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Delta College president: Trustees who stepped over the line want him fired

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Posted: Saturday, January 28, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 11:40 am, Sat Jan 28, 2012.

San Joaquin Delta College President Jeff Marsee faces possible discipline or dismissal at a closed session Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday, and he says it is because he has taken action to correct two trustees’ questionable practices.

The board scheduled a special meeting at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Horton Administration Building Room.

Marsee said the meeting is in retaliation for two separate incidents. If there is a disciplinary action on Tuesday, Marsee warns that it could trigger the California Whistleblower Act, which gives state employees protection against retaliation from their employers after they expose inappropriate activities.

Marsee said he is bringing his concerns to the media ahead of time because he is concerned a violation of the Whistleblower Act could result in the college losing accreditation.

“The community deserves a community college that functions well and has strong leadership. This behavior is not just about me. It’s not about me at all. It’s presenting a scenario where the college could have its accreditation in danger,” he said.

Marsee said the first incident involved Trustee Mary Ann Cox. After he found out Cox made a phone call to a Classified School Employees Association official, he brought it to the board to see if it was a violation of policy, he said.

Cox called a union official, and was accused of intervening on behalf of her daughter, who was up for a position in the Financial Aid Department. Marsee said that when he found out about the call, he was required to let the president of the board know.

Cox said the allegations were false, pointing to a letter in The Stockton Record that ran in November from Rose Roach, the union employee. She said that Cox was simply calling to make sure she could pass along Roach’s phone number to Cox’s daughter.

“The allegations with my daughter were not true,” Cox said.

Because it is a personnel issue, Cox could not comment on why the meeting was called for Tuesday, but said she does not know why Marsee is talking about the whistleblower law.

Marsee said the second incident happened recently. He said he questioned why Delta College was being billed by the Stockton Unified School District for board president Janet Rivera’s release time when she was at board functions. Rivera works for the Stockton district.

Marsee spoke with the district’s superintendent, and he agreed to discontinue the billing, Marsee said. When he told Rivera, Marsee said Rivera insisted that Delta College keep paying for her time.

Marsee then asked the attorney that represents the board whether the payments were authorized in the education code. He said it is an unauthorized disbursement because school board officials are only allowed to receive $400 a month in stipends from the board.

When Marsee told Rivera this, he said she accused him of “harassment.”

Marsee is worried that his job is at stake on Tuesday because he stepped in during both of these situations.

“These two trustees are using their power to influence the rest of the board. It’s retaliation for the conflict of interest and, in the case of Rivera, having me follow a process to discontinue the payments,” he said.

Rivera did not return a call for comment.

Lodi trustee Taj Khan said he could not comment on anything at this point.

“It would be inappropriate for me to comment on any of these items until the board meets. Then whatever the board’s decision is will be announced in public,” Khan said.

Trustee Steve Castellanos said he feels like the meeting Tuesday is “emotionally based,” and that the board should be focused on more important issues like the budget and union negotiations.

He said that he knows Rivera was upset that Marsee was interfering with the past payment practice.

“I understand he raised the issue with Janet and, in turn, Janet became upset about it. He was trying to protect her and the college in correcting something that has been handled improperly in the past,” Castellanos said.

He is worried that any action on Tuesday could hurt the college’s image with the accreditation board.

“It’s really important for the board to observe proper decorum and not step outside of their lines with their responsibility and their oath. There are personal agendas guiding this rather than any professional issues that should be considered,” Castellanos said.

Since Marsee started last May, Castellanos said he has heard from community leaders that the president is doing a great job reaching out to the community. He feels like it would be irresponsible to get rid of Marsee, because they would have to pay him an 18-month severance.

“We don’t have the money, and even if we did, it would be a tremendous concern to taxpayers that the board would even consider, after six months or so, to spend that kind of money to fire a leader where it would be difficult to explain why,” he said.

Marsee said that Delta College is his last career stop, and he wants to work with the board to provide the best community college possible.

“The community needs to have its college functioning well, so that people are able to get an education to get back into the workforce during this economy,” he said.

His biggest concern is how an action from the board could effect the accreditation process. The college has a meeting in March with the accreditation officials.

While it is unlikely, Marsee said the worst possible situation is if the college were to lose accreditation. Then students would not be able to get financial aid, their coursework would not transfer to other schools and the college would not receive state or federal grants.

Marsee hopes that the trustees will not take any action on Tuesday, and he said they need to get back to more important issues affecting the college.

“These petty and inappropriate behaviors by certain trustees are really impacting the community they are supposed to be representing” he said.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com. Read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blogs/citybuzz.

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  • Jay Samone posted at 7:26 am on Fri, Feb 3, 2012.

