Calls grow for 4 on Pima Community College board to resign

More than a dozen at meeting speak up over scathing report
2013-04-11T00:00:00Z Calls grow for 4 on Pima Community College board to resignCarol Ann Alaimo Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 11, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Calls for resignations of Pima Community College Governing Board members grew louder and more diverse Wednesday.

More than a dozen speakers representing students, citizen groups, college employees and members of the Tucson-area business community called on the board's four longest-serving members to step down in the wake of a recent report on grave shortcomings in PCC's administration and governance.

It marked the third board meeting in a row at which Brenda Even, Scott Stewart, David Longoria and Marty Cortez were urged to leave after an accreditor's investigation found them "dysfunctional" and ineffective.

"I am appalled at the institutional failings that have occurred under your watch," said Cort Chalfant, owner of a land-development firm based in Oro Valley.

"You can't expect this storm to just blow over," Chalfant said.

"Opposition to your tenure is not temporary. It's just getting started," he said, as college staffers cheered.

The four who are under fire served during the tenure of former PCC Chancellor Roy Flores, who left the college last year after eight women accused him of sexual harassment.

A recent investigation by the Chicago-based Higher Learning Commission, which accredits PCC, identified a litany of problems at the school involving Flores, longtime board members and other top administrators.

They included corrupt contracting practices, mishandling of sexual-harassment complaints against Flores and a "culture of fear and retribution" fueled by abusive executives, many of whom still work at PCC.

The college is awaiting word on whether it will be placed on probation.

PCC's two largest employee groups, the Faculty Senate and Staff Council, started calling for board resignations nearly two weeks ago. On Wednesday, two more employee groups issued their own pleas.

"Positive changes to Pima Community College governance cannot be made with those four Board of Governors members in place," said a resolution from PCC's Association of Classified Exempt Staff.

Local 449 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents about 130 PCC employees, also called for resignations.

The four board members have so far said they do not intend to resign.

"There isn't an hour of the day that goes by that I don't question what I should do," said Stewart, who has been on the board since 1999 and was one of Flores' strongest supporters. He said his constituents in District 4 don't want him to step down.

The board, and its critics, also heard Wednesday from PCC's new interim chancellor, who greeted them via teleconference from her home in Illinois.

Zelema Harris, a retired chancellor of St. Louis Community College, starts work Monday in Tucson. She pledged to be part of "a healing process that is certainly going to be needed" at the school.

Harris will be paid $26,417 a month while at PCC. The college also will pay for a car and a hotel suite for her to live in.

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at calaimo@azstarnet.com or at 573-4138.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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