McKenna, Suffolk trustees reach accord as AG opens probe

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BOSTON – Margaret McKenna, the embattled president of Suffolk University, and the school’s board of trustees have reached an agreement regarding her future at the downtown college, according to an announcement Thursday that came as state Attorney General Maura Healey confirmed she is seeking information from the board related to concerns over reported failures to deal with problems identified by its accrediting agency.

McKenna and Andrew Meyer, the head trustee, will present the proposed agreement to the board at a meeting Friday, according to Greg Gatlin, a Suffolk spokesman.

“President McKenna and chairman Meyer have heard the voices of the members of the Suffolk community, as well as members of the wider community who care so deeply about the future of Suffolk University. McKenna and Meyer have come together in good faith in an effort to resolve the issues in the best interests of the university,” Gatlin said in a statement.

Amidst the turmoil between trustees and McKenna and reports that she could be fired less than year after taking on the job, Healey made her inquiry regarding the university’s governance.

“There have been a number of issues raised over the last week about the way in which the board of trustees use its authority,” Healey spokeswoman Cyndi Roy Gonzales said in a statement. “Of particular concern are reports that the university’s accrediting agency cited problems with the governance structure that have gone unaddressed for several years. We have questions about the board’s course of action since those problems were identified.”

Gonzales says it is the job of the attorney general’s office to “ensure that trustees uphold their fiduciary duties” and the office is looking into those concerns and seeking information from the university’s board.

Tensions between McKenna, a former president of Leslie University in Cambridge, and Suffolk’s board spilled into the public eye this week with earlier reports that the board stood ready to oust her and bring in former Attorney General Martha Coakley as a replacement. Coakley subsequently said that she wasn’t and wouldn’t be a candidate for the job.

Gatlin said the details of the agreement reached by McKenna and Meyer are still being finalized and will be subject to approval by trustees.

“In order to preserve the confidential nature of tomorrow’s discussion and to allow the board to discuss freely the issues at hand, both President McKenna and Chairman Meyer will not release any details prior to the board meeting,” Gatlin said.

Earlier Thursday, Gov. Charlie Baker weighed in on the matter saying he hoped the two sides would come to a resolution “sooner rather than later” and added that he’s “glad” they’re working on an accord in private.

“I’m glad that they started to talk amongst themselves and I think that’s the best place for them to have this conversation,” Baker said following a groundbreaking ceremony in downtown Boston.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh echoed the governor and voiced his support for McKenna, a former civil rights lawyer.

“I would say keep her. I mean, unless they can prove that there’s a reason that she hasn’t done her job. But for all indications I’ve seen, she’s done a very good job and she’s been there for eight months. So I don’t know how you can get an assessment of somebody’s performance after eight months,” Walsh said.

Written by Antonio Caban and Matt Murphy