Chapter 6, Part 5 – Dr. Elliott’s Resignation
On Dec. 13, 1974, the Board of Trustees received a letter of resignation from Dr. Elliot, effective this date.
From mid-October through December, fears had escalated, accusations had been leveled, and doubt fomented. Trust had been broken and faith had been lost. There were no missteps, errors in judgment, or impropriety on the part of Dr. Elliot, but the nightmare surrounding the CSC debacle had occurred on his watch. He was a victim of circumstances gone horribly wrong through no making of his own. Decisions and actions leading the college to the situation in which it found itself had been made by a dedicated, well-meaning collective. Unfortunately, they had been lied to and mislead. Many within the college community were deeply saddened by Dr. Elliot’s resignation.
The most recently elected member of the board, Sam Warren, was asked to step in as interim president. The board’s first directive to Mr. Warren was to start the search for a new president as quickly as possible. Feeling he could not provide the same level of performance in the absence of Dr. Elliot, Dr. Stonebrink submitted his resignation a few months later.
Throughout the remainder of December 1974, college representatives approached numerous banks to see if any of them would provide financial support. There were none. Short-term funds were not available and long-term contracts would take at least 60 to 90 days to negotiate. In an attempt to slow foreclosure proceedings, the college changed legal counsel. This was not an unexpected action; the board no longer had faith in the legal counsel they felt put them into this predicament in the first place.
New counsel contacted the Sisters to inform them of the change in counsel and to update them on the college’s lack of progress towards an equitable solution. New counsel also sent a letter and telegram to Continental Securities Corporation demanding the return all monies collected by them through WSCC, before Feb. 14, 1975. They were further informed that should CSC not comply, legal action would ensue and notification of this action would be shared with the Oregon Corporation Department and the Insurance Division of Oregon. The college learned shortly after notifying CSC of its position, that both of these governmental agencies had been investigating CSC for fraudulent activities, while they were selling policies to WSCC contributors.
Remarkably, in the midst of the chaos swirling about the college, it still had options.
One option was to approach the Sisters with an alternative agreement, but their trust in the college had been seriously damaged, making the Sisters’ willingness to negotiate unlikely.
A second option presented itself unexpectedly when a local lawyer approached the college with an offer. The lawyer had recently won an $11,000,000 lawsuit and was looking to develop a worthy undertaking. Someone had shared information about WSCC with him and he found the college’s situation intriguing. He offered to pay off the entire $870,000 balance to the Sisters with two stipulations: 1) the college would agree to a 10- to 20-year mortgage at 10 percent interest and, 2) he would be appointed president of the WSCC board for the duration of the contract. Members of the board were offended by the proposal, characterizing it as greedy for money and lustful for power. Distasteful as the proposal was to the trustees, legal counsel considered it a bona fide offer.
A third option, also unsolicited, came from Mt. Hood Community College. It offered to swap its Maywood extension campus, on the corner of NE 102nd and Prescott, for the new WSCC campus. This option was actually quite attractive and appeared workable. The swap would provide WSCC a campus free-and-clear, with no further financial obligations. The community college would assume the contract with the Sisters and move into a new campus.
Under the circumstances, the third option was clearly the most attractive of the three. Nevertheless, the board was moving cautiously in its deliberations. It could not afford one more misstep or mishap. Whatever decision the board made this time would likely seal the fate of the college. Not wishing to commit the college to any one decision, the WSCC board directed college representatives and legal counsel to approach the Sisters one final time in an attempt to negotiate a new and more manageable contract; negotiate with the wealthy lawyer for better terms and draft a workable agreement with Mt. Hood Community College containing better terms.
Remarkably, the college was still afloat as 1974 drew to a close.