Controversy continues to plague Pima Community College from depriving employees of basic rights to questioning the motives of long-time PCC supporters. Many say the controversies will not end until the leadership does.
That change does not necessarily require a change in personnel as much as it requires a dramatic change in attitude.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Raner C. Collins ruled that the College’s former chancellor, Ray Flores, and current chancellor Lee Lambert violated an employee’s rights.
One of eight women who accused Pima Community College’s former chancellor of sexual harassment has won a federal court ruling against the school’s current chancellor for violating her civil rights.
It’s the second time in eight months that a judge has found Chancellor Lee Lambert personally liable for terminating a college employee without providing a hearing or due process.
The college itself also is liable for Lambert’s actions, the ruling said.
U.S. District Court Judge Ranier C. Collins ruled March 1 that Lambert wrongly deprived ex-administrator Imelda Cuyugan of an annual contract for the 2015 school year.
“Chancellor Lambert deprived Plaintiff of a (contract) without any due process and is liable in his personal capacity,” Collins, chief judge of the federal court in Tucson, said in his written decision.
Earlier this year, the College was found to have violated the rights of David Katz. Katz was full time Chemistry instructor, and had worked at the College since 2002. Katz explains on his website that the College retaliated against him for “exposing laboratory problems at the West Campus, where thousands of dollars of laboratory equipment and instrumentation were disposed of without consulting anyone in the chemistry department.”
According to Katz, College officials attacked his character, “Speaking up put me on Notice of Investigatory Leave of Absence for “possible violations of the Code of Conduct/Discipline, Section V, which includes behavior and language that demonstrates unwillingness to cooperate with others, lack of collegiality, disrespect, bullying or harassing, insubordination, use of profane language and an inappropriate display of anger towards other employees including faculty colleagues, staff, your supervising administrator and temporary and student workers.”
So when PCC Governing Board member, Sylvia Lee questioned the motives of Mario Gonzalez during a Board meeting this month, the message was clear; nothing has changed and the leaders still don’t get it. The us-versus-them mentality combined with a reckless tendency to cast aspersions rather than take responsibility appears to be standard operating procedure for PCC leaders.
Later, Lee wrote Gonzales to apologize. “Mario I want to apologize for questioning if you were being supportive or trying to sabotage PCC. I have to remind myself that although we differ in many ways, we are similar in that we are passionate about the college and community,” she wrote.
I appreciate the fact that you obviously had “second thoughts” about your comments made at the March 8th Board meeting and sought to apologize to me personally for those comments. However, you did not simply question my motives regarding my presentation during Citizen’s Interim at last week’s BOG meeting; that was, to put it mildly, rude and unprofessional. But you also cast aspersions on the integrity of C-FAIRR as an organization and its members, many of whom you know personally. What you actually said was significantly more serious and damaging to C-FAIRR’s and my reputation. Even more devastating to us, you made these erroneous accusations against us at a public forum, and they have now become a part of the College’s public record.
Acting, in your capacity as a PCC Board member, you accused me and C-FAIRR of serious misconduct by alleging that our actions and statements were sabotaging the College and you demanded that we stop this improper activity. You offered no facts to support your spurious allegation against us and, the Board Chair did not permit me an opportunity to refute this unfounded accusation or to correct the public record.
You may not have been aware but members of my family and extended family were in the audience to witness these disparaging comments against me and C-FAIRR. Some C-FAIRR members who watched the meeting via the internet called to say they were out-raged and wanted to speak at the April Board meeting! No doubt, a number of community members were also live streaming the meeting and now have a patently false view of who I am as a private, taxpaying citizen and C-FAIRR as a legitimate community-based organization. Therefore, your private apology is woefully inadequate.
I think you should realize that you are an elected official, and it is an expectation that comes with the position that the public will at times question your actions and votes that pertain to your oversight and governance responsibilities at PCC. I understand that it is difficult for you and your Board colleagues to be challenged to justify your glowing performance reviews of the Chancellor, which, may I remind you, were conducted in Executive Session, away from public view of the discussion and without College employee or community input. Your platform as a candidate called for the performance of all administrators, especially the chancellor, to be assessed through a 360-degree evaluation process. An election promise you have failed to keep! The public has observed a disconnect between the Board’s glowing assessment of the Chancellor and that of his “real” and documented performance—all witnessed by the general public, PCC employees who were forced out, and the current brow-beaten staff and faculty.
Your public outbursts in defense of the Chancellor show your lack of understanding and appreciation of your fundamental role as a board member. Your first and foremost obligation requires that you represent the constituents from the district that elected you. What’s more, that duty also requires a professional separation between you and the organization’s CEO. Your actions have exhibited neither responsibility since you participated in hiring Mr. Lambert. (Please rest assured that C-FAIRR can provide documentation for this statement.) Let me remind you, too, that you failed to exhibit this same professionalism when you publicly attacked PCCEA president, Ana Jimenez, at a BOG meeting.
Dr. Lee, I hope that you will take the opportunity at this coming April board meeting under your Board Member’s Report to correct the public record by apologizing to me and C-FAIRR for the unfounded accusations that you made against us. From our perspective, it is the only right, honorable and ethical action for you to take to restore not only our reputations but your own integrity as a PCC Board member.