If the Board of Regents votes to amend its bylaws today, the path will be paved for the board to officially remove its current treasurer.
Once the bylaws are changed, the 12-member board is expected to replace their current treasurer, Georgina Stephens, with Richard Pfutzenreuter, the University’s vice president of budget and finance.
This action represents one more step the University has taken since November to distance Stephens from her financial responsibilities.
The amendment — which requires a majority vote — would allow regents to remove a board officer outside of the two-year election cycle. If passed, the amendment would allow removal “when in (the board’s) judgment the interest of the University requires it.”
In November, board chairwoman Patricia Spence and University President Mark Yudof placed Stephens on administrative leave while the University reviewed Stephens’ involvement in bankruptcy and other non-University litigation.
Prior to their action, Stephens was responsible for handling $1.3 billion in cash and long-term University assets, as well as managing $533.3 million of University debts.
After a five-week investigation, Yudof changed Stephens’ job responsibilities for her University position as associate vice president of treasury operations to nonfinancial duties. Stephens was also informed that her contract would expire in June, without renewal.
At that time, Mark Rotenberg, the University’s general counsel, said there were “certain misstatements and improprieties” involving Stephens connected to the external litigation that resulted in the University’s conclusion to assign Stephens to different work.
On behalf of the regents, Spence removed Stephens’ treasurer responsibilities after receiving the general counsel’s conclusions.
But despite being stripped of the job duties, Stephens kept the title.
That is, until today’s board vote.
“She’s being removed from the position because she is not bondable,” Spence said Thursday between board committee meetings.
“We can’t have a treasurer that is not bondable,” she added.
Rotenberg said Thursday it was the University’s outside insurance company, and not the University, that decided Stephens could not be bonded.
The University’s decision to remove Stephens’ responsibilities precipitated another review, unrelated to Stephens, Rotenberg said.
Specifically, Yudof established a committee to review the treasurer position and consider a different division of its job functions, Rotenberg said.
The committee will consider ways to streamline the treasurer and other board functions without adding or removing officers. Changing the officer structure of the board would be difficult since the University’s charter — which designates regent officers — is integrated into Minnesota’s constitution, Rotenberg said.
While Stephens was unavailable for comment regarding today’s board action, she has said in the past that she disagrees with the University’s decisions regarding her employment.
In mid-December, Stephens filed a motion with the Minnesota Court of Appeals for a judicial review of the University’s actions to put her on leave and reassign her job duties.
However, by the end of December, the court had denied her appeal.
The University and Stephens are currently in the process of preparing judicial briefs for the court to consider regarding jurisdiction over several civil and employment-right issues raised in the appeal.
Depending on the court’s decisions, further court action — including claims for damages — could result.
Kristin Gustafson covers University administration and federal government and welcomes comments at kgustaf[email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3211.