TUCUMCARI, N.M. (KAMR/KCIT) — Mesalands Community College is facing financial struggles, and staff, faculty, and executive staff have voted no confidence in the president and Mesalands Community College Board of Trustees.

In a vote that took place on February 5th, the chief executive staff overwhelmingly voted no confidence in President Dr. Gregg Busch, in an eight to zero vote.

“The reasons for the no-confidence vote include the following. The president unilaterally implemented salary increases back in January of 2022 and did not communicate with New Mexico Higher Education Department (HED) or Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) or obtain approval from either also blatantly exceeded the state appropriation budget, which contributed to the financial situation that we currently have. The president continued hiring employees at multiple levels without consideration of the appropriation budget or the operating budget of the college throughout 2022. The president was notified multiple times from July 2022 through December 2022. That the college was in a declining financial position. You refused to share this information with all members of the college. You also stated that if any members of the executive staff mentioned the financial condition of the college to anyone outside the executive staff, they would be fired. The president was directed by HED to hold an emergency board meeting in order to present an emergency solvency plan. He did not comply. The president was directed to share the HED letter to all Mesalands employees that notified the college it was being placed on fiscal oversight fiscal watch. He did not comply. The President was directed by the LFC to hold an emergency board meeting in order to present and get approval for an emergency solvency plan. It did not comply. The president had told us that confidentiality was an issue. We as the executive staff had to keep everything confidential and we would not tell anyone about the financial situation of the college, even though we had received a letter from HED. To share their fiscal oversight letter that was dated January 18. The president created a hostile work environment for not only the chief executive staff members but also many other employees in the college. The president has yelled at many staff members and made an effort to bully others and threatened with firing. The president was notified back in December of 2022, the financial situation was dire. We even visited HED to explain the situation. However, the president refused to take action due to a lack of fiscal sense of urgency. The president told everyone they could not contact board members directly or they would be fired. In a hostile work environment being threatened to be fired was the case. The president failed to support the core mission of the college and every aspect to serve the students and serve the community. The president this directly disregarded the advice of at least three CFOs and the entire chief executive staff. For these reasons, the executive staff voted unanimously vote of no confidence,” said Dr. Duane Brooks, Chief of Staff and Assistant to the President.

As a result, the executive staff is recommending the removal or resignation of Dr. Busch from his role as president.

Because of the current financial state of the college, the board of trustees approved an emergency solvency plan at a special meeting this past Thursday.

“The plan starts with overall salary cuts estimated to include savings including fringe benefits for the remainder of fiscal year 23 of 872,168, approximately consisting of the following actions in order to comply with HED recommendation to reverse salary increases implemented by Dr. Busch in January of 2022, which did not receive LFC or HCD approval for increased appropriation. The following actions would be taken, including a base salary cut of 15% for employees making $110,000 a year and up for the remainder of fiscal year 23. A base salary cut of 10% for employees making $80,000 a year to $109,000 a year for the remainder of fiscal year 23. A base salary cut of 5% for employees making $50,000 a year to $79,999 a year for the remainder of fiscal year 23 and a base salary cut of 2% for employees making $35,000 a year to $49,999 a year for the remainder of fiscal year 23. The total fringe benefits savings at an estimated rate of 35% would take place. We’d also perform a comprehensive job analysis of all employees to identify redundancies and opportunities for efficiencies that would take place by our HR department. We implement a hiring freeze. We’ve already done that. We’d also do a comprehensive program analysis to identify low-enrollment programs, cut inefficient programs, and eliminate programs that do not have sufficient enrollment to remain financially viable… No travel, no reimbursement of personal vehicle expenses. We’ve eliminated cross country and golf for the spring of 2023,” said Dr. Brooks.

The Mesalands Community College Board of Trustees also approved a request for $4.8 million in emergency funding from the New Mexico Board of Finance Emergency Operating Fund. They also plan to attend that state board’s meeting on February 21st to formally request those funds.
That supplemental funding is from the Legislative Finance committee. The college is currently requesting one-time funding to cover the remainder of the fiscal year 2023.

Faculty Senate President, Janet Griffiths, who represented the faculty at the board meeting said the faculty were unable to understand the lack of appropriate oversight of the college’s finances for that reason in near unanimity of the faculty voted to censor both the President and the Board of Trustees by a vote of no confidence.

“Several faculty members would like to acknowledge that they are not particularly surprised that the college is experiencing a deficit in funding, but they are appalled at the magnitude of the financial crisis,” said Griffiths.

According to Faculty Senate President, Kim Enriquez, the college only has enough money to cover payroll for two more pay periods.

The Mesalands Community College is planning to have a special meeting of the board of trustees on February 14th at 5:30 mountain time for the approval to immediately enact the emergency solvency plan, which can be watched on Mesalands Community College’s YouTube.

On February 11th, Mesalands Community College made a declaration of resolved commitment by its faculty, staff, and executive staff to the success of the students and a resolved commitment to their no-confidence votes.

In a statement, Mesalands Community College said they always placed the students as its highest priority and this commitment resolves to ensure the student’s completion regardless of challenges the College may face. It is this responsibility to the student that required a vote of no confidence. Such a vote is a mechanism put in place to protect the student and the College. This vote was an attempt to communicate changes needed to occur to ensure students are not negatively impacted and to maintain the successful operation of the College.

In the meeting on February 5th, Dr. Busch released a statement regarding the situation:

In regards to the HED report and recommendations, Mr. Chairman and members of the board, as you are aware, I am confined and quite ill under a physician’s care and on approved medical leave for COVID and complications from Parkinson’s disease. I am currently out of town receiving medical treatment and unable to attend tonight. Regretfully, my attorney is also out of town and unable to represent me tonight. Therefore, let me reiterate my steadfast commitment to supporting a solvency plan acceptable to HED and LFC and it only impacts the mid-range employees minimally, if at all the entire level of employees. And the heaviest weight is carried by the chief officer level. While preserving the culture of the region, the plan I proposed, which was kept out and not permitted to be integrated, recommends an adjustment differing from what I presented establishes a more physically sound approach, and presents less personal financial impact on the mid-range and entire-level employees. I would have appreciated having been given the opportunity to present and integrate better physical health of the college. With regard to the false allegations made toward me, I asked that I be given the right to respond and that no action will be taken in my absence, and without my legal counsel, that would adversely affect my interest.

Gregory TBuschEd.D, President at Mesalands Community College

In January, in a unanimous vote, Mesalands Community College Board of Trustees voted to extend Dr. Busch’s contract for four more years.