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Vatterott’s KC president says helping homeless student cost him his job

The Kansas City campus president of Vatterott College lost his job after allowing a student to stay overnight in the school’s library. Brian Carroll said he knew the student was homeless, off medications he needed, lacked transportation and would be sleeping outside in near-zero temperatures..
The Kansas City campus president of Vatterott College lost his job after allowing a student to stay overnight in the school’s library. Brian Carroll said he knew the student was homeless, off medications he needed, lacked transportation and would be sleeping outside in near-zero temperatures.. Brian Corn

Taking in a homeless person at work proved to be a bad idea, again.

Brian Carroll said it cost him his job as campus president of Vatterott College in Kansas City, a post he’d held since June 2014.

Carroll said he was fired Jan. 9, the Monday after allowing a student to stay overnight in the school’s library on Jan. 6. He said he knew the student was homeless, off medications he needed, lacked transportation and would be sleeping outside in near-zero temperatures.

“I was thinking this is a life-threatening situation for the student,” Carroll said.

Similar circumstances cost Prairie Village City Councilman David Morrison his elected post in 2012, though he was later reinstated by the Kansas Court of Appeals. Morrison had allowed a homeless friend to spend a few nights at City Hall.

“I made a mistake,” Morrison said Tuesday. “I think I did the right thing but the wrong way.”

Paul Ferrise, Vatterott’s regional vice president, said Tuesday that Carroll had made a “bad decision” in allowing the student to stay overnight on school property.

Ferrise acknowledged Carroll was out of a job but declined to address Carroll’s version of what happened, citing limits in matters of personnel.

“We’re going to protect his right to privacy and confidentiality,” Ferrise said.

Ferrise said the school’s focus is on its students and their success, but Carroll had other choices, better choices, that night. He might have helped the student find a local shelter, for example.

“Mr. Carroll had a range of options available to him to help the student. He made a bad decision,” Ferrise said.

Carroll said Tuesday his options were limited.

School policy, he said, prohibited him from using his own car to provide a ride for the student. And Vatterott’s recruiting officer on campus had said the student could be trusted to do what he said. So Carroll gave the student $10 with an agreement.

“He agreed that he would leave at 9 a.m. the next morning, and that he would get a bus and go down to get his medication. And he did, and he was back in class,” Carroll said.

Carroll said he didn’t expect to lose his job. A reprimand seemed more appropriate.

“To me, it’s a write-up; why didn’t they give me a write-up?” Carroll said.

In Morrison’s case in Prairie Village, the Johnson County prosecutor pursued a case in court, and a district judge removed Morrison from office on the grounds that he had violated the city’s laws on ethics.

Morrison won an appeal and was reinstated as a member of the City Council. The Kansas Supreme Court then sent the case back to the district court, and the case was dismissed.

Last April, Morrison ran for re-election as the incumbent but lost to Courtney McFadden, who had been appointed to the post during Morrison’s ouster.

Taking his friend to a hotel and staying with him would have been better, Morrison said.

Tom Bath, Morrison’s attorney, said even staying with the friend overnight in City Hall or a college library might have made a difference. Bath, however, acknowledged that no law protects someone offering shelter that wasn’t theirs to offer.

Not that one should be necessary, he added.

“Is this how far we’ve come, that somebody has to lose his job ... because he tried to do something good for somebody that didn’t hurt anybody else?” Bath said.

Mark Davis: 816-234-4372, @mdkcstar

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