The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Elwell: Health issues factor in resignation

 

April 26, 2020



PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University will pay outgoing Chancellor Jeff Elwell nearly six figures following a resignation he attributed to “serious health issues,” effective Friday.

Documentation on Elwell’s departure was acquired through public records requests by The News. Calls made to Elwell and Board of Regents President Terry Othick were not immediately returned.

Details of Elwell's health issues were not made public.

According to the separation agreement created April 13 and signed by both parties April 17:

• Elwell is to be paid $89,180, equaling 35% of his $254,800 salary for the remaining year on his contract.

• Additionally, Elwell will be paid $8,400 to cover six months of COBRA insurance and $977 per day of unused accrued leave.

• Elwell is responsible for all taxes and agrees to make no further claims against the board of regents.

• The university residence shall be vacated by June 1, unless the parties make a separate agreement to extend the period or state or national guidelines or orders prevent him from traveling or moving. The requirement is about a week more lenient than Elwell’s original contract, which provides Elwell and his family 30 days to vacate should his employment as president be terminated for any reason.

• Board Vice President Dan Patterson will write a letter of reference agreeable to himself, Elwell and Othick. If Elwell finds the letter unacceptable, no board member shall provide a formal or informal reference.

• A non-disparagement clause requires the parties, their agents and representatives to “not disparage, denigrate, defame or cast aspersions upon the other party of it regents, officers, directors or agents, and will use reasonable efforts to prevent any member of their immediate family, acquaintances, regents, officers or directors from engaging in any such activity.” Additionally, no party shall “make any disparaging statements or representations, either directly or indirectly, whether orally or in writing, by word or gesture, to any person or media whatsoever, about the other parties or their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, attorneys, agents or representatives.”

Regents accepted Elwell’s resignation by a 4-0 vote on April 17. Student Regent Joseph Gergel abstained, noting objections to the language of the agreement. He declined to elaborate following the meeting.

When told Saturday The News had acquired the separation agreement, Gergel said, “I was uncomfortable with the non-disparagement agreement and some of the language in Dr. Elwell’s resignation.”

A March 12 letter from Elwell to the regents indicated Elwell would not seek an extension of his contract beyond its June 30, 2021, expiration, and that the notification would give the regents 14 months to find a replacement.

An April 16 resignation letter moved his resignation up to April 24 “to attend to and be treated for serious health issues” with no further elaboration. No health issues were mentioned in Elwell’s March 12 letter or the March 13 meeting minutes, but Gergel said he recalled Elwell making a remark to that effect during the March 13 meeting held on the Ruidoso campus.

The regents appointed Patrice Caldwell as interim chancellor during the April 17 meeting. According to a letter from Othick, Caldwell’s base salary increased to $200,000 annually effective Saturday and will be prorated through the remainder of the fiscal year. The letter notes Caldwell will be issued a new contract for the 2020-21 fiscal year, but provides no other details.

 
 

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