The Cowley College Board of Trustees requested additional documentation regarding the bills and claims it approves each month during its regular meeting Sept. 17.

The request was tied to a vote in which the trustees unanimously decided to continue approving these bills and claims during their meetings.

This will be the same as in the past, but now all bills and claims will be provided to the trustees prior to meetings.

Prior to the vote, however, some board members appeared to want to eliminate the practice of approving these items during meetings entirely.

“One comment I would like to make is that these payments have already been made. That is one of my discussion points here,” said board chair JoLynn Foster.

“I’ve asked (board attorney) David (Andreas) if we absolutely have to approve something that’s already been paid? The checks have already been issued … and we’re voting on something that’s already passed. My question is, are we required by law to do that?”

Foster asked if the payments could be segregated to show how much is being spent on what, such as how much is being spent on payroll.

“They don’t put it out that way, though,” said trustee Nancy Burger.

“I just asked that before this meeting started. We’ve already paid them and we’ve voted on many of them, if they were high-ticket items. … Some of them are partial payments. Some of them are for several projects, so they don’t require approval.”

“To me, there are so many checks and balances already in place. Yes, it’s one more set of eyes, but without a list of the (payments), you’re really not checking anything,” Burger added.

“There are conflicting statutes,” said Gloria Walker, Cowley’s vice president of finance and administration, regarding the legal requirements for approving and paying bills and claims. “Sometimes it seems kind of repetitive,” said trustee Bob Juden.

“If she had a question on an item?” asked trustee Ned Graham. “Then you bring it up,” Juden responded. “And?” Graham replied.

“And we’ll discuss it. There are so many variables, it’s hard to answer that question,” Juden said.

“Being that we already have a finance committee, it would be at the board’s discretion to kick it over to subcommittee (for a work session),” said President Dennis Rittle.

“Again, it would mean (they would be) the only people … looking at it, but it’s still bringing it before the full board,” Foster said.

“That would make sense. The finance subcommittee could catch (any issue) before it was made,” Graham said.

Foster pointed out there still could be issues with when the subcommittee meets versus when a bill could become due.

The college cuts checks daily for bills, according to Walker. It was also stated during the meeting that the trustees do not approve payroll.

“It seems to me that it’s our job to review (the payments) and if there is a problem, we discuss can it,” Juden said, “but to say that we should micromanage it … I don’t know that we need to do that.”

Trustee Gary Wilson questioned why two checks totaling more than $40,000 were written last month to one company.

Walker indicated they were for two different bills.

“You would think that they would bill you and you could pay at the end of the month,” Wilson said. “Not everyone does that,” Foster said.

“I think we should see. When I was with the county, we saw every dime that was given to us. … It was given to all of us,” said Wilson, a former county commissioner.

“I think with our (iPads), that could be accomplished,” Foster said.

The bills and claims finally were accepted unanimously by the trustees, but that vote was followed directly by an additional motion.

“(The motion is) we continue to proceed as we have in the past, with the bills and claims reviewed by one person, and that the bills and claims will be made available to all of the trustees,” Foster said.

Her motion was approved unanimously, as well. This decision by the trustees was made just one month after Walker was questioned publicly by Wilson about a nearly $1 million shortfall that she called an “accounting error.”

Trustees purchase machines

The trustees also approved the purchase of several machines needed for nondestructive testing classes that are offered in Wellington.

The classes that require the machines have not been taught there yet, which is why the purchase of the equipment was put off until this week.

Among the items purchased were clean air filters, 3-D printers and robotic trainers.

Wilson was the driving force behind the purchase of three Okuma milling machines after he asked staff why they recommended “sub-par” machine manufacturers.

“EMCO is made in Taiwan. It’s not a very good machine,” he said. “I made some industrial calls on it and they pretty much said, ‘Why would you buy those?’”

The second brand, Haas, does not have machines that are compatible with some of the other equipment needed to teach the classes.

The Okuma brand retails for $30,000 more per machine than the EMCO.

Wilson also questioned why the college would invest in machinery that is not used in applicable industries that may employ Cowley graduates.

“(Students) aren’t trained on what’s common in the industry, so (employers) would rather hire a guy off the street that they can train him like they want him,” he said.

No other trustees opposed Wilson’s motion to purchase the three Okuma machines after Walker said there was money in the budget to do so.

The trustees voted unanimously to approve this purchase for an amount not to exceed $358,500, plus an as-yet-unknown amount for shipping.

