Council on Aging controversy dogs board chairman Dumas in Georgia job hunt

    Brandon Dumas, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management at Southern University, was named one of two finalists earlier this month for the presidency of Paine College, a small, historically black liberal arts college in Augusta, Georgia.

    But the college’s selection committee on Saturday passed over Dumas, who is also chairman of the board of directors of the embattled East Baton Rouge Council on Aging, after reports surfaced in the Augusta media about recent controversies surrounding the COA and allegations of mismanagement by Dumas’ office at Southern.

    It is unclear whether the media reports factored into the committee’s decision to hire retired education executive Jerry Hardee over Dumas. Calls to Paine College and the chairman of its selection committee seeking comment were not returned in time for this morning’s publication.

    But media reports from Augusta TV station WJBF, which received an anonymous package of information about Dumas last week labeled “We Care for PC” and “IMPORTANT READ NOW,” raised serious questions about problems at two entities under Dumas’ leadership.

    Information contained in the package highlighted the ongoing Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office report into the COA’s campaign activities prior to last fall’s tax election. Local attorney Christopher Alexander, who was interviewed by the TV station, uncovered evidence earlier this year—which he has turned over to the legislative auditor—accusing the COA of co-mingling agency and political action committee funds to campaign for a dedicated property tax that will generate nearly $8 million a year for the COA over the next decade.

    In the months since, the COA and its executive director have come under fire on several other fronts as well. Dumas, as board chairman, has declined to speak about the controversies and has referred calls to an attorney representing the agency.

    The WJBF report also raised questions about Dumas’ leadership at Southern. According to the report, a Change.org petition posted by an alumnus of the university blames Dumas’ office for “mismanagement of funds, nepotism, bullying and lack of professionalism.” It is calling for an investigation by the Southern University Board of Supervisors and to date has received more than 650 signatures.

    Dumas did not return a call or an email this morning seeking comment. But in an online letter in response to the petition, Southern Board Chairwoman Ann Smith says Chancellor and President Ray Belton has “assured the Board that he will be meeting with student leaders to discuss issues that are negatively impacting the student experience. Additionally, he will be keeping the Board fully apprised of the developments and concerns learned through these meetings with students.”

    The letter stops short of suggesting the university will formally investigate the allegations outlined in the petition.

    —Stephanie Riegel

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