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Law enforcement raids Eastern Gateway Community College

The administration’s insistence that all things are heading in the right direction for Eastern Gateway Community College didn’t stop a bevy of law enforcement agencies from raiding the college earlier today. Investigators from no fewer than six separate local, state, and federal agencies dropped in on EGCC to execute a search warrant in connection with their ongoing investigations.

The Ohio Auditor of State’s Special Investigation Unit led the parade. Joining were the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office, the Columbus Police Department, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center, and the US Secret Service. It appears as though the school’s accreditation status is the least of its problems.

The primary focus of the multiple (and cooperative) ongoing investigations is financial irregularities associated with investigations already being prosecuted, and additional concerns the agencies have. EGCC’s former president, Jimmy Bruce, and Bruce’s Chief of Staff (and former VP) Jim Miller face a handful of felony charges including grand theft, theft in office, wire fraud, having an unlawful interest in a public contract, and misusing the college’s credit cards.

The charges involve alleged misappropriation of more than $43,000 in public funds between 2015 and 2019. Additionally, prosecutors allege that the men improperly awarded college contracts to family members. EGCC’s Board of Trustees terminated the pair in 2020 after the allegations arose.

These allegations are separate from the trouble EGCC ran into related to its now-defunct Free College Benefit program. The FCB benefited AFSCME members by leveraging the Pell Grant program perhaps a little too well. The US Department of Education determined that the college used Pell Grant proceeds from eligible students to pay for the expenses incurred by non-eligible students.

Eastern Gateway Community College offers cautionary lessons

Statements by the Auditor of State seemed to indicate that in addition to supporting the charges against Bruce and Miller, the agencies were looking for evidence of additional financial misconduct at the college. Without question, EGCC would like to put this episode behind it, but its myriad entanglements won’t allow that to happen.

Even if none of the law enforcement agencies are looking at financial irregularities related to the Free College Benefit program, a multi-agency raid on EGCC’s administrative offices doesn’t give reason for hope that the HLC’s next campus visit will go smoothly. Additionally, prosecutors may be preparing to hand down additional indictments.

Today’s events at EGCC should serve as a reminder that one can trace virtually all of EGCC’s problems – from its indicted administrators to its severe financial crisis to its probationary accreditation status – trace back to the EGCC administration’s negligent pursuit of “free” money for the “benefit” of students who do not live in their community.

Other community college administrators should take note.

Photo Credit: Ohio Auditor of State