ROCK HILL, S.C. - Winthrop University's fired president sent emails suggesting her husband could work for the university just weeks after she was picked for the job and before she signed her five-year contract.
The after she was on the job, Jamie Comstock Williamson wrote an email asking for a paid temporary job and suggesting a salary that wouldn't be too high so it wouldn't attract criticism.
"In your role as chief of staff, I want to work with you to create a new temporary (I think that is the correct word) staff position for Larry," Williamson wrote Kimberly Faust, who also serves as secretary to the Winthrop Board of Trustees, according to an email obtained by The Herald of Rock Hill.
Williamson then suggested the school pay her husband $30,000, calling it "low enough not to attract critics" and suggesting no school could get someone with her husband's experience and talent for four times that amount.
Winthrop trustees fired Williamson from her nearly $300,000 a year position on Friday, less than a year after she took over as president of the Rock Hill college. Trustees said Williamson violated the university's nepotism policy by hiring her husband, provided false information and was demeaning and rude.
Williamson denied all the trustees' complaints. Her lawyer, Bev Carroll, said Williamson didn't supervise her husband, so it didn't break nepotism rules. She said trustees knew about what ended up as her husband's $27,000 part time job and discussed what he would do with Williamson before she started as president on July 1, 2013.
Larry Williamson's job involved community relations that included representing the school to public officials and seeking out economic development partnerships. Jamie Williamson said
Williamson has threatened to sue if she was fired.
Trustees selected Williamson as president in February 2013. Her contract was finalized in June 2013 and her first day at work was July 1, 2013.
Less than two weeks after trustees picked her, Williamson sent an email to other officials touting her husband's experience in the U.S. Navy and in a number of higher education jobs. His expertise would be a "vital resource to the transition team," and he would play a role as her spouse and "as a special advisor to the president for external relations," she wrote.
In August, five days after Williamson suggested hiring her husband, Faust sent her an email addressing her husband's job.
"We have an opportunity to hire a senior counsel for strategic initiatives, highly qualified and willing to work for a pittance . We need to have him sign a contract before he comes to his senses," Faust wrote.
A few hours later, the college's associate vice president for human resources, Lis Cowart, stepped into the email chain, suggesting the new job might not be viewed well. She sent Faust a link to the university's nepotism policy, and wrote that while the president "will not be directly supervising (her husband), the argument that she is in the direct line of supervision may arise."
Moving Williamson's husband to another office might raise fewer questions, Cowart wrote.
Faust sent that email along to Williamson, writing that the suggestion "would take away some of the gravitas of the position. Plus, it will look like we tried to hide the position in another division."