Rowan College at Burlington County has removed president Paul Drayton Jr. from his post and launched an internal investigation into a discrimination allegation filed by an employee.
The college's board of trustees unanimously voted at a special meeting on Aug. 30 to place Drayton on paid administrative leave "pending a thorough and complete investigation and resolution of the complaint," said Greg Volpe, a college spokesman. The action came after a complaint was filed on Aug. 24 by an employee with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Details about the nature of the complaint or specific allegations were not disclosed. The federal agency enforces civil rights laws against discrimination in the workplace, including age, disability, race, religion, sex, and sexual harassment.
The college was notified about the complaint in a letter dated Aug. 24 and sent to Laura Bezich, assistant director of human resources, from Stephen G. Console, an attorney who represents the employee. The employee's name was redacted in the letter. The letter said that a "courtesy copy" of the complaint was attached. The college declined to release the complaint, citing privacy laws. Console did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Mary Tiernan, an EEOC spokeswoman, said discrimination charges filled with the agency are confidential and would neither confirm nor deny that a charge had been filed against the college. The agency makes charges public if it files a complaint against an employer in federal court.
At its regular meeting Tuesday night, the trustee board agreed to hire Michael D. Shaller, a criminal defense attorney in an Ocean County law firm, to conduct an internal investigation into the complaint. Shaller is a former state police officer and has represented defendants charged with drug distribution, aggravated assault, robbery and theft, according to his website.
The college announced Drayton's administrative leave to staff and students in an internal memo Aug. 30 but provided no reason why Drayton was stepping down. The two-year community college has main campuses in Mount Laurel and Pemberton Township, and enrolls more than 10,200 students.
Drayton, 57, of Mount Laurel, became president in March 2015, the fifth in the college's history. While on leave, Drayton will continue to be paid his $203,206 annual salary, Volpe said.
Efforts Thursday to reach Drayton were not successful. He did not respond to a telephone message and it was not immediately known if he has hired an attorney to represent him.
During his tenure, Drayton oversaw shifting the college's main campus to Mount Laurel, a more popular satellite location. The Pemberton campus eventually will be closed. The former Burlington County College changed its name in 2015 under a partnership with Rowan University.
In 2013, Drayton received the Roosevelt Nesmith NAACP Impact Award in Burlington County for creating an office that focuses on diversity and cultural differences
Previously, Drayton was the Burlington County administrator for five years. Prior to that, he headed the Delaware River Port Authority. He left the bistate agency in 2003 amid turmoil with the commissioners.
Before working in county government, Drayton was an administrator at Temple University. He also worked as a lawyer in the office of former New Jersey Gov. James J. Florio and, before that, for a U.S. Senate committee.
The leadership shake-up comes as the community college tries to better compete with its peers in the region. Last year, it reached an agreement with Rowan University to offer a "3-plus-1" program that allows undergraduates to complete the first three years of a bachelor's program at the community college, saving students thousands of dollars in tuition costs.
At the Aug. 30 meeting, the Rowan at Burlington County trustee board named Michael Cioce, vice president of enrollment management and student success, as acting president. His salary will remain at $150,000, Volpe said.
"Cioce has led a number of initiatives that have improved the campus and academic experience for students, and the board has full confidence in his ability to sustain the college's growth," Volpe said in a statement.
Drayton grew up in Willingboro in a family of educators. He earned a bachelor's from the University of Delaware and a law degree from Villanova University. He taught as an adjunct from 1998 to 2008 at the University of Pennsylvania's Fels School of Government.