Kimbrough Fired From Texas A&M System, Revealed Knife

Updated 4:15 p.m.: The report from the Texas A&M University Police Department regarding the termination of A&M System Deputy Chancellor Jay Kimbrough has been added to the bottom of this post.

In it, officer Craig Dudley reports: "[System General Counsel Ray] Bonilla stated that Kimbrough refused to hand over his keys and pass card and that Kimbrough brandished a knife in a non-threatening manner. According to Bonilla, Kimbrough stated 'If anyone is man enough to take them (referring to the keys and pass card) bring it on.'"

Dudley makes clear in his report that the security presence was a precautionary measure that is "normal operating procedure."

Ultimately, Kimbrough left peacefully, if reluctantly.

From Dudley's report:

I met Kimbrough at the entrance to the Chancellors suite and identified myself as a University Police Officer. Kimbrough replied, "So am I." Kimbrough placed his hand on both my arms and applied slight pressure towards the entrance of the Chancellor's Suite. I placed my hands on Kimbrough and held my ground. I explained to Kimbrough that his access to the building had also been terminated and that he would need to leave the building. Kimbrough stated, "that this is a lawyer thing" and "they need to learn to be more subtle". Kimbrough removed his hands from my arms and asked if we were going to escort him out. I explained to him that we were going to follow him out. Kimbrough stated, "I shall return". Kimbrough then left the building without further incident. Kimbrough walked to his vehicle and left the area. No further action was taken, no charges are being filed.

Updated 12:45 p.m.: 

Gov. Rick Perry's office has responded to the news that Jay Kimbrough, Perry's former chief of staff, has been fired from the Texas A&M University System by new chancellor John Sharp. Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle said in a statement that neither the governor nor his staff knew about the termination until after the fact, and that Perry hasn't spoken to Kimbrough or Sharp. 

"Jay Kimbrough is a decorated war veteran who has given his life to public service," Castle said. "The governor has the utmost respect for and confidence in both Jay and John Sharp.... This is a personnel matter with the A&M system."

Original story: 

An unexpected drama unfolded at GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry's alma mater on Wednesday, when Perry's longtime friend and top adviser Jay Kimbrough was abruptly ousted as deputy chancellor of the Texas A&M University System. Security was reportedly called to escort him out after he revealed to senior staff a pocketknife he carries.

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, a college friend and former political rival of Perry, told the Tribune that he had determined Kimbrough's position was no longer necessary. In an email to system employees on Wednesday night, Sharp wrote: "I wish to thank Jay Kimbrough for his service in that role during my initial days as Chancellor. I wish him the best in his future endeavors."

Kimbrough, a former chief of staff for Perry who served as interim chancellor until Sharp’s appointment two weeks ago, told the Tribune that he was blindsided by his firing, which coincided with his 64th birthday. He said he was called into the general counsel's office and told that Sharp no longer had use for his position, which had an annual salary of $300,000.

In the process of discussing his termination with Ray Bonilla, the system's general counsel, and Scott Kelly, the deputy general counsel, Kimbrough, a Marine Corps veteran who nearly died in Vietnam and speaks often of his military history, mentioned — he says in jest — that he always carries a knife.

"I was just joking," said Kimbrough, who acknowledged that he revealed the pocketknife during the discussion. "I was just saying I was not going to be intimidated." About an hour later, while he was making phone calls from his office, he said, university police officers arrived and told him he needed to leave. 

Kimbrough said it's not unusual for security to be called in when someone is terminated involuntarily, and that he didn't think it had to do with the knife. "Sure I displayed it, yes," he said. "But I do that 20 times a week. I do it when someone needs to cut a watermelon." He said he did not threaten anyone: "Absolutely not." 

The A&M system's spokesman, Jason Cook, told the Tribune that it is standard procedure to have police on stand-by in such a situation. He said no police action was taken and that no police reports have been filed "at this time."

Later Wednesday night, Bonilla emailed Kimbrough to say the security presence was “done as a routine precaution in employment matters of this nature,” but said Kimbrough should not try to return to the building.

Kimbrough, who in his long government career has served as a troubleshooter for troubled state agencies, said he has worked under a lot of bosses, and that it's not uncommon for them to come in and clean house.

"They have the right, the option, to do that," he said. He acknowledged that his relationship with Sharp had been strained. He said Sharp did not want senior staff to talk to regents without his permission, and that he had disagreed with how staff should respond when regents made direct requests of them.

But he called Wednesday's firing — which was first reported by the Bryan-College Station Eagle — an "ambush," and said he wasn't warned by Perry. As of 10 p.m., he still hadn't heard from the governor, who maintains strong ties to A&M, and will participate in his third nationally televised presidential debate in Orlando on Thursday night. "I got no heads-up from anybody," Kimbrough said. 

The governor’s office could not immediately be reached for comment. 

Before being named interim chancellor and deputy chancellor of the A&M System in June when Mike McKinney stepped down as chancellor, Kimbrough was a highly paid consultant to the Texas Department of Transportation, helping with an overhaul of that agency. Before that, Perry dispatched him to clean up the troubled Texas Youth Commission.

Kimbrough held a number of positions in Perry's administration, serving at various times as chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, director of homeland security and head of the criminal justice division. He also served a stint in the attorney general's office, and was called upon to straighten out the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse when that agency was in disarray.

When Sharp officially became the chancellor this month, Kimbrough retained the deputy chancellor title and salary.

Kimbrough said he's been a public servant from the time he left high school until today, and he doesn't plan to stop now. "I plan to try to do something constructive," he said.  

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