In other business, the trustees:

  • heard an update from Rittle, who said work is under way to put together a deferred maintenance plan to present to the board in the spring of 2019. Also, the Oct. 15 board meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the Technology and Innovation Center at the Sumner County campus.
  • saw Rittle give Thais Lindemayer Gomes a gift for being the September Student of the Month. “I am very grateful for the recognition,” said Gomes, who hails from Porte Alegre, Brazil. “It was my dream to study abroad and I found a good place in Cowley to do that.”
  • received a legislative update from Jessica Lucas, government affairs liaison, who worked with area legislators to submit a letter to the Technical Education Authority (TEA), offering their support for the farm and ranch program at the Sumner campus. Additionally, Rep. Kyle Hoffman, R-Coldwater, and Sen. Larry Alley, R-Winfield, attended the TEA meeting with Lucas, Rittle, and other college and community leaders on the same day that TEA voted to recommend the farm and ranch program to the Kansas Board of Regents for approval.
  • heard a student update from Student Senate President Tara Lukert, who said the Student Senate has brought a fundraising opportunity to clubs on the main campus. Clubs will have a chance to earn $100 when they meet all of the requirements. They must decorate the windows in front of the Nelson Student Center and write all the events that are happening for two weeks while advertising their club. At least two members of each club must attend each event during the time frame and, to receive the $100, the club must clean the windows. Also, Lukert said new recycling bins are being placed around campus.
  • received a report from Juden on the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees quarterly meeting he and Rittle attended Sept. 14-15 at Highland Community College.
  • heard a Sumner campus update from Walker, who said construction is on schedule for the Short General Education Center, which is within the guaranteed maximum price to date.
  • learned from Michelle Schoon, interim vice president of academic affairs, that all departments are working on an Academic Program Review, with all department chairs and secretaries being trained in using Zogotech for data mining. She also mentioned two new department chairs — Scott Layton is the new Natural Sciences Department chair and Buddy Curry is the new Career and Technical Education Department chair. Schoon also informed the board that current concurrent enrollment partnerships include 15 area high schools, with approximately 400 students enrolled.
  • heard from Kori Gregg, vice president of institutional advancement, about the Cowley College Foundation scholarship reception that brought together first-time scholarship recipients and community members. The foundation awarded more than 55 renewable scholarships for the fall, in addition to 122 new scholarships. A scholarship team has been created to examine whether scholarships the college is offering are effective. Also, Gregg mentioned that Cowley’s marketing and public relations teams won four awards through the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations’ District 5 Medallion contest.
  • was provided with a Student Information System update by Paul Erdmann, vice president of information technology. He said the IT department has made significant progress with the installations of projectors and screens in classrooms. “I appreciate the hard work you have put in and the progress you have made,” Juden said.
  • heard Rittle fill in for Kristi Shaw, executive director of enrollment management, to provide an enrollment update. He said the college is seeing an increase in enrollment in high school-aged and international students. “The entire admissions team is working very hard and doing an amazing job,” he said.
  • was informed by Debbie Phelps, executive director of institutional effectiveness, that the 2018 AY collection was successfully completed on time and locked Sept. 7. The 2018 IPEDS fall survey collections opened Sept. 5. Phelps has requested a collaborative effort with Zogotech to conduct an audit of the existing dashboards.
  • heard Athletic Director Shane Larson fill in for Jason O’Toole, executive director of student affairs, to provide a housing update. The dormitories currently are at 98.4-percent occupancy. This is up 20 students from the end of August last year. Also, Cowley’s IMPACT program, which is Student Support Services’ federally funded TRIO program, received a $12,631, or 4.25-percent, budget increase for the 2018-19 budget. The new budget amount now totals $309,835. With the increase, IMPACT will be able to serve seven more students, bringing its total to 167 students. Cowley’s Upward Bound program also received a 4.25-percent, or $11,779, budget increase for the upcoming year. The new budget amount now totals $288,913. With the increase, Upward Bound will be able to serve three more students, bringing its total to 63 students.
  • learned from Jan Grace, Sumner campus operations officer, about the chamber of commerce meetings, Rotary Club, Wellington City Council, Sumner County Commission, Sumner County Economic Development board and Sumner campus construction meetings she has attended. Forty-five students have enrolled at the Sumner campus’ Technology and Innovation Center, which met the college’s goal.
  • was informed by Deborah Layton, faculty liaison, about conferences and training opportunities Cowley faculty recently attended. Several faculty members will present at Professional Development Day. Layton also mentioned the CC Singers will be available for bookings at the beginning of October by contacting Lindsay Allen at lindsay.allen@cowley.edu.
  • was provided with a fall sports update by Larsen, who also mentioned the Tiger Booster Club (TBC) board met in August to approve the 2019 Hall of Fame candidates and set dates for fall luncheons. The TBC luncheons will be held at noon Sept. 26, Oct. 18 and Nov. 27 in the Earle N. Wright Community Room. Larson also said the foster parent meet-and-greet will be at 5 p.m. Sept. 30 in the Wright Room.
  • approved the employment of Sandy Wiemers as alumni relations and Golden Tigers coordinator, effective Sept. 18, and Lacey Kennedy as health services coordinator, effective Oct. 1.
  • approved a recommendation to list board members’ contact information on the college website.

Trustee Jill Long attended the meeting via telephone.

College spokesperson Rama Peroo contributed to this story.