Suffolk University ends contract with George Regan’s PR firm
Suffolk University ended its longstanding and contentious relationship with Regan Communications on Tuesday, amid complaints by alumni, students, and others that the firm’s high-profile chairman exerted undue influence on the school’s governing board.
The company, led by public relations guru George Regan, received $294,019 in fiscal year 2014, the most recent financial information publicly available.
Suffolk severed its ties with Regan following a week of turmoil on the campus that started when some trustees attempted to oust president Margaret McKenna. She refused to resign, but under an agreement with trustees reached Friday, she agreed to step down no later than the fall of 2017.
Regan shot back Tuesday night with a strongly worded statement that said McKenna fired him “hastily” because of a personal agenda.
“President McKenna has chosen to blame me for her contentious relationship with the board, rather than acknowledging her own indefensible actions as the true reason for the board’s deep and valid concerns for her ability to lead the university,” Regan said.
He also said trustees on Friday had enough votes to terminate McKenna but instead “chose to take the high road to stop the onslaught of attacks that Margaret McKenna was waging against the board on a public stage, which was causing significant damage to the school.”
In recent months, Suffolk’s contract with Regan had been a bone of contention.
When McKenna took office in July, she made it clear she planned to review all of the school’s contracts with external vendors and was prepared to end Regan’s arrangement with the college, despite the urging of some trustees.
Last week, during a standoff between McKenna and trustees, Regan told a Globe columnist that the board should “cut your losses, stop the bleeding, and move on.”
Suffolk spokesman Greg Gatlin said in a phone interview Tuesday that McKenna had notified the firm Tuesday that she was ending the relationship.
“Regan Communications no longer represents the university,” said Gatlin, who declined to elaborate.
McKenna did not return a call for comment. Board chairman Andrew Meyer did not return a call seeking comment.
Students and alumni spoke out against the contract last week after learning that one of Regan’s employees, Julie Kahn, is also a Suffolk trustee. Kahn has said she plans to leave the board when her term ends this spring. She declined to comment Tuesday.
Regan’s firm has represented the school for 27 years. A Regan employee, Mariellen Norris, works full time in Suffolk’s communications office as senior associate director of public affairs. She will no longer work at Suffolk at the school’s urging, according to Regan’s firm.
Regan also has connections to several board members, who are clients, former clients, or friends.
Students applauded the decision to drop the Regan contract.
“That was one our basic concerns, the conflict of interest,’’ Student Government Association President Colin Loiselle said Tuesday .“We’re so happy to hear that’s been eliminated.”