LAS CRUCES (KRQE) - With less than three years on the job, New Mexico State University's president is gone and taking a nice payout on the way.
Without explanation Barbara Couture took leave as of last week, and on Monday afternoon the board of regents announced it had cut a deal--a separation agreement, they called it--to make her exit official.
But Couture will be paid till the end of the year, and she'll get a check for almost a half-million dollars after that.
The regents are refusing to talk specifics about what went wrong.
Regardless the regents came out of a closed meeting and voted unanimously to approve Couture's departure in a packed public meeting.
Under the agreement Couture will remain on leave until the end of the year and get a little more than $450,000 as a going-away payout
NMSU Vice President and Provost Wendy Wilkins will run the university for now although the board is expected to appoint an interim president in two weeks.
Board President Mike Cheney said he expects the process of finding a permanent replacement will take much longer.
"We're looking for leadership in terms of the ability to connect with donors, connect with our alumni, connect with students, faculty, staff all the stakeholders," Cheney said. "We need someone strong to represent this university because it's a fantastic university with a story to tell."
There has been a lot of speculation and no hard information as to why this happened. NMSU's basketball and football teams were left out in the cold this year in a reshuffling of sports conferences.
And a school-affiliated nursing program just lost its accreditation last month.
While Cheney acknowledged those challenges, he did not go into the reasons behind the split.
Couture was making an annual salary of $392,000 plus perks.
The university says she is taking a new job with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
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