TORRINGTON – In a hastily-called meeting Friday morning, the Eastern Wyoming College Board of Trustees unanimously accepted the resignation of Vice President of Student Services Donald Appiarius.
With all but one trustee attending the special meeting by telephone, Trustee Bob Baumgartner moved and Mike Varney seconded a motion to accept Appiarius’s resignation, effective immediately, and officially release him from his contract with the college effective Dec. 31.
Appiarius and another, unnamed EWC employee had been on paid administrative leave since late October after reports came to light of a Torrington Police Department investigation looking into allegations Appiarius had told resident advisors in August not to report incidents of underage drinking to police, if it was a first offense.
Torrington Police Chief Tim Hurd said a TPD officer working an unrelated traffic accident was approached by several EWC students who made the allegations. An investigation was launched soon after.
“We received statements from resident advisors and students alike in reference to the conduct that was being allowed up there,” Hurd said. “We were told the Vice President of Student Services made a statement to resident advisors on Aug. 23 at a resident advisor meeting that they were not to call the police unless there was an emergency involving the alcohol consumption of any students.”
Hurd said Friday the investigation, being conducted independently from the college, is still ongoing and could be completed as soon as Dec. 10. Hurd said in October charges, if any, would likely be accessory after the fact to enabling underage drinking, a misdemeanor.
Requests for comment to Appiarius in connection with this story were not answered by press time.
“It could possibly be a criminal violation,” Hurd told the Telegram in October. “Accessory after the fact comes to mind, which is a misdemeanor. It is still under investigation at this time.”
In a release dated Nov. 15, college spokesperson Tami Afdahl said the second employee was released from leave and would return to work. That employee was reassigned, the release stated.
Prior to voting Friday to accept the resignation, board president John Patrick asked for any discussion on the matter. When none ensued, Patrick asked EWC President Dr. Lesley Travers about a “hold-harmless agreement in favor of Eastern Wyoming College,” as well as any financial responsibilities the college has toward Appiarius.
Travers said the paperwork on the agreement was prepared and the college owed Appiarius a “small severance amount.”
“The hold-harmless agreement will be executed before we make any of those small payments to him?” Patrick asked, with Travers responding in the affirmative.
Appiarius started his employment with EWC on July 1 of this year. Since he’s been on paid leave, Appiarius’s duties have been split between Travers and Roger Humphrey, vice president of academic services at EWC.
Following the meeting, Travers said that arrangement would continue at least until the end of the semester in mid-December. Travers said she is currently looking at a variety of options including opening a national search for a new VPSS or to promote from within the college for someone to take over those responsibilities.
“The thing is, we have a number of options,” Travers said. “Our third option – there are plenty more, but these are the three we’re looking at – would be to promote Roger Humphrey to Executive Vice President, to cover both Student Services and Academics, and hire a Dean of Student Services.”
Trustees had discussed, and scrapped, a similar “two-dean” model earlier this year. The difference being the previous plan would have had two academic deans, instead of one each responsible for academics and student services, Travers said.
The new two-dean model would be necessary because “there’s no way Roger (Humphreys) could cover both sides of the house without assistance,” Travers said. “We need to think that through a little more.
“But, we’re at a good point, with just three weeks left (in the semester) with both of us covering things,” she said. “This is a great time to sit down, think about it and assess it.”
For now, the college administration is focused on hiring a Residence Hall Director, with interviews scheduled to begin next week. After that, Travers will present proposals for the Board of Trustees to consider.
“I can’t honestly say I’m married to (one plan over another),” she said. “I want to be sure I make the best recommendation to the board that I can, that’s going to work for us.”