Roxbury Community College tapped former US attorney Wayne Budd on Thursday to investigate accusations of unreported crimes and financial mismanagement that have roiled the school in recent months.
The college is already under investigation by two government bodies: the US Department of Education, which is examining potential lapses in compliance with a national campus crime reporting law, and the Massachusetts auditor’s office, which is looking into crime reporting, as well as financial concerns at the college’s Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center. Late last year, RCC’s trustees hired a private accounting firm to assess a set of related allegations brought by concerned college employees.
Budd — a prominent litigator with the law firm Goodwin Procter who also served as a US associate attorney general — is expected to conduct a more sweeping investigation than the two agencies. Although he will confer with top RCC officials, he is expected to remain independent, playing a role somewhat analogous to that played by former FBI director Louis Freeh during the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse case at Penn State.
Budd is also expected to make recommendations on how RCC can tighten its security policies and financial oversight, said RCC’s interim president Linda Turner, who joined the school two months ago after longtime leader Terrence Gomes stepped down.
“There are things we do wonderfully well. But there are some deficiencies, and I would like for Wayne to lead the charge,” Turner said. “We want to be transparent and open and accountable. Wayne and his operation will help us be better able to do that.”
Budd will be assisted by his colleague, Goodwin Procter partner Damian Wilmot. They are offering their services pro bono.
Turner added that she hoped the investigation would proceed fairly quickly. “I’m looking at months, not years,” she said.
Turner will also spend the next few months conducting her own investigation of sorts.
In a campus-wide letter Aug. 6, she announced that she would take several steps to address allegations related to campus safety, financial aid, and academic management. Among the steps she outlined were a review of “financial aid system processes and scholarship criteria” and a plan to “evaluate current personnel and take appropriate action, where necessary, in response to existing allegations of misconduct.”
She has already begun the process. A little-known scholarship program that raised questions in the college’s recent private internal audit is on hold, she said, at least until she can fully assess it.
According to several college officials with direct knowledge, personnel evaluations are also underway. In mid-August, the officials said, Turner fired Thomas Galvin, RCC’s security chief, citing concerns that arose in the private audit.
That decision may ultimately be challenged. In a June letter to RCC, the Department of Education warned the school that taking “retaliatory actions” against anyone cooperating with its investigation could be illegal. The officials said Galvin has been identified to RCC administrators and faculty members as one of two whistleblowers who brought the school’s troubles to the attention of federal and state regulators. Whistleblowers’ names are supposed to be kept confidential.
Turner declined to confirm that she had let Galvin go, saying she could not comment on personnel decisions.
Budd, 70, has both deep experience and a broad legal background. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he served as the chief federal prosecutor in Massachusetts, winning recognition for combatting violent crime. He went on to lead several divisions of the US Department of Justice.
Ralph Martin, a former Suffolk district attorney who worked for Budd early in his career and is now a senior vice president and general counsel for Northeastern University, said Budd is “an estimable choice.”
“He has led very complicated investigations, and he approaches them with a very clear and open mind,” Martin said. “He doesn’t start with presumptions. These types of investigations tend to touch a number of people inside and maybe outside the institutions. There are high expectations and high anxiety. But [in the case of RCC’s investigation], people should be confident that they will be treated fairly.”
Budd also has a background in higher education: He is a trustee of Wheaton College and the New England School of Law and for years was a trustee at Boston College, his alma mater, where he also taught law.
He is powerfully connected in the city and state’s African-American and political circles. In 2006, he cochaired the gubernatorial campaign of his childhood friend Thomas F. Reilly. When Deval Patrick won the Democratic Party’s nomination, Budd was an influential and vocal supporter.
Martin T. Meehan, the former congressman who now heads the University of Massachusetts Lowell, said Budd’s “common sense and street smarts” would be key to the RCC investigation.
“I would trust him with anything like this to be fair and balanced,” Meehan said. “He’s very much a straight shooter, and he’ll call it as he sees it.”
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