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Robert Paxton, left, in the photo that led to his resignation
FORT DODGE, Iowa – A Fourth of July celebration ended up costing a community college president his job, after a photo emerged of him on a boat with bikini-clad women, poised to pour beer from a keg into one of the young ladies’ mouths.
Iowa Central Community College President Robert Paxton, 52, was celebrating Independence Day at the popular Iowa tourist spot, Lake Okoboji, three days after signing a multi-year $600,000 contract extension with the school.
After the photo was published last week in the Des Moines Register, controversy erupted in the state over the proper conduct of school officials in public.
“The thing we all struggled with was whether his personal life was, you know, his,” ICCC Trustee Larry Hecht told the Register. “I guess what you do in your personal life does affect the public’s perception of what you do on your job.”
Paxton told the Register that all of the people drinking on the boat were of legal age and that the beer keg in the photo was broken, so no beer was actually dispensed into the young lady’s open mouth. He also told the Register that his 19-year-old son, who was arrested on his second drunken driving charge early the next morning, though on the boat, was not one of those drinking.
Paxton has since resigned and accepted a $400,000 severance package in exchange, The Fort Dodge Messenger reports, for releasing any rights to file claims against the college.
Mark Crimmins, the president of the college’s board, according to an Associate Press report, said although the incident happened in Paxton’s private life, “it reflected poorly on the college.”
“Based on our discussions, it was determined that it would probably be in Dr. Paxton’s best interest and the college’s best interest that he resign as president,” Crimmins said.
The college’s board of trustees met yesterday for eight minutes and voted unanimously without discussion to accept Paxton’s resignation and to extend a severance package worth two years of the new contract, a total of $400,000.
Paxton’s 13-year career at ICCC was filled with both accomplishments and embarrassments, including securing an $18 million bond referendum to fund new projects for the school and a 2002 scandal in which Paxton was indicted on charges of felonious misconduct in office and falsifying public records, stemming from a transcript fraud scandal surrounding student-athletes. Those charges were later deferred.
Despite this recent and previous blemishes to his record, the Messenger reported, Paxton was well-liked, and his resignation was recorded with tears by the board secretary.
Paxton has been unavailable for comments to the press, but in his resignation letter said, “It has been a true honor and joy to serve as the president of Iowa Central for the past 13 years.”