    Jay Samone Posts: 359

    Lisa, I don't work there so I have no clue what it's like - obviously you do or you wouldn't have shared your perception of events. The age old problem with bringing in new management (or company takeholders, etc) is that the existing staff don't like change. If it's been working so well for them for so long, then why all the need for change? Change is uncomfortable, it puts people on the defensive and the attack. No matter where you work in life, you will always see a mass exodus of management and other staff when a new boss rolls into town. He may seem dictatorial, but maybe that's what Delta needs to succeed. You don't like "his" vision for Delta? That's YOUR problem, not his - he is the boss. Chances are, he was hired on the very "vision" you and your peers are fighting against. The problem I see here is that the "old way" doesn't like the "new way" so they fight it or leave. So you have three choices in this: you can either choose to go along for the ride and wait it out, sit around and complain about him and cause other problems and make yourself miserable, or you can leave like the others. That's up to you.

  • KiKi MawMaw posted at 7:45 pm on Mon, Jan 30, 2012.

    Kiki MawMay Posts: 1

    It's always someone else's fault. Marsee is a genius, we just can't understand him or see his vision. But, just give him enough rope. Protect yourselves, protect your budget, he will eventually self-destruct, and it won't take long, either!

  • Lisa Nelson posted at 5:43 pm on Mon, Jan 30, 2012.

    lnelson Posts: 2

    Joanne and Scott, you are right in terms of the "conditions" at the college and the risk of the accreditation. Many things need to change. But, if this is the kind of leader the college has, then the college is going to run down the same road as the previous colleges for which he served. He is "heavy handed" and dictatorial. There seems to be no collaboration or brainstorming of ideas to change things. The conditions of the restrooms are in a large part due to an apparent cut in janitors and change of their hours. The food is gross, but that's not a deal breaker. The bottom line is that his "vision" of the college is his own personal vision, not what is in the best interest of the college and anyone who disagrees with Marsee becomes a target. Look at the mass exodus of some of the college's strongest managers and leaders this past year. This president is completely out of touch with the demographics of the college and the local business economy and is all about building the "foundation" to build satellite campuses. Instead of building on the strong legacy of amazing programs, like the CAT program, he has snubbed Caterpillar after their $18 million donation and is about to cut the entire program! There are many, many issues and some are quite complex. But for Marsee to turn around and attack Mrs. Rivera, who is an incredible support for the college, and anyone else who disagrees with him or goes up against him, it shows that he is completely vindictive and a scary person to have in a position of power.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 8:44 am on Mon, Jan 30, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4306

    There needs to be significant change at Delta College. It is more like a dysfunctional high school than a place of higher learning. The old school practices that the city of Stockton has enjoyed for so long need to come to an end and hiring should be opened up to the wider community rather than continue the "legacy" practices that have been the custom.

    The campus is filthy, the restrooms are filthy, the food in the cafeteria is inedible and overpriced. I took a class several semesters ago and at the start of class a janitorial cart was "parked" outside the nearest restroom for the entire 2 hour class period - no janitor in sight - and when the cart was gone, the restroom was still filthy. What a joke.

    I hope Mr. Marsee accomplishes his goal of cleaning up this campus that seems to be only a place where people go to get free financial aid.

  • Jackson Scott posted at 8:09 am on Mon, Jan 30, 2012.

    Jackson Scott Posts: 382

    Obviously the Nelson's have an agenda. The SJDC Board is almost as messed up as the city of Stockton. Trustees who serve for what seems live forever, faked expense accounts & double payments, the list goes on. Marsee was brought in to clean up the mess that is Delta College. The school is close to losing its accreditation. Do you folks have any clue what that means? It would mean no classes would be good for transfer to a 4yr college. What are our students going to do if that happens? Delta is already so disfunctional that many kids leave the area to go to a JC (Cabrillo, Questa, etc), and of course go elsewhere like CRC, Sac City, & Modesto JC.

  • Charles Nelson posted at 10:49 pm on Sun, Jan 29, 2012.

    Charles Nelson Posts: 257

    Marsee came to Delta under a cloud. He was described as "contentious" at his former job at College of the Redwoods in Humboldt. Looks like his history of not playing well with others continues.

  • Lisa Nelson posted at 6:58 pm on Sun, Jan 29, 2012.

    lnelson Posts: 2

    This is sad. For this president to lash out at others because he has upset many board members, faculty and staff with his management style and is now being made accountable for some really bad decisions and a "dictatorial" style decision-making process. The college deserves a better "leader" and one who really understands the community it is suppose to serve, rather than a president who wants his own "vision" to be realized. There is much more to this story that is reported here. The college deserves better than this! And, Janet Rivera has served the college well for a long tim, through a lot of stuff and has taken a lot of hits in the news and public from this president and others. She deserves much more respect than this!

  • Bob Silvano posted at 4:23 pm on Sat, Jan 28, 2012.

    Bob Silvano Posts: 145

    Marsee is doing the right thing. "Quid iustum est aequum"

  • V Valencia posted at 9:35 am on Sat, Jan 28, 2012.

    Teeters03 Posts: 1

    Interesting bd



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