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Presidential Perks: Comparing Local Community Colleges

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Montgomery College’s president – and angry viewers – respond to investigation into complaints about her spending. (Published Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016)

    Angry students, staffers and county taxpayers expressed frustration and disbelief at what a News 4 I-Team investigation found when it examined how much Montgomery College President Dr. DeRionne Pollard spent on travel, transportation and other expenses in recent years.

    Many said they were unhappy with how much Dr. Pollard charged to the college for her room service, seat upgrades and automobiles not just for herself, but also for her wife, which is allowed in her contract and approved by the school’s Board of Trustees.

    For weeks, the I-Team repeatedly asked the president and the board for an interview. They both declined and would not allow the school’s spokesman to speak on-camera on their behalf.

    Dr. Pollard Responds to Investigation

    But several hours after the investigation aired, Dr. Pollard posted a lengthy response to the story on Montgomery College’s website, reinforcing the financial well-being of the school.

    There have been “$75 million in grants awarded to the College over the last six years that enhance academic programs,” she wrote, with another “$23 million in students' scholarships that has been raised by donors” since she became president in 2010.

    “The College’s Board of Trustees has communicated to me that it has the utmost confidence in me,” she continued. “The Board believes that the news story was based on an antiquated view of community colleges.”

    Comparing Community Colleges

    So the I-Team took a look at how her spending compares to the other community colleges in the area.

    Dr. Scott Ralls became the president of Northern Virginia Community College, often called NOVA, in September 2015. His spokeswoman told the I-Team Dr. Ralls makes $308,000 to oversee 75,000 students. Ronald Mason became the president of the University of the District of Columbia in July 2015 and makes $300,000 a year to oversee 5,100 students, according to his spokesman. The I-Team previously reported Dr. Pollard makes $281,000 to oversee 56,000 students. The schools are charge about the same amount for tuition, ranging between $1,500-$2,100 a semester depending on the number of credits a student takes.

    UDC’s spokesman said the school provides a “car pool driver” for its president. NOVA’s spokesman said it does pay to lease a car for its president, but he does not have a driver. The I-Team found Montgomery College is paying $850 a month for Dr. Pollard’s Infinity Q70 in addition to an SUV and armed driver used to transport her back and forth to her home.

    Neither UDC nor NOVA pay for the president’s spouse to travel, while Montgomery College does pay for Dr. Pollard’s spouse to accompany her on college business trips. The I-Team previously profiled a $12,000 trip the couple took to Honolulu and Austin in 2015, to attend two conferences. One was hosted by the American Association of Community Colleges. That same organization hosted another conference in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, this summer, for which, travel records obtained by the I-Team show, the couple spent another $9,700. This is also the same organization that hosted the conference connected to the president’s five-night, $1,792 stay at the Marriott Wardman in Washington, D.C., in 2014. The I-Team found Dr. Pollard has spent more than $30,000 for she and her wife to attend events hosted by AACC since 2014.

    Many of the couple’s expenses result from seat upgrades and extra baggage fees. Dr. Pollard spent $9,700 on these perks since 2014, records show.

    UDC’s former president was ousted after members of the I-Team, including reporter Tisha Thompson, producer Rick Yarborough and photographer Steve Jones, investigated his travel expenses in 2011, which at the time included seat upgrades. The school no longer pays for those types of upgrades, nor does NOVA, according to their spokespeople.

    UDC said its current president has only taken about five out-of-state trips but did not have a total amount for that travel as of publication. NOVA said its president spent about $8,500 for 13 out-of-state trips since he started in September 2015. This number does not include “parking fees, gas for state vehicle and meals,” the spokeswoman explained.

    The I-Team analyzed similar expenses made by Dr. Pollard since September 2015, excluding all meals and vehicle expenses, and found she spent at least $37,000 on 18 out-of-state trips.

    Previous President Fired Partly Because of Spending

    Montgomery College’s Board of Trustees fired its last president in 2009, in part, for spending too much money on presidential perks, according to media reports at the time. Faculty leaders, these reports said, were upset the former president spent more than $58,000 on his corporate credit card within a 21 month period.

    The I-Team analyzed Dr. Pollard’s last 21 months of spending obtained through the public records request, dating from December 2014 until the end of August 2016, and found she’s spent about $79,000 on her corporate card.