Haskell Endowment Association has dissolved after board members said Haskell Indian Nations University President Linda Warner refused to work with the organization.
“We haven’t had any cooperation from Haskell, which is insane because all we’re trying to do is raise funds for the university,” said Doug Holiday, who was on the board of the endowment before it dissolved on Thursday.
Both Holiday and fellow board member Judy Wright said board members had become frustrated with a lack of cooperation from Warner.
“The new president attended one meeting, and she never communicated with us again,” said Wright, who is a veteran fundraiser with the Kansas University Endowment Association. “We repeatedly wrote her and tried to set up meetings. She just didn’t have an interest in working with us.”
Warner on Friday said she was surprised to hear that the association had disbanded. But she denied the allegations that she had not cooperated with the nonprofit organization.
“In my recollection, they have never asked for a meeting that I haven’t attended,” Warner said.
Holiday said the board and its attorney sent both letters and e-mails to the president’s office, and did not receive a response.
The association was formed four years ago at the urging of then-Haskell President Karen Swisher. The organization spent about three years obtaining its status as a nonprofit corporation. Holiday said fundraising began this year.
Fundraising had been going well. The organization had $90,000 in an account when it disbanded Thursday. The board agreed to forward that money to the American Indian College Fund, with the request that it be earmarked for Haskell students.
“There was a great deal of interest from the alumni,” Wright said.
Both Holiday and Wright said they believed that Warner had concerns that the endowment association’s board was independent of the university.
“The corporation was set up to be independent, but its sole purpose was to serve the university,” Wright said. She added that also is how the Kansas University Endowment Association is structured. “I think that independence might have been troubling.”
Warner denied that she was bothered by the independence of the board.
“The beauty of that board is that it is independent,” Warner said.
Warner said she was uncertain whether another endowment association would be established for the university. She said that any new association would have to be formed by individuals because the university itself could not form such an association.
The endowment association became the second university group to express concerns about Warner. In August, the Haskell Board of Regents asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to remove Warner.
Warner’s boss at the Bureau of Indian Affairs on Friday again expressed support for Warner’s work at the university.
“We think she’s a tremendous asset to the organization and the school,” said Stephanie Birdwell, who oversees post-secondary education for the Bureau of Indian Education.
George Tiger, vice chairman of the Haskell Board of Regents, said Friday that he was disappointed that the endowment association had disbanded. He said the Board of Regents was trying to work with Warner, but he stopped short of saying the board was pleased with the current leadership at Haskell.
“I don’t know that the concerns have been resolved,” Tiger said.
In August, the 15-member Board of Regents asked the Bureau of Indian Education to investigate possible irregularities in accounting, procurement and hiring practices at Haskell under Warner’s supervision.
Birdwell on Friday declined to comment on the concerns that the Board of Regents has expressed about Warner.