A Year of Scandal at LCC: How To Recover?

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"The allegations are without merit," Lansing Community College external accountant Michelle Gallagher told the college board Monday afternoon.

With that comes the apparent end of the latest chapter of bad publicity for LCC.

"What most concerns me as a leader is the amount of time we had to spend dealing with a lot of issues, a lot of controversy, a lot of perception in the community," LCC interim President Judith Cardenas told News 10.

Time spent not focusing exclusively on education, starting with student registration problems last fall. Those problems ultimately led to the removal of former president Paula Cunningham and the installation of Cardenas as interim president.

Since then, the college decided to change it's computer system. And this fall, Cardenas says registration went relatively smoothly.

"That was a very joyful occasion for many of us because if you recall, a year ago, that's not where we were," she said.

But new controversy surfaced: Allegations that Cardenas was misusing funds -- accusations internal and external audits concluded were without merit. Still, Cardenas says the college's public reputation has been damaged.

"When they hear the negative, that's what they have," she said.

The state auditor general began a performance review of the college Monday, apparently prompted by the recent allegations.

Despite all that, the interim president says she doesn't believe the quality of education at the college has been affected.

"While all this was going on, classes were still being held, students were still being taught, we still had graduates," Cardenas said.

Regular enrollment has dipped just slightly, although it's hard to tell if there's a connection between those numbers and the problems.

Still, Cardenas says she knows students could look elsewhere if problems persist. And she says controversy has pushed some key issues off the agenda.

"What do we want to be a year from now, four years from now, five years form now. And we haven't had those discussion because we've been having other types of discussions," she said.

Discussions about controversy -- discussions the interim president hopes to avoid as the college selects a permanent one. The LCC board expects the permanent president to begin serving July 1.