UNT Board of Regents fires Ransom

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FORT WORTH — The University of North Texas Board of Regents unanimously voted to fire Scott Ransom as president of the UNT Health Science Center on Friday and named a regent as the interim president.

Regent Michael Williams was named the interim president.

No contract has been negotiated with Williams.

Chancellor Lee Jackson said a breakdown of communication, the end of trust and the end of collaboration on some key issues led to Ransom’s termination.

“We all regret that it came to today’s event,” Jackson said. “That required us to make a change that we believe is in the best interest of the UNT Health Science Center and Fort Worth.”

He said there was no disagreement about the goals of the Health Science Center but that there was lack of professional collaboration and respect.

“Having differences isn’t a problem; not being forthright or having a personal agenda is the problem,” Jackson said.

Ransom declined to comment.

“The process is certainly something we think was extraordinarily unfair,” said Nancy Sterling, with ML Strategies, which is representing Ransom.

“And he is going to be appealing this process.”

In September, the board extended Ransom’s contract through 2015. He made more than $900,000 a year, according to his contract.

Ransom received a letter from Jack Wall, chairman of the board, on Tuesday informing him of the board’s intent to fire him for “good cause,” according to the letter.

The letter states the reason for the termination was because of interference with the discussion of a study for a possible merger as well as for disregarding and undermining the implementation of shared services between all campuses.

The proposed study to look at merging the Denton campus and the Health Science Center was brought to the board in August but taken off the agenda without a vote after a closed-session meeting. It was put on the agenda again in November and removed the day before the meeting.

In the letter to Ransom, Wall wrote that Ransom had expressed interest in being president of the newly merged institution, but after being told he would receive consideration at the appropriate time, he started to talk about the merger being a bad idea.

The letter said Ransom criticized UNT and failed to inform the chancellor of his involvement in discussions with groups in Fort Worth, including the UNT Health Science Center Foundation Board. The letter also accused him of soliciting community support from leaders in Forth Worth to oppose the idea of the merger.

The letter also said Ransom conducted an internal study of the center’s business services for the shared services initiative and prepared a cost and impact analysis based on “selective and misleading data to support your personal agenda.”

Jackson said he promised the Fort Worth community that he wouldn’t proceed with the proposed merger in 2013 and will stand by that.

The system’s main goal is to add a doctorate of medicine program at the Health Science Center, Jackson said.

Friday’s meeting was to give Ransom an opportunity to respond to the letter. He made no comment before the board went into closed session. Ransom did talk with the board in closed session for about 30 minutes.

The board spent two hours in closed session before voting unanimously to fire Ransom.

Regent Al Silva was not at the meeting.

UNT Health Science Center Foundation Board members and Fort Worth community members attended the meeting to support Ransom.

Allan Howeth, chairman of the foundation board, spoke up for Ransom before the vote was taken.

“Our view is he’s a highly effective and dynamic leader,” Howeth told regents. He said the Health Science Center had made great strides under Ransom’s leadership. In 2006, Ransom became the fifth president.

Howeth said the foundation board expressed concerns about the proposed merger but that Ransom remained neutral.

After the meeting, Howeth and other foundation board members expressed their disappointment.

Howeth said the foundation board expressed some strong opinions about the proposed merger and they were not well received.

“I feel like part of that is why this action was taken today,” Howeth said.

Michele Reynolds, another foundation board member, said Ransom didn’t take a stand for or against the proposed merger.

“He’s put the UNT Health Science Center on the map,” she said.

Ransom raised $25 million worth of support for the medical school the UNT system hopes to add, Reynolds said.

“Scott [Ransom] had a vision to make Fort Worth into a destination medical center, much like MD Anderson,” said Tim Sullivan, another foundation board member, who added that the termination will set the school back.

George Pepper, a member of the foundation board and a former regent, said the group gathered thinks the world of Ransom.

“I’m concerned about the kind of leadership we’ll be able to attract after something like this,” he said.

Pepper said he hopes this won’t derail UNT’s plans for a medical school.

Ron Anderson, who is the former CEO of Parkland Hospital in Dallas, was at the meeting and said he knows Jackson and Ransom.

“It’s a shame that two very capable, strong-willed folks couldn’t mend this,” he said.

After Ransom’s contract was terminated, the board went back into closed session to discuss the appointment of an interim president.

“We think it’s a decision for the long-term benefit of the institution,” chairman Wall said after the meeting.

Wall said the Health Science Center is lucky to have Williams come in after Ransom.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to come back here,” Williams said. “It’s an exciting time to get back.”

Williams, who is currently the CEO of Hill County Memorial Hospital in Fredericksburg, grew up in Fort Worth and attended the UNT Health Science Center.

He said it will take some time to build the community’s trust.

“My job will be to come in and build trust,” he said.

Dallas Morning News staff writer Holly Hacker contributed to this report.

RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is rmehlhaff@dentonrc.com.


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