UT official fired after child porn arrest

UT official fired after child porn arrest

Posted:
Bruce Downsbrough (source: Blount County Sheriff's Office) Bruce Downsbrough (source: Blount County Sheriff's Office)
"I think we would live up to any commitments we've already made, with the assumption things would be corrected in the proper way," said architect Don Shell. "I think we would live up to any commitments we've already made, with the assumption things would be corrected in the proper way," said architect Don Shell.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The University of Tennessee official who was arrested Tuesday on child porn charges was fired Thursday morning.

UT Foundation Executive Vice President and COO Bruce Downsbrough, 60, was fired from the position. The foundation oversees private contributions to the University of Tennessee.

Downsbrough faces four federal child pornography charges after being arrested on campus.

After the arrest he was placed on administrative leave with pay, but Thursday UT Foundation President Johnnie D. Ray sent Downsbrough a letter notifying him that he was terminated from his position, effective Friday.

Ray told 6 News he consulted with outside counsel before firing Downsbrough. 

"We will quickly begin the process of determining how his role will be filled long-term," Ray said in a written statement. "In the interim, Lisa Taylor has assumed the role of acting chief operating officer, and we have assembled a senior team to support her."

6 News spoke with several donors, a UT Foundation board member and a friend of Downsbrough to get their take on the move. There were mixed emotions and surprise over the arrest.

Don Shell, chairman and partner of Red Chair Architects, said his company started giving donations to the university through the UT Foundation in 2012.

Shell said they've already committed to future contributions and despite Downsbrough's arrest, he'll likely keep his financial commitment to the university.

"I think we would live up to any commitments we've already made, with the assumption things would be corrected in the proper way," said Shell.

The UT Foundation's president fired Downsbrough stating the organization does not need cause to terminate employment. Downsbrough's employment ends Friday.

In his personnel file, Downsbrough was consistently rated as exceptional. An acquaintance described Downsbrough as a nice, friendly man who was not married.

A UT Foundation board member and donor said he was disappointed to have a top official charged with child pornography, but doesn't want to comment further until more information is released.

A spokesperson for the UT Foundation released a statement saying the group is concerned about the impact the arrest could have on donations, but pointed out Downsbrough was on the operations side of the foundation and had very little contact with the donors.

Shell hopes the foundation will hire a good replacement to ease concerns.

"Anytime you have a change in leadership, you have to earn back their confidence. It's just natural to question, 'Can we go forward in a positive way?' and I believe we can," said Shell.

Shell says despite the uncertainty, he will continue to donate to the university.

Downsbrough has worked for the UT Foundation since 2003 and has held his current job since 2011.

UT officials say his annual salary was $202,000.

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