Oklahoma Court Records Confirm $1M Bankruptcy Cowley College President Denied Filing

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Three years before Randy Smith was hired as the president of Cowley College this past July, he filed a petition in federal court in Oklahoma for Chapter 13 bankruptcy that claimed over $1 million in liabilities.

Of the liabilities, over $100,000 was in credit card debt, nearly $70,000 in three non-collateral personal loans and over $41,000 in student loans.

Last week, as Cowley Post was beginning its investigation into the bankruptcy filing, Smith denied he’d ever filed a bankruptcy petition before.

“Not that I know of, no,” Smith told Cowley Post last week.

In those court proceedings, a wage garnishment of $7,865 per month was issued for Sisseton Wahpeton College in rural South Dakota, where Smith was president and CEO.

In a separate state court case, another wage garnishment was ordered in a credit card debt suit in September 2022.

That garnishment was issued September 2022 and satisfied by November 2022. Smith was employed at Cowley College during this time.

According to publicly available court documents filed July 10, 2019, in the Eastern District of Oklahoma, Smith claimed $1,003,206.15 in liabilities and estimated $1,432,971 in assets. At the time of the bankruptcy filing, Smith claimed no cash on hand and $1,946 spread throughout four checking accounts with four different banks.

The wage garnishment, ordered via Oklahoma state court in Hughes County in September 2022 in the amount of nearly $21,000, was sent to Seminole Nation, Smith’s previous employer in Oklahoma before he was hired by the Cowley College Board of Trustees in July 2022.

Calls to Seminole Nation Wednesday afternoon to determine Smith’s employment at the time of the garnishment filing, were not successful.

More on Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Facts/Basics Can Be Found HERE.

Brett Bazil, the chair of the Cowley College Board of Trustees, initially denied the existence of Smith’s bankruptcy filing and referenced a separate foreclosure case for Smith, but ultimately said Smith was vetted and that when it came to the financial role of the president, he wasn’t concerned.

“As president you’re not responsible for accounting,” Bazil told Cowley Post. “President has no connection with financing, other than we set a budget. How does that relate to running a college when he’s not in charge of finance? (Would be) real more susceptible if somebody was going for vice president of finance — I’d be more concerned with that.”

Bazil said Smith’s financials were talked about in executive session before he was hired.

“He was asked those type of questions in executive session, like, you’re talking about the bankruptcy or places where he worked before,” Bazil said.

Bazil added he “grilled” Smith on employment history.

“I questioned him very heavily about that,” he said. “I went on that side of it. And even the other finalist got the same kind of grilling.”

Bazil did acknowledge the college, over which Smith is president, faces financial shortfalls.

“We go out and we’re trying to make up $500,000, because the state cut us, but now we have to lay people off or raise taxes,” he said.  “We’re a little better off than others, but we’re going to have a little bit of a problem next year — we have to come up with $750,000.”

Smith has faced criticism in the Ark City community for his management style and has been accused of fostering a hostile workplace environment. However, board members have responded to the criticisms leading up to Monday night’s special board meeting saying the discomfort from employees is simply an adjustment period to the new president compared to his predecessor.

Tensions in the community hit a fever pitch early last week when Cowley College Athletic Director Jason O’Toole unexpectedly submitted his resignation.

Supports of O’Toole say he was forced to resign, while supporters of Smith, including some parents of Cowley College athletes, have claimed O’Toole did not do his due diligence in addressing concerns, via letters written to the board.

O’Toole has declined comment on why he resigned.

Tuesday, Bazil called another special board meeting scheduled for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the President’s Dining Room inside the McAtee Dining Center.

According to the meeting’s agenda, there will be three executive sessions.

In one of the executive sessions, Smith and David Andreas, the board’s attorney, are requested.

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