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Delta College board still undecided about fate of president

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Posted: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 5:11 pm | Updated: 5:54 am, Wed Feb 1, 2012.

San Joaquin Delta College trustees met for four hours Tuesday but did not make a decision on the possible discipline or termination of college president Jeff Marsee.

Before going into closed session, trustees heard from a parade of speakers, most critical of Marsee, and one who accused him of being grossly insensitive to his sexuality. Trustees will continue their deliberations on Marsee on Thursday.

Board president Janet Rivera called the special session to evaluate the performance of Marsee in his eight months as president and superintendent of Delta.

Marsee has says he is under fire for revealing inappropriate actions by some of the trustees, who now want to oust him.

About a dozen people gave public comment Tuesday, largely denouncing Marsee’s performance to date and calling for a change in his actions.

Marsee was not present at the closed session, though he did sit through the public comment section.

Both employee unions at the college voted “no confidence” during the past week in Marsee’s leadership during his eight months as president of Delta.

Elizabeth Maloney, president of the faculty union, said that 96 percent of members backed the “no confidence” vote. According to Maloney, Marsee has expressed disregard for existing policies, contempt for faculty, and indifference to the safety of students and staff.

“We are one college, one place, and we need to work on ideas together,” she said.

Ninety-three percent of classified employees voted “no confidence” in the president as well, according to Dana Baker, president of the college’s classified union.

“It’s absurd to think that we’re here because of retaliation,” she said. “Let’s move on and find a leader that can be part of this college.”

In one memorable presentation, a student stepped forward to say he had been a victim of harassment regarding his sexuality, and that requests for help from Marsee and others in the administration went unheeded.

“I went to Marsee’s office and told him what was happening,” said Jimmy Altes. “He looked at me and said, ‘If you don’t want to be harassed or bullied for being gay, don’t be gay.’”

Altes grew emotional during his comments and left the stage amid supportive applause.

One speaker supported Marsee.

“This action has the obvious and clear appearance of retaliation for the two legal opinions,” said Mike Hakeem, Marsee’s attorney, adding that making a decision in haste would be catastrophic for the college.

After the meeting, Marsee did not respond to comments made against him, and directed inquiries to Hakeem, who also made no comment.

In an interview before Tuesday’s meeting, Marsee claimed that some trustees who had acted inappropriately were trying to fire him.

“Some trustees that are trying to orchestrate action based on their personal feelings and personal agendas that has nothing to do with what’s best for the students. ... Had they truly been interested in dealing with the issues, we would have had many conversations before now,” said Marsee, who was anticipating a midterm evaluation.

Marsee said there were no problems expressed to him in relation to the goals and objectives he set and the board approved in August.

One incident Marsee cited as a trigger for retaliation was his decision to stop payments by Delta College to Stockton Unified School District for Rivera’s release time. Rivera is an employee of the Stockton district.

The funds go to pay for time Rivera spends on Delta functions as a trustee and board president, instead of Stockton Unified, and go into the district’s general fund. Rivera does not personally profit from the payments.

Each trustee receives $400 a month plus full benefits from Delta.

The bills first hit Marsee’s desk in July, but he had never before heard of the practice, he said. Marsee said he discontinued the billing in August, but Rivera denied the solution and insisted the payments continue. Rivera chose not to comment on the situation.

“There was no malice or an attempt at fraud. It’s just a practice that was not legal,” he said.

Interim vice president of business Chris Yatooma confirmed that Delta College had been billed for Janet Rivera’s time. Yatooma said there was a memorandum of understanding between Delta College and Stockton Unified and that the practice had gone on for 10 years.

Yatooma said the practice is common, and that the college has had similar memorandums with Lodi Unified School District in the past.

Another issue involved a phone call between trustee Mary Ann Cox and Rose Roach, a classified union employee. Cox was accused on intervening on behalf of her daughter, who was up for a position in the financial aid department. Cox told the News-Sentinel that the allegations were false, and she was simply calling to ask Roach’s permission before passing a personal phone number on to her daughter.

Marsee is concerned that employee unions are trying to play the situation to gain more control over the upcoming reorganization plan.

“My personal hope is that the board will see this type of action is detrimental to the college, to students’ rights and to morale. I’d like to see us not do this,” he said.

Dan Schroeder, attorney for the board, said the trustees will continue in closed session at 2 p.m. Thursday.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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