Fresno State President Facing Tough Questions

December 22, 2008 2:08:49 PM PST
John Welty has been the face of Fresno State for the past 17-years.But more recently, the University President has become known for defending the University against three gender discrimination lawsuits.

Those lawsuits could cost taxpayers as much as twenty- seven -million dollars.

We sat down for a one on one interview with Dr. Welty earlier this week for a lengthy discussion about regrets, retirement, and the calls for him to step down.

Welty: "When there are problems...the person at the top is usually the one they go after."

Dr. Welty admits mistakes were made in the athletic department in the last five years.

Welty: "I am probably not being vigilant enough in terms of ensuring that people were complying with NCAA rules and regulations and ensuring the specific policies were in place that people were meeting in the intercollegiate athletic program."

Dr. Welty's boss has always supported him.

But Chancellor Charles Reed found himself on the defensive earlier this month during a state hearing...especially his decision to prolong the Stacy Johnson-Klein case and appeal the $19 million dollar verdict.

Charles Reed: "I have no idea how much appeal would cost."

St. Sen. Dean Florez: "That's scary because that's your decision. ... We want you to know how much it will cost."

Charles Reed: "That is my decision."

Longtime Valley Education Leader Pete Mehas now serves on the CSU Trustee Board which oversees the Chancellor.

He says while he's concerned about the negative tarnish these lawsuits have left on the University....he believes Dr. Welty's job is secure.

Pete Mehas: "I think probably one of the reasons why in addition to the support he's gotten from the Trustees and the Chancellor- Dr. Welty has built up a tremendous amount of equity in the community."

Jeri Echeverria: "There's no question he has been the best fundraising president's this campus has ever had."

Provost Jeri Echeverria is number two at Fresno State...right under Dr. Welty.

Jeri Echeverria: "Without John Welty, I'm not sure we would have the Save Mart Center, I'm not sure we would have the Student Rec Plex, I'm not sure we would have the Kremmen School- we certainly wouldn't have an endowed Kremmen School Or endowed Craig School."

But former Associate Athletic Director Diane Milutinovich... Who settled her lawsuit with the University says buildings don't make up for bad leadership.

Diane Milutinovich: "You get the credit for the successes -you have to be held accountable for when things go bad. Just the fact that they can't end it- we have ongoing issues with two lawsuits a 3rd one was filed- when is enough enough?"

Many people questioned the University's decision after Stacy Johnson-Klein's attorney said they would have settled for $950-thousand dollars.

Welty: "We didn't really have a formal proposal to do that. So there wasn't a discussion of should we go there or not?"

The legal troubles linger.

The University is appealing the Stacy-Johnson-Klein ruling...while dealing with a new lawsuit filed by Jerry Tarkanian's former assistant Iris Levesque...who says she was fired after complaining about immoral practices.

Dr. Welty maintains he's staying put.

Welty: "It's been painful at various times, but if I ever feel a point when I can't be effective then it's time for me to do something else."

A gauge of Dr. Welty's effectiveness will be how fundraising does this year.


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