Monday, February 23, 2009

MATC President Cole Fired After Being Cited For Drunk Driving

By H. Nelson Goodson
El Conquistador Newspaper
3206 W. National Ave.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53215 USA
February 20, 2009

Milwaukee- Milwaukee Area Technical College President Darnell E. Cole, 61, was fired by the MATC Board after a four hour long closed meeting on Thursday. The vote was 6 to 3 in favor to terminate his contract. Cole's attorney said on Friday that Cole is now deciding whether he will file a civil lawsuit against MATC in a state or federal court.
Cole faced an embarrassing situation with faculty, administrators and students for having been cited for driving-drunk. Last week, a Milwaukee County Sheriff’s deputy noticed Cole’s vehicle stopped on southbound I-43/94 near S. Chase Ave. at about 1:40 a.m. on Monday. When the deputy approached the vehicle he noticed Cole inside and he smelled like alcohol. The deputy began asking questions and then noticed Cole’s slurred speech when he tried to respond and glassy eyes, according to the deputy’s report.
Cole was given a sobriety test at the scene and failed. He was taken to a substation where he was given a blood-alcohol test, which measured at 0.20, more than twice the legal limit.
Last Monday, Cole issued an email with an apology. Cole wrote, it was a “serious error in judgment...I deeply regret my actions and any negative impact they may have on MATC. I want to assure you that this will not affect my performance as president and am working with my personal legal counsel to address the situation.”
The MATCBoard met Thursday to deal with Cole’s driving-drunk incident. The MATC contract with Cole terminates in 2011, and within the current contact the Board can terminate Cole’s contract agreement, if he lacks performance or engages in conduct considered grounds for dismissal. In this case, Cole's arrest for drunk-driving and video showing him failing a sobriety test were key factors for the decision to terminate his contract. Numerous media outlets repeatedly aired and published the arrest images that contributed to an embarrassing situation for MATC.
Cole was criticized by former MATCBoard Member State Representative Pedro Colón (D-Milwaukee) for not attending a legislative conference that included six presidents of other state technical colleges in Washington D.C. last week. However, four MATCBoard members and two staffers attended the annual conference geared to help colleges get funds from the economic stimulus bill. The Democratic-controlled Congress and White House agreed Wednesday on a compromise $790 billion economic stimulus bill designed to create millions of jobs in a nation reeling from recession. President Barack Obama could sign the measure within days.
In 2007, Cole was involved in a controversial welding program that extended to a non-profit organization in the south side of Milwaukee. La Esperanza Unida and its executive director Robert Miranda tried to get funding for the welding program, which would have netted the organization millions for training potential welders. The MATCBoard decided not to approve the Esperanza Unida measure and Miranda tried to blame Colón in March 2007 for not supporting the program. Miranda apparently had failed to get support from the MATC Board for the Esperanza Unida welding project for what would have been a multi-million partnership between the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), Esperanza Unida, and Bucyrus. The majority of the MATC Board decided not to fund the project.
A month later, Bucyrus International President and CEO Timothy W. Sullivan sent a letter on April 20, 2007 to Milwaukee Area Technical College President Cole and others, saying that MATC’s Express Ramp welding program can fulfill all the welding requirements needed to fill various job opportunities at Bucyrus. “It appears to me that virtually all of our near term welding requirements can be addressed by MATC’s Express Ramp program. We are very pleased with this program and the current outputs and we don’t believe that additional capital needs to be spent for our needs at this time,” Sullivan wrote.
Miranda blamed two MATC board members, State Representative Pedro Colón and Attorney Peter Earle for voting against Esperanza’s welding project. However Sullivan made it clear afterwards, the project was not actually needed because MATC’s welding program was meeting Bucyrus needs in training enough welders to fill job openings.

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