By Bob Allen
Louisiana College paid nearly $35,000 in severance to a former official who threatened in 2011 to go public with allegations against the school’s president, according to documents obtained by a local newspaper and a Southern Baptist blogger.
Minutes of a Nov. 15, 2011, meeting of the Louisiana College executive committee described a letter from former Coordinator of Presidential Affairs Joseph Cole seeking $25,000 cash and other benefits in exchange for not telling office secrets as a “blackmail demand.”
A list of grievances included allegations that a superior told Cole to forge signatures of college administrators while President Joe Aguillard was in another office creating minutes of a meeting to report to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which reaffirmed Louisiana College’s accreditation after two years on warning status in December.
Attorney Bonita Armour, a Louisiana College alumna, resigned as the board’s legal counsel March 12, 2012, in a letter claiming trustees ignored her advice to investigate the allegations against Aguillard and self-report the matter to SACS.
The Town Talk in Alexandria, La., reported on a copy of minutes of the November 2011 board meeting obtained by the newspaper Feb. 27. J.D. Hall, pastor of Southern Baptist-affiliated Fellowship Church of Sidney, Mont., who blogs at Pulpit & Pen, discussed copies of the same documents he obtained in an hour-long podcast aired Feb. 26.
Hall, co-founder of Reformation Montana, a fellowship and church-planting network that seeks recovery of Calvinistic beliefs that members say guided the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he was reporting the information to clear the names of professors fired by Aguillard for allegedly planning a “Calvinist coup” at the college affiliated with the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
“Do you really think the primary problem in the college was a Calvinist one?” Hall asked. “Do you really think that the issues at LC were caused by three or four godly professors? Because Joe painted it as such.”
Hall said minutes of the meeting, made public less than a week after the college issued a news release proclaiming Aguillard “fully exonerated” of past allegations, suggest that the president turned a blind eye to evidence of theft, drug abuse and sexual misconduct by subordinates in order to keep his job.
Rondall Reynoso, a former art professor at Louisiana College fired without severance after writing an open letter critical of Aguillard’s leadership in 2011, says Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Director David Hankins once privately told a college board member that Aguillard would remain president unless “found in bed with a live boy or a dead girl.”
Hankins borrowed the line from a famous quote in Louisiana politics by former four-term Gov. Edwin Edwards, who served eight years in federal prison for racketeering and is now considering a run for Congress.
Aguillard and board chairman Tommy French issued a joint statement to the Town Talk in response to the release of the documents.
“This concerns a matter from the past that has been addressed years ago,” they stated. “Please consider that the source of this information is a radical Calvinist and any motives they may have for bringing up matters we have moved on from. We recently announced that SACS has reaffirmed the College’s accreditation and we are moving forward as a college to continue to fulfill the mission God has called us to carry out.”
Hall said Calvinists aren’t the only ones hurt by what’s going on at Louisiana College.
“We forget about all the people hurt in this,” he said. “We forget about the people faithfully giving to their local church and churches doing the best they can to pay their pastor whatever kind of meager salary they can afford so they can continue to sacrifice to support places like Louisiana College. And what kind of thanks do those churches in Louisiana receive? Scandal, lies, forgery, payoff, cover up.”
Last year Louisiana College trustees met behind closed doors for an entire day before voting to retain Aguillard as president after two vice presidents filed a 13-page whistleblower complaint accusing the president of misappropriating funds and intentionally deceiving administrators and trustees.