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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Volinsky back in court

Relax, he's not filing to overturn the state's school funding system again. At least not today. In between the usual must-read nuggets for political junkies, John DiStaso reports in his Granite Status column in the Union Leader that the lead lawyer in the Claremont Lawsuit is taking the case of a Dartmouth Trustee recently shown the door by his colleagues.
Manchester attorney and liberal Democrat Andru Volinsky is once again heading to court in New Hampshire on an education case.

But this one's much different than the famous Claremont education lawsuit he prominently participated in during the 1990s.

He's representing a conservative Dartmouth alumni trustee Prof. Todd J. Zywicki, who was booted off the board after a secret meeting of his peers.
Conflict disclosure: This will take a while. I'm a Dartmouth alum, and represent my class on the Alumni Council. I voted for Todd Zyxicki as a Trustee and had hoped he would serve another term. Eugene Van Loan, who is on the team representing Dartmouth in the case, is the Chairman of the Board Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, which is kind enough to pay me to write this blog, among other things.

I sympathize greatly with Zywicki's plight. Re-election to the Board of Trustees is a pro-forma step. The majority of the Board used outlandish tactics and a ridiculous excuses to boot Zywicki off because they don't like that he has continued to challenge a Dartmouth Administration that had shown no willingness to listen to alumni concerns about the direction of the College. Much like the legal battle and proposed state legislation surrounding the plan to pack the Board of Trustees in order to dilute alumni involvement in college governance, this is a matter internal to Dartmouth College. I don't see how the New Hampshire courts are involved.

I hope that Todd Zywicki and his allies prevail, and that the plan to destroy over a century of balance on the Dartmouth College Board of Trustees fails. However, if you I were the judge in this case, which would be inexplicable and alarming for any number of reasons, I would likely throw the case out of court.

DiStaso also links to the Hanover Institute*, which is waging to legal battle to overturn the Board Packing plan, and to Zywicki's Amicus Brief.

*Corrected thanks to Scott's comment.


  1. Grant, could you explain more about the tactics the board used when it declined to re-elect Zywicki, and how you learned about them? I was under the impression that the meeting was private and that he was not reelected because not enough individual trustees voted for him -- fewer than a majority of the board.

    Minor correction: it's actually the Hanover Institute, not the Hoover Institute.

    I still tune in to 99 Rock and listen for the occasional Two-Fer from Rush when I'm back in Hanover...

    Thank you.

  2. Scott,
    Thank you for the comment and the correction.

    For years, re-election of Trustees to a second term has been a pro-forme exercise. By all accounts, Todd Zywicki has been a thoughtful, diligent, and productive member of the Board. But he has also been an outspoken voice for greater openness and accountability from the Dartmouth Administration and the Board of Trustees itself.

    From the few available reports of the meeting, Trustees voting to boot Zywicki off the board used as justification a single off-the-cuff comment for which Zywicki immediately apologized. I find that rather thin reason to ignore the customary second term, especially from a Trustee elected by the Alumni.

    Between the Board's long-standing hostility to competitive elections, it's moves to dilute Alumni-elected voices on the Board, and it's general attitude of arrogance over the past several years, I can't give them the benefit of the doubt in their treatment of Zywicki.

    That said, as much as I disagree with the Board Packing Plan, I still don't see how the Hanover Institute has a legal case in an internal Dartmouth matter.