Jane Sanders, the wife of Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., was seeking a bank loan for Burlington College while she was the school’s president, and submitted a list of potential donations. Now, that list has become the centerpiece of an FBI investigation.
Many donors are now claiming they never planned to give the amounts for which they were listed.
Investigators are trying to determine whether the discrepancies were an attempt to deceive the bank from which the loan was sought, or a case of optimism gone wrong.
Former trustee David Dunn, who was among those listed as giving more than he ever planned, said discrepancies between what was given to the bank and what was actually happening were a factor in the Burlington College board’s decision to part ways with former president Jane Sanders.
In early 2016, a complaint about Jane Sanders was made to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. That complaint was pursued and is now the subject of an investigation by federal officials, who have interviewed many of the college’s trustees and officials involved in the deal.
“There were three issues that the board made the decision to remove her,” Dunn said. “One decision was the financial information and the questionable donations, the second was a student incident, and the third was a crisis of confidence in her leadership as expressed by the faculty.”
Dunn said that the board did not have concerns about the deal until it heard rumblings from those who were listed as pledging money to support it.
“At some point, it changed when the board was made aware that the rate of donations that were pledged was not near what was received,” Dunn said.
“In addition to that, there was a large donor who had advised the board that the donation was actually an estate gift that was going to be paid when she died, and that she was feeling quite healthy.”
Dunn said his initials were put next to a pledge of $18,000 that he never made.
The Daily Caller reported that Corinne Bove Maietta — who was listed as pledging $1 million — said she never specified an amount.
Trustees Rob Michalak and Ron Leavitt said they were put down for larger donations than anything they had promised.
Tony Pomerleau, who was listed on the pledge sheet for the loan with an unconfirmed $1 million donation, said his gift required the college to match the money up front. The paperwork for the loan never included that condition.
Former trustee Carolyn Elliott argued that there was no “malfeasance,” but that the optimistic figures and the overall plan that required the loan amounted to an “ambitious leap of faith that didn’t turn out.”
“It was based on a plan and a hope, but certainly it was a mistake, because it involved raising far more money than the college had ever raised before,” Elliott said.
The college had been on unsteady financial footing, but Sanders sought to purchase land to build a new campus in 2010. At the time, the college said it had $2.6 million in donations to pay for 33 acres it wanted on the shores of Lake Champlain.
But it didn’t.
The college only raised $676,00 in donations over the next four years. Eventually, the land in question was resold. The college later closed, in part from the fiscal stress of the failed land purchase project.
What do you think? Scroll down to comment below.
source: Western Journalism