Glenn Mack abruptly resigned his position as executive director of the Brightwater culinary school in Bentonville on Oct. 15. Only a few days earlier, his employer had prepared two options for ending his work — resign or be fired.
According to emails acquired by the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, officials at NorthWest Arkansas Community College (NWACC) in Bentonville prepared two versions of employment separation notices for Mack dated Oct. 15.
Brightwater, located inside Bentonville’s 8th Street Market, is a division of NWACC. Mack was hired as the culinary school’s first executive director in June 2015 after a nationwide search.
Brandon Massey, a risk manager in the school’s office of institutional policy, risk management and compliance, emailed the drafts of employment separation notices to NWACC Vice President of Administration Debi Buckley on Oct. 11.
“Attached, please find the draft letter agreement,” Massey wrote. “There is a version for resignation and a version for termination.”
NWACC President Evelyn Jorgenson sent an email the morning of Oct. 15 to several university officials, cabinet members and board of directors, informing them Mack had resigned.
Buckley, in a telephone interview Tuesday (Oct. 30) with the Business Journal, said the draft documents of employment separation were never used. She did say Mack was offered and accepted a severance package from the school but did not clarify if he was, in fact, facing termination from the college had he not resigned.
“That is a personnel matter, and that would have been up to [Jorgenson],” she said. “I really can’t say any more on that. But he clearly resigned from NorthWest Arkansas Community College-Brightwater.”
Mack has not responded to multiple phone calls and text messages seeking comment about the circumstances of his resignation. The resignation letter he submitted to NWACC on Oct. 15, also obtained using the state’s public records laws, was dated Oct. 3. A PDF of the letter can be found here.
Later in the afternoon of Oct. 15, Wendi Cadle, the college’s executive director of human resources, sent an email to Nga Mahfouz, a lawyer with the state Attorney General’s office, with a message that read: “We met with Glenn Mack this morning, our Executive Director for culinary. He resigned his position so we are not needing to move forward with any agreement.”
Buckley said she did not know what the agreement cited in the email is in reference to.
Also on the afternoon of Oct. 15, Cadle sent an email to Massey that said Mack “is wanting access to his office (Oct. 16) between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. to gather his personal belongings. Can he have access?”
“Due to the high profile nature of Dr. Mack’s position with the college and his resignation,” Massey wrote, “I believe Dr. [Jorgenson], as his direct supervisor, needs to make that determination.”
Massey copied the email to Teresa Taylor, the school’s interim director of institutional policy, risk management and compliance, with the note “copying you in case you feel otherwise.”
Massey later forwarded the email conversation to Buckley, asking if she felt comfortable making the decision to allow Mack access to his office, or if the decision should be made by Jorgenson.
“I do not feel comfortable making this decision from my end,” Massey wrote.
Buckley responded later in the evening of Oct. 15: “We need to make sure public safety is there when [Mack] arrives. He should get in and get out without conversations.”
In an Oct. 18 email providing an update to NWACC board members, Jorgenson said Tim Cornelius, the school’s vice president for career and workforce education, would be Brightwater’s acting administrator. Tim Rose, Brightwater’s business director, will be the on-site person in charge. She said the school is reviewing what staffing may be needed in order to proceed with the process of hiring Mack’s replacement.
“As you know, there has been way too much turnover at Brightwater since the beginning and currently there are four positions open, including Glen’s position of Executive Director,” Jorgenson wrote.
Mack’s salary at the time of his resignation, according to NWACC, was $130,668.75.
Brightwater is the name given to the NWACC culinary school upon its expansion in 2015. It was largely made possible by three related grants totaling $15 million from the Walton Family Foundation, the Bentonville-based philanthropic organization started by Walmart Inc. founders Sam and Helen Walton.
Karen Minkel, program director of the foundation’s Home Region, provided the following statement to the Business Journal:
“We are thankful for Dr. Mack’s work taking Brightwater from a startup to an institution that is redefining Northwest Arkansas’ culinary scene. We look forward to supporting NWACC as they continue to build on that momentum.”