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Brighter days ahead for NSU with new interim president

Jordan Crawford | 9/25/2013, 3:29 p.m.
Eddie Moore, Jr. is Norfolk State University's (NSU) new interim president.

From 1985 to 1993, he held finance administration positions in state government and higher education, ending with a three-year stint as state treasurer.

When Moore arrived at VSU, the school was suffering from financial issues and controversies. According to The Progress-Index, a Petersburg news outlet, former president Wesley C. McClure was ousted by the board of visitors in August 1992 amid multiple investigations into allegations of mismanagement and misspending.

Before Moore came on board in 1993, the school had just under 4,000 students, an endowment of about $2.5 million and no doctoral degrees. When he stepped down, the school had about 5,300 students, an endowment of $23.6 million and two doctoral programs.

Audits, as opposed to misspending allegations or low endowment, are one of NSU’s main issues. When the fiscal year for a four-year public school ends on June 30 each year, the state typically uses about 1,200 hours auditing its financial statements and delivers an opinion by the following June. That means an opinion for NSU’s fiscal 2011 audit should have come before June 2012.

Instead, the state just issued it this month and spent about 4,000 hours getting there. Atwater, who started in July 2011 after fiscal year 2011 ended, said high staff turnover and a new accounting system contributed to the delay.

At the press conference, Moore said he aims to “right the ship,” noting that financial issues often “leech slowly into academic operations.”

One of the first items on his agenda is to check on management standards, he said, which must be met in order to use unspent funds from the previous year and could be affected by audit delays.

In addition to finances, Moore also made remarks after the press conference about the relationship he intends to have with reporters. He said he would share good news and bad news adding, “After 17 years I know if I hide from you during bad times you will hide from me during good times.”

Bill Ward, NSU’s legislative liaison who served on the VSU board in the 2000s, said he is confident Moore can help improve NSU financially.

“He’s a numbers man - former state treasurer, former comptroller at William and Mary," Ward said. "So certainly he brings a wide range of budget knowledge to the position."

Del. Algie T. Howell, D-Norfolk, lauded Moore’s appointment, saying that he could not think of a better person for the job. Howell said he and other legislators will not watch NSU fail because it is a vital institution to many.

“If this institution did not exist, many of its students would not get an education,” Howell said. “My wife and I finished in the 1960s and had it not been for this institution, neither of us, probably, would have had the opportunity to go to college.”

Earlier this year, the NSU board issued a request for proposals for accounting services, but Moore’s accounting firm did not respond. The name of that firm could not be determined by press time.

Moore said Dixon Hughes Goodman, a Charlotte-based firm with an office in Norfolk, did respond to the RFP, and Moore said he joined that firm as a senior staff consultant “for this response.”

Eventually, the NSU board “decided not to open any of the responses,” Moore said. “So no, I have never worked for the institution, but I did respond to a request for services - but not as an individual.”

Del. Lionel Spruill, D-Chesapeake, praises Moore’s appointment, but is now looking for changes on the 13-member board because some members “don’t have Norfolk State at heart.” Del. S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, gave similar remarks, saying only that conversations in Richmond about board membership changes are ongoing.

Spruill said since Atwater is gone and former nursing and allied health chair Bennie Marshall has resigned, board reconfiguration is the only remaining task. He said there are varying opinions among the eight or so legislators involved in the discussions, but he feels the entire board should be swept clean except for two or three members he declined to identify.

“It should not have gotten in this bad a shape for the board to start reacting,” Spruill said. “Three years? Come on.”