Former College President Charged with Obstruction of Justice – It Just Doesn’t Pay To Lie Says Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher

February 15, 2008

In practically every presentation I make I remind the audience that every choice has a consequence. ( In this case, Joanne Jordan, age 66, recently interim President from 2002 through 2006 for Southern Union State Community College, Alabama, has been charged with obstruction of justice due to false testimony she gave to a grand jury.

Unless I’m missing it, this is almost the same thing Martha Stewart went to prison for – lying! As stated in the US Attorney’s news release – “Lesson for the day – do not lie to a federal grand jury.” The release indicates the following:

While JORDAN served as the interim President of SUSCC, then Chancellor Roy Johnson devised a plan to facilitate the retirement of SUSCC’s Dean of Nursing (Dean). Johnson had promoted the Dean to that position when he was President of SUSCC and he had a close relationship with her.

When JORDAN became interim President, the Dean approached JORDAN and stated that she would be willing to retire immediately, but could not do so unless “some service time” was bought from a previous job. The Dean told JORDAN, and JORDAN told Chancellor Johnson, that, if SUSCC would pay the cost of purchasing the time, she would retire and leave the campus. The cost of the Dean’s service time was approximately $24,000.

In order to facilitate the Dean’s retirement and exit from SUSCC, Johnson instructed Winston Hayes, the owner of ACCESS – a computer software vendor, to pay for the Dean’s service time. Johnson instructed Hayes submit a false invoice to SUSCC to cover the costs, and then Johnson instructed JORDAN to pay the false invoice.

When JORDAN received the fraudulent invoice from ACCESS, it was more than twice as much as the Dean’s service time had cost, so she contacted Johnson. He instructed Jordan to pay the fraudulent invoice, and to certify that software had been delivered. ACCESS Group Software, LLC received a check for $48,000 from SUSCC. Hayes used the excess money paid his company, ACCESS, to benefit himself and Johnson, with whom he was engaged in a bribery-kickback scheme. When asked in the grand jury whether the Chancellor had told her to pay a fraudulent invoice, JORDAN testified, falsely, that he had not.

Winston Hayes, owner of ACCESS Group Software, LLC has previously been charged in connection with this investigation, and has agreed to plead guilty to bribery and conspiracy to launder money. ACCESS will forfeit $5 million received as profit over the course of four years of illegal activity relating to the Postsecondary colleges.

Johnson has previously been charged with 15 counts of conspiracy to commit bribery, bribery, obstruction, witness tampering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He has agreed to plead guilty and to forfeit approximately $18 million for his illegal activity relating to the Postsecondary colleges.

JORDAN also admits, in her Plea Agreement, that from April 2004 until November 2005, while she served as interim President of SUSCC, she received free architectural services from an architect who did business with SUSCC. After learning of the federal investigation, JORDAN paid the architect approximately $3500 for services rendered to her.

JORDAN further admits that at Johnson’s direction, from December 2003 through May 2006, she hired Johnson’s son-in-law, an attorney, and paid him approximately $2000 per month for a total of $58,000. When questioned before the grand jury about why she had hired Chancellor Johnson’s son-in-law, Jordan testified falsely that she had done so own her own initiative without direction from the Chancellor.

My, what a tangled web we weave. Now, so there is no confusion – I am not passing judgment here. I, too, wove a tangled web and the consequences that followed – federal prison. I am not proud of that fact, but one can make lemonade out of lemons. Just like bad choices have a negative consequence – every time – good choices can have positive results. Unfortunately, in this case, the negative consequences of Jordan’s choices are just now beginning to surface.

The penalty for obstruction of justice in federal court is not more than ten years in prison, fines of $250,000, or both. “Investigations of this type are extremely difficult and complicated, and are made even more so when individuals deliberately attempt to hide the truth,” stated Richard Minor, Acting Alabama Attorney General. “Nobody is above the law including Ms. Jordan, a former college president.”