McDonnell will reshape troubled U.Va. board

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Photo - Hundreds gather in front of the Rotunda for a silent vigil in support of the reinstatement of ousted University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan, Wednesday, June 20, 2012. The Faculty Senate continued its efforts to get the Board of Visitors to reinstate the popular Sullivan. (AP Photo/The Daily Progress, Sabrina Schaeffer)
Hundreds gather in front of the Rotunda for a silent vigil in support of the reinstatement of ousted University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan, Wednesday, June 20, 2012. The Faculty Senate continued its efforts to get the Board of Visitors to reinstate the popular Sullivan. (AP Photo/The Daily Progress, Sabrina Schaeffer)
Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

Though he threatened to oust the University of Virginia's entire Board of Visitors this week if they did not quickly resolve the controversy over former U.Va. President Teresa Sullivan, Gov. Bob McDonnell was already set to reshape the group at the center of the debacle still roiling the campus.

The terms of four members of the university's governing body expire on July 1, and McDonnell must name people to those seats. McDonnell can reappoint two of those Board of Visitors members, including embattled Rector Helen Dragas. He must also find a replacement for Vice Rector Mark Kington, who resigned last week amid the turmoil.

Lawmakers, faculty and interim president Carl Zeithaml, dean of the McIntire School of Commerce, have called on McDonnell to take advantage of the five appointments to reduce the board's focus on money.

"The state of Virginia needs to see a recognition by Gov. McDonnell that he gets it, and this all-business board is slanted," said Sen. Dave Marsden, D-Burke. "He needs to make an appointment that sends a message to people. If he puts [Redskins owner] Dan Snyder on the board, he didn't pick up the lesson to be learned."

McDonnell on Friday criticized the way the board removed Sullivan without a public vote or explanation, and he vowed to call for the resignation of the entire board if a final determination on Sullivan's job status is not reached during a special meeting Tuesday.

But McDonnell has repeatedly insisted he will not micromanage state boards, a philosophy that underscores the importance of the people McDonnell taps to serve four-year terms.

The 16-member board now includes well-connected business executives and big-name donors to the school and political campaigns. They were appointed by McDonnell and former Gov. Tim Kaine, and Zeithaml said that must change.

"There's a lot of principles that can be applied from private sector into our world, but not all of them," Zeithaml said. "If we have people on the board that were truly independent experts, that might help us navigate."

McDonnell must decide whether to keep Dragas, who many have called on to resign. It was Dragas and Kington who worked behind the scenes to oust Sullivan, according to emails released by the university.

"Our position is very clear: We think the best thing for [Dragas] is to step down," said law professor George Cohen, chairman of the U.Va. Faculty Senate. "If she's not willing to take responsibility, the governor reappointing her would not send the kind of message we're looking for right now."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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