Keg Folly: College President Resigns Over Photo

A keg of beer might not be expensive, but a photo of an Iowa college president holding one over a young woman's open mouth cost him his job.

Less than a week before classes start at Iowa Central Community College, officials there are preparing for administrators to oversee the school while the search for a new leader gets under way.

Robert Paxton, the president of ICCC for 13 years, resigned Thursday following a report in the Des Moines Register that he was photographed shirtless, while holding a small Coors Light keg over a woman's mouth. The photo, showing Paxton with a group of young women and one man, was taken aboard a boat on Iowa's West Lake Okoboji, according to the Register, which received the photo from an area resident.

It is unclear whether or not the people pictured with Paxton, 52, were students at ICCC, but the evidence was damning enough for the popular president to resign from his job.

Chuck Peterson, a retired vice president at ICCC, and now the assistant to the president, said Paxton will get a severance package of $400,000 -- $200,000 in January 2009, and the other half in January 2010. He'll also retain full family health care coverage until he is eligible for Medicare.

He left behind a $156,000 annual salary, $27,960 annually for the purchase of an annuity, a $13,200 annual allowance for his personal vehicle, plus mileage reimbursement for every mile driven out of town, and a $7,250 personal expense account.

Peterson described Paxton as popular with the students and very involved on campus, located in Fort Dodge, about 90 miles northwest of Des Moines.

"Our college doubled in enrollment since he came here," Peterson said. "He has a significant, strong relationship with the community."

Peterson said he saw his former boss today, and "he's taking it very hard."

A woman who answered the phone at Paxton's house today promptly hung up. It is not clear whether Paxton is married.

Paxton initially denied his presence on the boat to the Des Moines Register, but later said it was he in the photo and told the newspaper that he did nothing improper.

The Register also reported that Paxton had said the tap on the keg wasn't open when he held it up and that his 19-year-old son, arrested early the next morning on drunken driving charges, wasn't drinking.

Former ICCC student Chris Bacon found out about the photo when it was text-messaged to him by a student. Paxton was Bacon's faculty advisor his freshman year.

"To be completely honest, I wasn't completely surprised," said Bacon, who graduated in the fall.

Though Paxton told the Register that he seldom drinks alcohol, Bacon said there were previous stories about the former president drinking in public, though never to excess, and not with students.

"People were saying they weren't surprised, which is not a good thing," Bacon said, who added that that reaction makes him question the president's previous interactions with other students.

Bacon noted that the photo was taken on a personal trip and off college grounds.

"But he is the president of a college," he said. "I don't think that's appropriate behavior."

While the search is on for a new president, Peterson will serve as the liaison between the college's board of trustees and the administration.

"We've had a terrible two days," Peterson said. "I had one person say to me it seemed like a funeral on campus yesterday."

In 2002, Paxton was indicted by a district court grand jury on charges of felonious misconduct in office, falsifying public documents and tampering with records during an investigation into ICCC students' records being altered.

The charges were dismissed later that year after Paxton agreed to accept responsibility for the incident.

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