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NDSU president asked vice president to quit

North Dakota State University President Dick Hanson did an about-face Thursday, saying he did ask his vice president to resign.

Hanson said Wednesday he didn't ask John Adams to resign, but Adams told The Forum on Thursday he was asked to step down.

When pressed again Thursday, Hanson said he intended to protect Adams by not getting into details about their Feb. 25 meeting in which Hanson asked his vice president for finance and administration to resign and offered him four months' pay.

"I thought that was a better way to protect his employability," Hanson said.

On Thursday, Adams said he was surprised and disappointed that Hanson told reporters a different story than what happened.

"People don't walk in and resign and get four months of salary," Adams said. "Organizations don't do that."

Hanson said Thursday his job is to prepare the university for the next president, and that includes looking at all of the vice presidents.

A state audit due this spring is expected to be negative for NDSU, particularly related to the president's office remodeling job that Adams pushed through without taking it to the state board.

Hanson said he was being proactive by asking Adams to step down.

"I wanted to protect him because I think when this stuff comes out ... there might have been people saying, 'Someone's got to hang for this,' " Hanson said.

Adams, reiterating what he said in his resignation letter, said former President Joseph Chapman pressured him to move forward with the $435,000 office remodeling project.

"His words were: 'Get it done, and we can't take it to the board, per the chancellor,' " Adams said. "I don't know if the chancellor told him that or not. I wasn't privy to that conversation."

Adams split the Old Main project into separate projects to keep each under $250,000, an amount triggering board-mandated approval.

On Thursday, Adams said he's sorry he didn't raise the issue to a board member, but he felt he couldn't.

"I just felt that my back was against the wall, that I needed to get the project done or my job was in jeopardy," Adams said. "Did he (Chapman) intend that? Probably not. But it came across to me that way."

Adams said the office remodeling project was necessary, but he didn't think the timing was right, with a legislative session coming up and a new president's house being built.

Despite some isolated incidents, Adams said Chapman was a great boss.

"He was demanding, as most presidents are," Adams said. "If a president is not demanding, then I think your university is stagnant or going in the wrong direction."

Adams said he anticipates Chapman will be "blasted" in the upcoming audit.

"I think it will be very negative toward him, and I think that's unfortunate because he did so many great things for the university," Adams said.

An attempt to reach Chapman this week through his former assistant was unsuccessful.

Adams said he took advice from Bob Gallagher, vice president at UND at the time, about splitting the Old Main project into separate projects.

Adams said Gallagher did that with a president's office remodel prior to President Bob Kelley's arrival.

Chancellor Bill Goetz said he plans to look into that further.

UND spokesman Peter Johnson said Thursday the office cost $230,000, so it didn't need to go to the board. Gallagher is now retired.

"Bob Gallagher, as far as I know, was very clear about making sure he followed board policy in everything that we did," Johnson said.

Goetz said Thursday he in no way indicated to Chapman not to take the Old Main project to the board.

Board President Richie Smith said if the project had come before them, it likely would have received support because the office was "antiquated."

"I'm confident in saying the board would have approved something," Smith said.

Adams, 57, said he has interviewed for other higher education jobs and would like to move to Michigan to be closer to family.

Adams said he started job hunting three months ago because there's another high-ranking NDSU official who is "difficult to work with at best." Adams did not name the individual.