Scandal dogs presidents

August 15, 2003

A US university president has stepped down after his ex-wife claimed during their divorce trial that he had cheated to obtain his job, and another has resigned after being criticised for failing to help authorities find his fugitive brother.

Lucy Shumaker said University of Tennessee officials had given her politically well-connected husband John the list of questions he was going to be asked by trustees in his interview to be appointed successor to former Tennessee president J. Wade Gilley. Mr Gilley resigned last year in a scandal relating, among other things, to allegations of an improper relationship with a subordinate.

Mr Shumaker's troubles began earlier this summer, one year into his tenure as president, when his use of a university aircraft came under scrutiny. A review of travel records, which was initiated after the president asked the university to buy a new plane, showed that he had used the old plane to take personal trips, The Knoxville News reported.

The newspaper raised questions about a $300,000 (£190,000) no-bid consulting contract that the university had awarded to a friend of Mr Shumaker's. The president repaid $25,000 but further allegations emerged from the divorce proceedings.

Tennessee governor Phil Bresden said he would call a special meeting of the executive committee of the board of trustees later this month to discuss who should be interim president.

In his letter of resignation, Mr Shumaker says: "This step is in the best interests of the university. I simply cannot permit our students, faculty, staff, alumni and trustees to be distracted from their important work by letting the controversies of the past several weeks continue."

Mr Shumaker's resignation comes on the heels of the departure of William M.

Bulger, president of the University of Massachusetts system, who has been under fire over his mobster brother - who is accused of multiple counts of murder.

The severance payment to Mr Bulger, president of the University of Massachusetts system, is close to $1 million. His annual pension of $240,000, at a time of budget cuts, further enraged opponents.

He said he was stepping down only because political enemies were using him to hurt the university. He called the complaints against him "a calculated political assault".

Governor Mitt Romney had already threatened to appoint new trustees to the university board who would agree to remove Mr Bulger.

Mr Bulger said he did not know the whereabouts of his brother, James "Whitey" Bulger, one of America's ten most-wanted criminals, a mobster accused of 18 counts of murder, racketeering, drug offences, extortion and money-laundering, who was at one point believed to be living in London.

Yet he was forced to admit before a congressional committee that, contrary to his previous claims, he had spoken to his brother by telephone. He also understated his presidential salary to the media, and claimed to have raised more money for the university system than he had.

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