Stockton University president takes immediate medical leave
GALLOWAY (AP) — The embattled president of a southern New Jersey university whose plan to convert a shuttered Atlantic City casino into a satellite campus stalled is stepping down from his post immediately.
Herman Saatkamp said Tuesday he is taking a medical leave. The announcement comes a day after Stockton University's faculty issued a vote of no confidence in Saatkamp. Last week, he said he would resign after Aug. 31, citing health concerns as part of the reason.
"It has become increasingly evident recently that I need to deal with these health issues more immediately," Saatkamp said in a statement issued Tuesday morning. "My original plan was to remain until at least August 31, thereby giving Stockton time to initiate a plan for situating an interim president while a search for the next president was underway. It saddens me to have to leave this abruptly."
Saatkamp's plan to transform the shuttered Showboat casino into a satellite campus has been stuck in legal limbo. The university bought the casino last December for $18 million. But Trump Entertainment Resorts, which owns the Trump Taj Mahal casino next door, is enforcing a 1988 legal covenant among the Showboat, the Taj Mahal and Resorts, mandating that the Showboat not be used for anything other than "a first-class casino hotel."
The Taj Mahal fears that students under the legal age of 21 will sneak into the casino to gamble and drink, exposing it to costly fines. Trump Entertainment says Stockton knew of the legal restriction when it bought the property from Caesars Entertainment. Saatkamp has said he was told the matter had been resolved, but the university has not said who gave that assurance or when it was issued.
Stockton then reached a deal to sell the property to developer Glenn Straub for $26 million. It has a 90-day escape clause to exit the deal with Straub, who also bought the former Revel casino this month.
The university did not immediately respond to questions about its intentions regarding the Showboat. It also was not immediately clear whether Saatkamp would appear as promised at a state Senate budget panel on Thursday that plans to ask him what he knew about the Showboat deal as it was being negotiated.
It has become clear the casino deal has soured Stockton's faculty on Saatkamp's 12 years of leadership of the university. In three days of voting last week, more than 80 percent voiced condemnation of the university president, and nearly one-third called for his resignation. The votes were made public Monday evening.
Stockton said it will start immediately to look for an interim president. Its provost and executive vice president, Harvey Kesselman, will become acting president until July 1, when he leaves to become president of the University of Southern Maine.
Dean Pappas, Chair of the Stockton Board of Trustees, said, "President Saatkamp's health is paramount. He has provided us vision and leadership for 12 years. We need to respect his health issues and concentrate on Stockton University's future."