NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - After just two years as Norfolk State University President, Dr. Tony Atwater was fired Friday evening. Now WAVY.com has more information on what led to the dismissal he said he didn't know was coming.
"My termination was sudden, unexpected, and disappointing,” said Atwater on Friday after his dismissal.
Suffolk Delegate Chris Jones wasn't surprised at all. He knew last Wednesday that Atwater’s dismissal would be discussed at Friday’s Board of Visitors meeting. Jones, however, did not know the board would vote 7-4 to fire Atwater on the spot.
Serving on the House of Delegates Sub Committee on Higher Education, a member of the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Committee, as well as a budget conferee, Jones helps determine where state money goes to support Virginia schools. He has been very aware of the goings on of NSU, and painted a picture of Atwater as a president out of touch with what what was going on at the school.
"Dr. Atwater says everything is fine … things aren't fine … audits aren't done," Jones told WAVY.com Monday.
NSU failed to produce required audits showing the University's financial strength.
"We were really shocked that audits weren't done in 2011 … 2012 due this past May,” Jones said.
Jones was alarmed that when the State offered help to NSU, the school -- with Atwater at the helm -- said “no.”
"The State Council on Higher Education offered help,” Jones said. “I do not believe that offer was accepted...that was perplexing to me."
Communication was a problem, too. Jones said he was amazed at the poor communication between the Atwater Administration and the Board of Visitors that oversees the school.
"I was shocked that the Board of Visitors did not know the Nursing School had lost certification, and it had to learn about the problem from a third party,” Jones said.
"I was told by reliable sources that there are conversations in Richmond about a merger of Norfolk State and Old Dominion University,” Atwater said on Friday.
WAVY.com asked Del. Jones about a possible merger and if there had been any serious conversations about it.
"I was very surprised to hear that. I was almost shocked,” Jones said. "No … and that's something I would hear … I would be involved with the discussion, if it were to occur. That has never been discussed, whether the schools will merge."
Although Jones is still positive about the future of NSU, he admits the school has much work to do.
"[NSU] is off track. Yes, anyone who is honest with themselves would know that,” he said.
In July, State Senator Tommy Norment said the following about NSU: "At some point, the Legislature is going to have to consider doing something fairly drastic with this particular institution.”
Norfolk State University gave WAVY.com no comment on Atwater's firing, the condition of the school, or a plan for its future.
Tonya Bundick was denied bond as well as a change of venue after she was indicted on new charges related to the Eastern Shore arson case.
A Suffolk house fire displaced a family of seven Wednesday morning.
An Oscar Smith football player was named the 2013-2014 Gatorade National Football Player of the Year Wednesday.