Motlow College president Tony Kinkel resigned on Tuesday, a day before an audit was released depicting him as intimidating, manipulative and unreasonable.
The internal audit released Wednesday was conducted by the Tennessee Board of Regents and based its findings on widespread interviews from staff member at all four Motlow campuses in Tullahoma, McMinnville, Fayetteville and Smyrna.
Kinkel started Aug. 1, 2015 and had not even reached his two-year anniversary. During his brief tenure, the audit found 50 employees resigned, retired or were terminated.
One former employee said he resigned for a lower paying job because he could not work with Kinkel. In another example, an administrator resigned without having another job.
Very low morale was a serious concern for 85 percent of Motlow employees interviewed.
According to the audit, “The climate and morale on all four campuses were described in negative terms by most employees interviewed. The manipulation of both people and information has created a sense of distrust among faculty and administrators that is deep and was even mentioned by several of those considered at one point to be supporters of the president. The president’s persistent use of fear, intimidation, hostility and condescension as motivational tools was described by faculty, administrators and support staff from all campuses.”
The staff members who left included two vice presidents, eight directors, two deans, and five full professors.
Of the 13 former employees interviewed, 10 said they left because of their lack of trust or respect for the president. They cited his treatment of employees, intimidation, lack of credibility, or manipulation, the audit noted.
In making recommendations, the audit said, “The chancellor and the Tennessee Board of Regents should take actions to address the leadership issues noted in this report.”
Auditors said that, as their work neared completion, Kinkel pressured multiple employees to discredit the findings in an apparent attempt to save his job. The audit said that, in one instance, Kinkel pressured an employee to write a letter, which he dictated, to a Board of Regents member complaining about the audit.
The audit was triggered by numerous complaints about Kinkel.
Kinkel did not mention the audit in his resignation letter, saying he decided to step down with "deep anguish" in the face of a college system looking "to chart a different course."
Kinkel's resignation will officially go into effect Sept. 30, but he will be on leave until then. His duties will be rerouted to an interim replacement.
Kinkel replaced Dr. MaryLou Apple, who served nine years as Motlow College president.
Kinkel relocated to Tennessee from Wichita, Kan., where he was president of Wichita Area Technical College. Before that, Kinkel led community colleges in Colorado and Arkansas.
Early in his career, Kinkel was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives at age 24 and served 12 years. He was elected twice to the Minnesota Senate.