By Carol Vaughn — The man hired in September as Eastern Shore Community College’s Workforce and Business Solutions Officer is facing trial on three felony counts of embezzlement.
Still, President James Shaeffer says Brian Scott Hall is the right person for the job, despite his legal troubles. Hall has 23 years of experience in economic and workforce development, according to a September 2019 press release from the college announcing his hiring.
“I want to be clear — this is my hire. I made the decision,” Shaeffer said.
Hall, 56, was business development coordinator for the City of Virginia Beach Department of Economic Development between 2008 and June 2018, according to his LinkedIn profile.
A grand jury in Virginia Beach indicted Hall on three felony counts of embezzlement on Nov. 5, 2018. Hall resigned during an audit of the department.
The incidents happened between September 2016 and June 2018, according to the indictment.
The case has been continued several times; the trial currently is scheduled for Feb. 5 in Virginia Beach Circuit Court.
Hall is accused of embezzling around $4,000, according to a Nov. 10, 2018, article in the Virginian-Pilot.
Virginia Beach Auditor Lyndon Remias said the alleged crimes are related to packages Hall shipped to his girlfriend in the Philippines, according to the Pilot.
Hall declined to comment, citing the pending court case.
Hall was interviewed for the job at Eastern Shore Community College in the second round of a search to fill the position, Shaeffer said, noting he was among a half a dozen people interviewed.
“I was having a heck of a time finding the right fit. … We really needed to beef up our workforce development,” he said.
A priority of the college, as well as of the entire Virginia Community College system, is to better combine workforce development with academic offerings, according to Shaeffer.
“If it’s going to work, it will work here. Being small has its advantages,” he said.
Eastern Shore Community College has the smallest enrollment of any community college in Virginia.
Hall’s position at Eastern Shore Community College is a new one, created to help implement improvements as part of a three-year “reboot” plan the college announced a year ago.
The plan came in response to the finding that the college fell below thresholds required under a new state policy — the thresholds include the number of students served, population of the service area, and cost of programs relative to the rest of the Virginia Community College System.
The goal of the reboot is to re-establish the college as “a viable and sustainable college that responds to the unmet educational and training needs of the Shore,” according to a state presentation.
The college in May announced 12 administrative positions were being eliminated and three new positions were being created as part of the process.
The other two new positions are in student services, Shaeffer said.
Shaeffer, who became president on July 1, prefers to call the three-year process a “refresh.”
Noting that next year the college will celebrate its 50th anniversary, Shaeffer said, “My job is to help folks refresh and help folks get ready for the next 50 years.
“If you reboot, that means everything you were doing was wrong or not working, and the reality is, since I’ve been here, there’s a lot that’s still working — so we are just refreshing,” he said.
Hall’s position, workforce and business solutions officer, is responsible for day-to-day operations of a 15-member team and reports to the vice-president of academics, workforce and student affairs, according to a job description on his LinkedIn page.
Hall fit the bill for the job, including both his skills and knowledge of the Hampton Roads region, according to Shaeffer.
“He was ready to hit the ground running. I just didn’t have anybody in the pool that met that need,” Shaeffer said.
According to Shaeffer, Hall was open “from day one” about his legal issues. Bill Aiken, a retired college president named by VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois to serve as transition officer at ESCC, was handling the job search, according to Shaeffer.
It was when they met face-to-face for an interview that Shaeffer realized he had met Hall before — when Shaeffer, in his former job as dean of professional and continuing education for Old Dominion University, attended quarterly meetings of the Military Economic Development Advisory Committee at the Virginia Beach Economic Development office.
Shaeffer contacted the human resources department at the Virginia Community College System, which conducts background checks on potential hires, about Hall’s legal situation.
He also called references.
“The references were very clear — that he had made a mistake, but he is a good worker and that he would be a great choice,” Shaeffer said.
The college’s search committee also unanimously said Hall was the person to hire, according to Shaeffer.
“It was clear that Scott was the best person that we had interviewed for the job,” he said, adding, “He has paid his debt back to Virginia Beach. … It has affected his ability to get a job and keep a job.”
Shaeffer noted community colleges are places “where people get first chances, and they get second chances, they get third chances — they get a chance to rewrite their narrative for life here.
“I don’t care if you are a student or if you are a professional … I want to give opportunities for people to be able to rewrite that narrative and to be able to go on from there,” he said, noting that some of the college’s students have spent time in prison or had other difficult issues in their background.
“The mistake that he made was one that he’s had to live with … and he knows that he going to have to live with that — but there’s no reason that we can’t give him a second chance,” Shaeffer said.
Under Hall’s leadership, the college’s medical scribe program has gotten up and running, among other accomplishments, Shaeffer said.
He noted the community college system has “guardrails” to guard against wrongdoing by its employees.
“I know I’ve hired the right person,” he said.
Information about Eastern Shore Community College’s reboot plan, including progress reports, is at https://es.vccs.edu/about/reboot/