ORANGEBURG, SC (WIS) - The South Carolina State University Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to fire president Dr. George Cooper following a 7 to 4 vote. Cooper was elected as president by the same board in July 2008.
The board spent nearly five hours behind closed doors as trustees debated the decision. In a vote of 7 to 4, the board terminated Cooper's contract. Cooper was hired July 9, 2008.
The motion to terminate Cooper came from trustee Maurice Washington, who chaired the board when Cooper was hired in 2008. "The most important decision that a university's governing body will ever make, is the appointment of its leader. I am proud that we have made an awesome decision," Washington said after Cooper's hiring in 2008.
Tuesday, Washington voted to fire Cooper along with trustees Earl Bridges, Lumus Byrd, Karl Green, Walter Tobin, and ex-officio member Smith.
Board chair Jonathan Pinson voted against the firing along with trustees John Corbitt, Robert Nance, and Lancelot Wright.
"I would have hoped that we would have gave him more time," said Pinson. "Some of us felt he was moving the university forward, we were seeing a progression, moving forward and I just think he needed more time."
Cooper said after the meeting that he didn't know what led to the firing. Cooper's attorney said he was considering taking action against the board, "My actions will speak louder than my words," as both men left the board room.
The board voted to place finance director, John Smalls, as interim president until a permanent replacement is seated. Smalls, whose annual salary is $167,584, will take over when Cooper's contract expires June 30, according to Pinson.
Cooper's termination could be temporary, according to Pinson. Two board members who voted to fire Cooper, will leave the board July 1. When asked whether that could allow the university to re-hire Cooper, Pinson answered, "I never say never."