What you may not know about Leonard Zinnanti’s past by Laura Taveras
Later this month, Leonard F. Zinnanti will assume the role of acting senior vice president for administration/chief operating officer – a new position at CCNY. His duties will center on all things financial, including budgeting, finances, accounting and financial reporting, and purchasing.
Bottom line: City College administration has hired Zinnanti to help solve the college’s severe budget crisis. Students, faculty and administrators have been reeling in response to a multi-million dollar budget shortfall, first announced last year. A reduction in funding from the state and CUNY, a dip in enrollment in some divisions and increased expenditures led to this college-wide financial crisis. With over 40 years of experience and a degree from Harvard, Zinnanti seems like a good fit to help rescue CCNY. He worked at almost the same capacity at CUNY’s Hunter College for a decade, until 2013.
But take a closer look. Zinnanti’s tenure at Hunter didn’t end well.
A September 15, 2013 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required) describes a “falling out” between Zinnanti and Hunter’s President Jennifer Raab, that led to his resignation effective August 1 that same year.
The article states:
“…after more than 15 years of working together in government and higher education, the relationship between the president and her longtime colleague appears to have disintegrated this summer. Mr. Zinnanti resigned from his position at Hunter effective August 1, taking a post as executive controller in the CUNY system. Mr. Zinnanti informed Ms. Raab of his intention to resign in a brief June 26 e-mail, giving about five weeks’ notice. ‘If there is a problem with this date, I certainly can leave earlier,’ he wrote.”
What led to the trouble for Zinnanti? The Chronicle article notes that the 15-year professional relationship between Raab and Zinnanti began to deteriorate around November 2009 when Raab found out Zinnanti was dating and later engaged to Noel Goddard, then an assistant professor of physics at Hunter. After Zinnanti’s resignation and move to CUNY Central, on November 22, 2013, Goddard filed a “due process” legal complaint in New York’s Supreme Court, (Noel Goddard v. City College of New York, Hunter College, Docket Number: 108885/13). She argued that after learning of her relationship with Zinnanti, “President Raab was unusually interested” in her reappointment, according to case documents.
In her suit Goddard also said that Raab interfered in her reappointment notwithstanding her conflict of interest, i.e., Goddard’s romantic relationship Zinnanti. Goddard’s suit was eventually dismissed but The Chronicle describes the mess as “a case study in how campus relationships can complicate professional alliances.”
What does this mean for City College and our new COO? According to President Lisa Coico’s welcome email about Zinnanti, while at Hunter “he provided strategic leadership…while sustaining and enriching campus facilities and administrative services to meet the demands of the student body and faculty during a period of continuous growth in enrollment.” We’ll wait and see whether he can do the same for CCNY.