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SCCC trustees put President Shaun McKay on leave

Shaun McKay, president of Suffolk County Community College,

Shaun McKay, president of Suffolk County Community College, speaks during commencement at the school's Selden campus on May 21, 2017. He has been placed on paid administrative leave by the school's board of trustees. Credit: Marisol Diaz

Suffolk County Community College President Shaun McKay has been placed on paid administrative leave by the school's board of trustees, Chairwoman Theresa Sanders confirmed Thursday.

Sanders, in a telephone interview, did not give a reason for the trustees' action. She said it came after a three-hour executive board meeting Tuesday at the Michael J. Grant campus in Brentwood in consultation with Thomas Voltz, the panel's external counsel.

McKay did not participate in the board discussion, Sanders said, but was brought in at the end and told of the trustees' action.

McKay, 53, who has been at the colllege's helm since 2010, could not be reached for comment. Under his contract, which runs into 2020, he is paid $257,914 annually, as well as a yearly housing allowance of $38,011 and an annual car allowance of $12,785.

“The board consensus was to put Dr. McKay on a paid administrative leave. It is a personnel matter and confidential,” Sanders said. “We cannot discuss the nature of the leave. We are doing our due diligence and when we can say something further, we will, and we are working on that now.”

She added she could not "put a time line” on further board action, but added that "once the board has more details, we will provide him a chance to talk to us with his response and make a decision whether this leave should be permanent or not."

Louis Petrizzo, the college's executive vice president and legal counsel, is in charge during McKay's leave, school officials said.

McKay in the past year took 77 days of sick time between April 2 and July 23. Shortly after he returned to work, he asked the board for a 10-year contract extension, citing his “strong decisive executive leadership.”

Sanders on Thursday said the board’s action in ordering the administrative leave arose separately from their consideration of a new contract for McKay.

Since his return, several college sources said McKay has been less present in day-to-day operations and his relations with the faculty union, once his biggest support, have become strained.

Kevin Peterman, president of the union, declined comment on McKay’s leave, but said, “I know the college will move forward and be ready for next semester.”

Suffolk Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague) said that McKay and Sanders called him after the meeting on Tuesday. He said that “apparently there were some complaints and they [trustees] want an investigation.”

Gregory said McKay told him that he was unaware of the nature of any complaints and “wished he had the opportunity to make a statement and answer questions.”

SCCC, with its 25,000 students and three campuses, is the largest community college in the State University of New York system.

During McKay's tenure and with county and state support, approvals were won for a new science building on the Selden campus; new learning resource centers on the Brentwood and Riverhead campuses; and a new health and wellness building with a pool, gymnasium and classrooms, also in Riverhead, that is nearly complete.

However, he at times has clashed with several board members, such as when he tried in 2014 to remove a leading businesswoman, Anne Shybunko Moore, because she had missed several meetings, although one of those was for filming a TV ad for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s economic development initiative.

The college also resisted County Executive Steve Bellone’s attempt to shift plans for solar panels to college parking lots from the Ronkonkoma train station, which later resulted in a costly $10.4 million court award against the county for breach of contract.

In late 2016, McKay was one of three finalists for the post of chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents overseeing the state’s 13 community colleges and 21 state colleges of applied technology.

Holly Liapis, a SUNY spokeswoman, declined to comment Thursday, saying it was a personnel matter.

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