- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 9, 2002

TOWSON, Md. (AP) Towson University President Mark L. Perkins resigned after less than a year on the job, amid accusations of excessive spending for renovations of his university-owned mansion in Baltimore.

In a letter dated April 5 and posted yesterday on the university Web site, Mr. Perkins said the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland, which oversees Towson, passed a resolution calling for his resignation.

The resolution said that if Mr. Perkins did not resign, the board would seek his dismissal at a meeting this Friday, the letter said.

The regents grilled Mr. Perkins on Friday at an emergency session concerning spending on the mansion and spending on his inauguration last month.

In his letter, Mr. Perkins said he was upfront with the regents about $260,000 in cost overruns for renovations to the mansion bought last summer. The improvements included a $79,000 elevator and a $25,000 home entertainment center.

"I can only say to you, with all my heart, that I made decisions that I thought were in the best interests of the university," Mr. Perkins said in the letter.

Calls to Board of Regents Chairman Nathan A. Chapman and a University System of Maryland spokesman were not returned.

Mr. Perkins came last summer to Towson, the state's second-largest public university, from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Towson has more than 16,000 students.

Towson bought an $850,000 home in the Guilford section of Baltimore as a president's residence, but it required renovations to remove asbestos and lead. Unspecified "personal and family health considerations" led to the installation of the elevator, Mr. Perkins said in his letter.

The university budgeted $500,000 for the renovations, an estimate that later grew to $600,000. After an audit in late March, Towson discovered that the renovations would cost an additional $260,000.

Mr. Perkins said the cost of removing lead paint and asbestos, along with the elevator, were to blame for the overruns. He said he immediately told the regents about the extra expenses.

Responding to criticism about the home's entertainment system, Mr. Perkins said it should be characterized as a "multimedia center" used to show educational technology. The system and the house were not intended for his family's personal use, he said.

"Please understand that the residence is an asset of the university and not me personally. In fact, there is nothing from which I realize any personal gain," he wrote.

Mr. Perkins also defended his decision to commission a mace and gold medallion for his $56,000 weeklong inauguration festivities. Both were meant to be symbols of the school's 135-year history, he wrote.

"A first-rate university needs to perceive itself as first-rate, and have symbols reflecting its excellence," he said.

Mr. Perkins did not say in his letter what he planned to do next. A university spokeswoman said he wasn't on campus yesterday.

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