Williams College board member resigns after au pair conviction

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WILLIAMSTOWN — The resignation of an eight-year Williams College trustee who violated au pair regulations in Norway has prompted calls for the school to change the name of a dormitory named in her honor.

The college president and board chairman, however, said such a move is unnecessary.

Joey Horn resigned Feb. 16 after a conviction for violating au pair regulations in her home country of Norway, according to an article published in "News In English," a European news outlet.

Joey Horn and her husband, Ragnar, were convicted Feb. 3 of classifying two employees as au pairs, despite rules that only allow one per family. They were also accused of using the employees to conduct housekeeping duties in addition to child care services.

Joey Horn graduated from Williams in 1987; Ragnar Horn graduated from Williams in 1985. They both work as international corporate financial advisers. The Horns also have been active donors to various college efforts, and have mentored and advised a number of Williams College students. The couple donated $10 million for the recent construction of a new college dormitory, now named Horn Hall.

When news of the conviction spread, a number of students, including many in the campus group Divest Williams, raised concerns about a college trustee who has been convicted of au pair law violations. They called for the school to rename Horn Hall during a protest event at the dorm.

But college President Adam Falk demurred.

"Ragnar and Joey Horn are loyal alumni, deeply committed to Williams," he said in a statement. "Sometimes they've provided support publicly, through their philanthropy; other times they've helped quietly, by personally mentoring students and encouraging individual faculty in their work. Every one of us has benefited from their love of the college, whether we realize it or not. Board Chairman Mike Eisenson told the Williams Record [newspaper] he saw nothing in the court's verdict that warranted a reconsideration of the decision to name Horn Hall. While the board reserves authority to decide such matters, I personally agree."

The Williams Record quoted a statement from the Horn's attorney:

"Mr. and Mrs. Horn have both acknowledged that they employed two au pairs when Norway's laws restrict each household to just one and that they allowed paperwork to be filed suggesting that one au pair would be working for their neighbors," said Ragnar Horn's counsel, Svein Holden. "They sincerely regret their mistake and have apologized. They are appealing the judgment entered by the Norwegian court because, while they agree with the essential facts on which the decision is based, they do not agree with its legal conclusions and do not believe that the penalty is a just or reasonable punishment."

The case has gained national attention in Norway as the government debates the au pair regulations.

The au pair investigation was launched in December 2014. The couple has been sentenced to five months in prison, but they have appealed the conviction and the sentence. The case is expected to be resolved some time in 2018.

In a letter to the board of trustees following her resignation, Joey Horn said her "personal situation" made it necessary to resign from the board.

"We employed two au pairs when Norway's laws restrict each household to just one and we allowed paperwork to be filed suggesting that one au pair would be working for our neighbors," Joey Horn wrote. "At the time, the au pairs were hired we had just moved back to Norway from Singapore. Both of us were working full time while raising three teenagers, and I was traveling about half the time, spending long stretches in New York after my mother became seriously ill. It's undisputed that we paid the au pairs a salary above the standards set for au pairs by the government, and that we provided them with room and board in a comfortable and independent living space. But Ragnar and I made a mistake, for which we are sorry."


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