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Tuesday, October 31, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Edmonds College Ex-Chief Severs Ties -- Panel Oks Resignation Of Nielsen, Accused Of Bribery, Extortion

Seattle Times Snohomish County Bureau

LYNNWOOD - Thomas Nielsen's reign at Edmonds Community College ends today under terms of an $82,833 contract buyout that depends in part on whether he's indicted in the next 12 months.

The school's Board of Trustees voted last night to accept the resignation of Nielsen, 53, who is accused of bribery and extortion through his position as college president. Although Nielsen was removed from that job in May, he has continued to collect his $99,400 yearly salary while working from home as "a resource on international education."

Under the agreement, Nielsen will be paid six months salary, $49,700, tomorrow.

If no indictments or criminal charges have been filed against Nielsen by next Oct. 31, he will collect a second payment, $33,133, the equivalent of four months' pay.

Nielsen's former contract was to expire in June 1997.

"We both ended up with something we could agree with," said board President Karen Miller. "It's win-win."

The FBI and U.S. attorney's office are looking into allegations that Nielsen:

-- Accepted $50,000 plus a Rolex watch from developers of a dormitory where foreign students live. Nielsen helped the developers obtain financing.

-- Accepted $50,000 in kickbacks from the president of an Everett equipment company that sold property to the city of Lynnwood for use by the college's horticulture program and Lynnwood Municipal Golf Course.

-- Took a bribe from the head of a Japanese company conducting an English program for Japanese students at the college.

-- Tipped off the buyer of the Sno-King Building adjacent to the campus about the college's interest in leasing the building. Around the time of the sale, the buyer withdrew $45,000 in large bills from his own bank account. A year later, Nielsen paid the buyer $40,000.

-- Failed to report to the state Public Disclosure Commission the existence of a bank account in Japan.

The college is in the midst of a national search for a new president. Carl Opgaard, retired president of Tacoma Community College, has been serving as interim president since June.

Nielsen's entrepreneurial skills won him a reputation as a state leader in college education during his 16 years as president of Edmonds Community College. Among his achievements were deals to build two branch campuses in Japan, the first of their kind.

Nielsen yesterday released a prepared statement that stressed his pride in working 22 years for the college.

"I trust that history will place in proper perspective the contributions that I have made in helping Edmonds Community College to become the College of Choice," he wrote.

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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