A year later, Monroe has yet to decide on degree resolution
Last year, Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Chief Rodney Monroe was at the center of an academic scandal. At issue was the legitimacy of his degree from Virginia Commonwealth University. A Virginia legislative investigation found the school shouldn't have awarded Monroe a bachelor's degree. He received the degree because high-ranking officials broke rules for him. Monroe held a press conference and announced he would accept responsibility to move past the controversy by exploring options that included going back to school or returning his degree. Last week marked a year since that press conference. As WFAE's Lisa Miller reports, Monroe has been largely silent on the issue ever since. In late October 2008 about a dozen reporters sat in a room at police headquarters. It was packed with supporters of Monroe, including a few city council members. Monroe said he wanted to put an end to the controversy surrounding the bachelor's in Interdisciplinary Studies he received from VCU in 2007. He delivered this statement as City Manager Curt Walton stood beside him: "I will accept responsibility for moving us forward by exploring various options for removing elements of this back-and-forth debate. What those options are I will continue to discuss with Curt Walton and my family in what is everyone's best interest." Monroe encouraged reporters to ask everything that was on their minds. "I don't want to see the calls tomorrow, you know, saying, 'Well, what about this?' Ask me now, please," he said. But Monroe did not answer all of the questions and gave many a cold reception. He said he completed a total of 122 hours mostly online from the University of Phoenix by the time he transferred to VCU while police chief in Richmond, Virginia. As a transfer student at VCU, Monroe was supposed to take at least 30 credit hours at the school, but he only completed six. He acknowledged at the press conference that VCU officials broke rules to benefit him, but says he had no idea they were doing it. In the wake of the scandal, two VCU deans resigned. A legislative investigation said it didn't find evidence of any wrongdoing by Monroe, but that he clearly shouldn't have been awarded the degree. But Monroe still lists the degree in his biography on the city's web site and Monroe has repeatedly refused to answer any questions about whether he's decided what to do about the degree. He has abruptly ended several interviews with WFAE as son as the issue was raised. WFAE's Julie Rose tried to ask him about it two weeks ago. "Chief, Chief, do you have any status on the.." began Rose. We finally got this vaguely-worded statement from Monroe. "What I stated to the community over a year ago was my desire to further my education. This goal will be met on a timetable that is best for my family and career. To date I have and continue to take additional classes," Monroe said. WFAE requested more information on the classes Monroe refers to in his statement. Captain Brian Cunningham, the head of CMPD's communications office, did not respond to our request. Queens University communications professor Leanne Pupch says Monroe should expect questions to continue until he decides what he's going to do about his degree. "Usually, if you want to put an end to the controversy, you resolve the issue," says Leanne Pupchek, a communications professor at Queens University. "You can't just say that you're putting an end to the issue without resolving it." Pupchek has worked in public relations for companies and public officials. "Certainly when you're talking from a public relations standpoint and damage control, you can't move quickly," she adds. "But one year has given him lots of time to choose an option that will help him bolster his legitimacy and trust within the Charlotte community." Monroe has had a lot of time not just to make a decision about his degree, but to prove himself on the job. The police department reports a 20 percent drop in crime. That's put him in the good graces of many people like City Council Member Andy Dulin. "I'm neither surprised nor disappointed about the degree issue," says Dulin. "But what I'm thrilled about is that Chief Monroe has come here, reorganized the men and women that make up our wonderful Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department and I'm just thrilled that this community is safer now than it was before he came." Monroe has the support of city council on the degree matter with the exception of Patsy Kinsey. "I'm disappointed that he doesn't have that four year degree that is required by the city for his position," says Kinsey. "So I would feel much more comfortable if all this is reconciled." City Manager Curt Walton says Monroe still fulfills the requirements of the job since VCU has not revoked his degree. He declined to discuss Monroe's degree on tape saying personnel rules wouldn't let him say much else. VCU officials have said they can only revoke a degree in cases of a student's academic misconduct. Monroe can keep his degree since there's no evidence that Monroe knew or asked others to break rules for him. However, the Monroe scandal prompted VCU to change that policy. If the scandal broke today, his degree would likely be revoked. Last year the president of the Charlotte Fraternal Order of Police raised concerns and said Monroe's integrity was at stake. Randy Hagler says he still hears from officers bothered by the special treatment given to Monroe. But he says there's no use raising the issue since City Manager Curt Walton stands firmly behind the Police Chief. At last year's press conference, WBTV reporter Rob Tufano asked Walton about his commitment. "So he's your guy regardless?" "Absolutely," replied Walton. Monroe is also Tufano's guy. He's now part of Monroe's communications team.