giving her a guide to fine lodging worldwide, according to The Washington Post.

Oct. 2 Information is released that under the terms of the contract Ladner signed in 1997, he could walk away from the job with a severance package worth more than $1 million.

Oct. 7 Audit documents are leaked to the press, which reports lawyers hired by the executive committee of the board of trustees said that Ladner should reimburse AU more than $115,000 for personal expenses and that he should have reported more than $350,000 in additional taxable income over three years.

Oct. 9 Board Chair Leslie E. Bains resigns, saying she did so in order to avoid complicating the board's decision on Ladner's future.

Oct. 10 The board of trustees votes that Ladner will not return to AU as president and says Kerwin will continue serving as acting president until a replacement is found. The board announces it will seek $125,000 in reimbursements from Ladner and will report an additional $398,000 in imputed income to the IRS for Ladner's tax returns from the years 2002-2005. Moving forward, three committees are established to seek a new board chair, a new president and to focus on improving board governance.

Oct. 11 Board of trustees member Paul Wolff resigns, citing he "cannot and will not continue to serve on a board that counts among its members individuals who show so little regard for the most basic canons of board governance."

Oct. 13 Gary Abramson, an AU alumnus, is selected as the new board of trustees chair to replace Acting Chair Thomas Gottschalk. Abramson still serves as chair today. While the board of trustees met, students, faculty and staff gathered on the quad to protest Ladner's severance package, as well as his possible return to the university as a tenured professor.

Oct. 24 Ladner accepts a $950,000 settlement from the university along with a deferred compensation package, which includes a life insurance policy of close to $1 million and about $1.75 million from retirement accounts.

Oct. 27 The U.S. Senate requests all documents related to the investigation into Ladner's expenses, as well as information about the $3.75 million severance package the board of trustees awarded Ladner following his resignation. Senate Finance Committee Chair Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, sends Gottschalk a letter questioning the board's severance package rewarded to Ladner.

Nov. 10 Board of trustees holds first town hall meeting to discuss Ladner's severance package, improved board governance and the need for communication between board members and the rest of the university community.

Nov. 17 Four former board members, who resigned because of their disagreement with how much money the board gave to Ladner in his severance package, released a statement in response to the prior week's town hall forum that said trustees purposefully adjusted the total value of Ladner's severance package to offset the amount he would have to pay back to the university and to the IRS.

Dec. 1 AU hands over dozens of documents to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, including information on how the trustees decided Ladner's salary, as part of the committee's ongoing probe into mismanagement among non-profit organizations.

Jan. 25, 2006 In line with a plan that student leaders presented to the board calling for specific measures to improve governance, the board decides students will serve as non-voting members on many of the board of trustees' committees, but not on the pivotal Trusteeship or Compensation committees, which decide who will join the board and how much the president will be paid.

Feb. 13 AU gives Ladner $18,000 for items he left in the university-owned Glenbrook Road residence to save the school the cost of buying new furnishings, according to David Taylor, the president's chief of staff.

June 13 SG President Ashley Mushnick submits a letter to the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee saying 13 members of the board of trustees must be removed from office and students need to be given voting rights on the board.

June 14 Mushnick issues clarification statement on communication between the board's Governance Committee and students and issues regarding board members' votes.

Oct. 10 One-year anniversary of Ladner's dismissal from the university.

All information was previously reported by The Eagle.


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