The chairman of Morgan State University's board of regents resigned this month under pressure from the governor's office after allegations that the chairman made improper sexual advances to the university's top attorney.
On Sept. 18 -- four days after being summoned to a session with Major F. Riddick, Gov. Parris N. Glendening's chief of staff -- the chairman, Baltimore attorney Joseph C. Reid, sent the governor a one-sentence letter of resignation.
Mr. Reid has privately denied acting improperly but would not comment for this article.
In a letter to Morgan State President Earl S. Richardson, university counsel Julie Goodwin charged that Mr. Reid had twice made improper sexual advances: once during a staff retreat in mid-June at Harbourtowne, a lavish golfing resort on the Eastern Shore; and again at a million-dollar August fund-raiser sponsored by Morgan benefactor Earl S. Graves at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan.
Attendees at the fund-raiser for Morgan's business school included Dr. Richardson, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and, via a live satellite hook-up, President Clinton, who spoke to the audience for about 20 minutes.
According to Glendening spokeswoman Diana Rosborough, Mr. Riddick and the governor were first told about the allegations during a Sept. 14 morning meeting with state Sen. Clarence W. Blount and William Boucher III, vice chairman of the Morgan regents. Mr. Riddick called Mr. Reid to Annapolis later that day.
The departure has been kept unusually quiet, with senior Morgan officials professing to be entirely or largely unaware of Mr. Reid's resignation.
"This is news to me," said U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume of Baltimore, a Morgan State graduate who is also a regent of the university. "I didn't know that Mr. Reid had departed."
Rising star in legal circles
Mr. Reid, 38, has been considered a rising star in the Baltimore legal world, an attorney whose education at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania foreshadowed a lustrous career. A new arrival to Baltimore, he is a lawyer with the 400-attorney Richmond, Va.-based McGuire, Woods, Battle & Boothe -- the nation's 60th largest law firm.
Associates of Mr. Reid said he acknowledged in conversations that he and Ms. Goodwin were alone in his hotel room briefly after other staff members left an informal gathering at the St. Michael's resort in June. He also said he greeted her with a kiss on the cheek during the August function in New York City, noting that that represented the extent of his interaction with her.
But Ms. Rosborough said Ms. Goodwin's charges went beyond what Mr. Reid described.
Mr. Riddick did not directly ask for Mr. Reid's resignation, Ms. Rosborough said, but she would not say whether Mr. Riddick gave the chairman any alternatives.
"At the end of the meeting it was agreed Mr. Reid would resign," she said. "There were very serious allegations raised, but there was no investigation. This administration was very concerned about the allegations. This administration will not tolerate any form of harassment or even the appearance of any type of harassment."
Mr. Boucher declined to say specifically what Ms. Goodwin charged in her letter. He said he has not seen the document itself. Ms. Rosborough said the governor's office also does not have a copy.
The letter has not been released by the state attorney general's office, which is weighing a formal freedom of information request filed yesterday by The Sun.
Neither Ms. Goodwin nor Mr. Reid was willing to speak about the allegations or the resignation yesterday. Mr. Reid referred a reporter's inquiry to his own attorney, George L. Russell. Mr. Russell did not return three telephone messages seeking comment.
The issue of sexual harassment has dogged the university in recent years: In 1993, Leon Howard, then Dr. Richardson's executive assistant, resigned after a federal jury in Alabama found that he had sexually harassed an aide when Mr. Howard was president of Alabama State University. In January, Morgan football coach Ricky Diggs reached a settlement to cut short a high-profile court trial on charges from an academic adviser.
Although Mr. Reid was first named to the board by then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer in January, Mr. Glendening supported his selection as the regent chairman in July. Morgan is a public institution that is not affiliated with the University of Maryland system; its regents report directly to the governor's office.
In eight months on the board, Mr. Reid had established strong working relationships with other regents, and Dr. Richardson, a former ally, perceived that development with alarm, Mr. Reid told associates.
But regent Martin Resnick cast doubt on that scenario, noting that the president had championed the young attorney for the post despite initial opposition from other regents -- including Mr. Resnick.
Flurry of activity
Ms. Goodwin's letter to Dr. Richardson, received in early September, sparked a flurry of activity among senior university officials. Under Morgan sexual harassment policy -- set by university administrators, approved by the regents and overseen by the university counsel's office -- the alleged offender's supervisor must be notified.
Dr. Richardson sought out Mr. Boucher, the regent vice chairman. Mr. Boucher said he interviewed Ms. Goodwin for more than an hour, and then conferred with Mr. Blount, a Morgan alumnus and influential legislator. On Sept. 14, Mr. Blount and Mr. Boucher met with Mr. Glendening at the governor's office. Within hours, and after a conversation with Mr. Riddick, Mr. Reid agreed to resign.
Lawrence K. Montgomery, the school's acting vice president for institutional advancement, said he could not confirm or deny the circumstances surrounding Mr. Reid's resignation. But, he said, "Let's assume that a gentleman who is a volunteer, who is appointed to a position of high responsibility [faces accusations of sexual harassment]. Shouldn't every effort be made to resolve matters of this nature on a need-to-know basis? Certainly until such time as allegations are proven substantial."
Prominent alumnus is unfazed
"There's no reason to make me think that this will cause us even to miss a beat or that we will lose any of the gains of Dr. Richardson's leadership," said Mr. Graves, the publisher of Black Enterprise magazine and perhaps the school's most prominent alumnus. "I see it being an issue that ought to and should go away very quickly."