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President Behind Bars

July 2, 2007

The president of Rocky Mountain College, in Billings, Mont., won the unanimous backing of the board of trustees on Friday morning -- more than two weeks after he was arrested for allegedly slapping a man in the face and spent a night in jail.

The board's resolution, if final, would bring another twist to the highly unusual spectacle of a sitting college president being charged with a violent act -- in this case, battery, a misdemeanor. It is unclear whether any clause in Mace's contract with the college would be invoked depending on the outcome of his trial, which is set for Aug. 23. He has plead not guilty.

Michael R. Mace, the college's president, allegedly hit David S. Klain in his office in Carmel, Ind., on June 13. According to the affidavit for probable cause, Mace "entered the victim's office cursing at the victim." He "then struck the victim on the left side of the head around the ear area with his right palm. The assault caused redness and swelling around the ear area."

According to the document, which was signed by a police officer sworn under oath, Mace admitted to the acts. In an interview, Mace called it an "unfortunate situation" and said that there are "two sides to every story," but he said he couldn't comment until he gets clearance from his lawyer (who also did not comment). He said he had convened the board on Friday, receiving unanimous approval from the trustees, as well as the college's vice presidents, that he could continue as president. The chairman of the board, Jim Almond, confirmed the vote but couldn't comment further until the board "received all the facts."

"That’s a final decision from the trustees," Mace said.

Klain, who owns the development where Mace and his wife have a townhouse, could not be reached for comment. In other news reports, he said that Mace had been complaining about various repairs needed for his house and had asked to meet for coffee to discuss the issues. Klain is apparently considering a civil suit.

The board of trustees' decision to back the president comes in contrast to the way the University of Mary Washington dealt with the arrest of its president, William J. Frawley, in that case on drunk-driving charges. After nearly three weeks of deliberations, and before the trial, the board terminated Frawley with cause.

 

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