The administrator of public education funding from school trust lands resigned Friday, Utah Board of Education Chairman Mark Huntsman said.
Huntsman announced the resignation of Tim Donaldson, director of the School Children’s Trust Section, in the waning moments of Friday’s school board meeting, cutting off a scheduled debate over whether to remove Donaldson from his position.
“On personnel issues we can‘t go into details,” Huntsman told The Salt Lake Tribune after the meeting adjourned.
As director, Donaldson coordinated the annual payments made to Utah schools from the $2.3 billion Permanent State School Fund while also acting as a liaison between the school board and the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, or SITLA.
Huntsman declined to comment on why the board planned to discuss Donaldson during Friday’s meeting, saying only that statute requires notice to be given on an agenda regarding any discussion of the School Children’s Trust director, whether that discussion result in the director’s removal or merely directives from the board.
“If we were to talk or take any action, we‘re required to post that,” Huntsman said.
When asked to comment on Donaldson’s resignation, Huntsman carefully chose his words.
“In his tenure, he was very important in the evolution of SITLA, SITFO [the School and Institutional Trust Fund Office] and the School Land Trust development,” Huntsman said.
Donaldson declined to comment Friday.
The change follows several months of private and public sparring between Donaldson and the board.
Former board members expressed concern with SITLA’s response to President Barack Obama’s designation of Bear’s Ears National Monument. And, in February, the board voted to oppose a bill that would have granted Donaldson enhanced powers as director while limiting the board’s power to remove him from the position.
During the public comment portion of Friday’s board meeting, SITFO chief investment officer Peter Madsen spoke in support of Donaldson’s work coordinating land trust investments and overseeing the allocation of resources to schools.
“I understand Mr. Donaldson has a reputation for upsetting the occasional politician, board member, or other individual,” Madsen said. “I‘ve seen his quick mind and his wit in action.”
Following the announcement of Donaldson’s resignation, the Utah Board of Education voted to authorize Huntsman to appoint an interim School Children’s Trust Section director. Huntsman said he will consult with staff and begin that process as policy and statute allows.