A 172-page investigative report for Diné College, a Navajo Nation-controlled four-year institution in Tsaile, Arizona, concluded that then-president Ferlin Clark used intimidation, bullying, harassment and in some cases even physical intimidation and contact to control his employees and favor students he liked. He was also accused of inappropriate conduct toward female employees.
Some employees said he withheld job-critical information from them to prevent them from succeeding. Others said he physically intimidated them. Still others said he screamed at them inappropriately. Others said he ridiculed them publicly and “treated them with discontent and disrespect in public.” Two employees reported that, except for intervention from other employees, Clark would have initiated physical fights with them.
In total, 35 employees were interviewed for the report, and the conclusion was that not only had Clark violated the school’s policies, he had violated the federal Civil Rights Act.
One employee said Clark had instructed her to reopen closed classes to admit students that were later shown to be his relatives, eluding his brother.
“Jim added that the President told them that he was the President and he doesn’t need to abide by the policies and procedures,” the report states. Clark is also accused of ordering the registrar’s office to release transcripts despite the students in question not paying their debts to the college — an issue that is currently a problem for Bacone, casting doubt on its financial future. The transcripts in question were for friends of Clark, the report states.
Clark was accused by employees of stopping eviction proceedings against relatives and friends. Students and employees who advocated for keeping Clark as president also received money that employees viewed as kickbacks in exchange for their support.
Numerous employees told investigators they were afraid to talk because they feared retaliation from Clark and his cronies. The report concluded that Clark had a management style that “is direct, abrupt and abusive .. insensitive, abrasive and at times domineering ... causing complainants to be fearful each day.”
The report went on to say “there are egregious behaviors by the President that cannot be ignored or dismissed.”
Clark was further accused of “hiring certain females who are not qualified” and of having “suspicious and inappropriate conduct” toward a female employee, including interrupting her for matters unrelated to her duties, closely monitoring her and frequently asking her to private lunch and giving her expensive gifts and asking her to take trips away from school with him.
The president acted “without personal and professional integrity”, the report goes on, saying “a large majority of the problems at Diné College appear to arise from a lack of or poor people management skills by the President.”
Ken Adams, a Bacone board member who was also part of the presidential selection committee that recommended Clark be hired, said “those issues were revealed to the committee. We went through all those articles that had negative comments about Dr. Clark and we did background checks and after much discussion concerning those, we decided that most of those, if not all of those, were not substantiated by actions.”
Asked whether the entire 172-page report prepared at the behest of Clark’s former college was false, Adams said “The search committee concluded that we should hire him. We certainly didn’t ignore those situations.”
Adams also denied that Clark was hired largely because it was believed that his Native heritage would help him establish rapport with Native tribes from whom Bacone is seeking financial lifelines.
“Relationships with the tribes was certainly a part of the discussion,” he said. “There was no ulterior motive. Whoever the person became at the helm was certainly one we felt would need to be able to communicate with the tribes, but it wasn’t a desperate imperative. Frank Willis left the college in dire straits, and we chose the right candidate to succeed him in my opinion.”
You can read the entire report here.