Pima Community College lost another campus president Thursday when one accused of hitting on female employees abruptly announced his departure.
Johnson Bia, president since 2011 at the Desert Vista Campus, said he was leaving the post immediately and would officially retire on June 3. Bia said he’ll be wrapping up some special projects until then.
Bia’s exit after 22 years at the college follows a two-month internal investigation of claims he “leered” at the bosoms and buttocks of young female workers, inquired about their personal lives and made sexually suggestive remarks.
“Are you on the menu?” he once asked a woman who was working on a menu, according to a report on PCC’s internal investigation.
The report was released by the college with portions blacked out to protect the identities of complainants.
At least four women from two campuses — Desert Vista and Community Campus, where Bia also served as interim president last year — reported various types of run-ins with him.
One mentioned full-frontal hugs that were too tight and lasted too long. Another said she would cover her chest with a file folder to stop Bia from staring at it when they spoke.
The women used words such as “gross” “icky” and “pervy” to describe the interactions. They avoided Bia and feared him because of his powerful position, the report said.
The document describes Bia as “a Jekyll and Hyde,” a reference to a fictional literary character with two personalities, one pleasant and one troubled.
“The evidence consistently showed that Bia did engage in flirtatious behavior with young female subordinate staff that was neither welcomed nor wanted,” the report said.
While his behavior did not rise to the level of “actionable sexual harassment,” it violated college policy, it said.
“This is a sad day,” PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert told about 50 Desert Vista employees and students who gathered for an announcement about Bia’s fate.
“Johnson has done a lot of good things for the college and the community as a whole,” Lambert said, but his misconduct could not be ignored.
“Johnson and I agreed that it was in everyone’s best interest that he retires,” Lambert said later in an email to the school’s entire workforce.
In an interview, Lambert said he hoped the outcome will show he’s serious about addressing the concerns of PCC’s workforce, which is riven by poor morale.
“There’s an important message here: That if you bring your concerns forward, we will take them seriously and look into them,” he said.
Bia, who was placed on administrative leave on April 21, isn’t supposed to come on campus but was granted an exception to make a goodbye speech at Desert Vista.
He didn’t address the allegations directly but said questions about his behavior had become a distraction as PCC strives to overcome a probation sanction imposed by its accreditor last year.
“It’s counterproductive, and that’s the last thing our campus, our students or our community needs right now,” he said.
Bia told investigators one of the complainants may have been motivated by revenge after he questioned her work performance.
Bia’s exit announcement comes less that two months after PCC’s Governing Board voted in March to extend his $168,000 annual contract for the upcoming school year.
His departure leaves four of the college’s six campuses with vacancies at the top. East and West campuses now are the only ones with permanent leaders in place.
PCC already was searching for replacement presidents for its Downtown, Community and Northwest campuses.
The Desert Vista vacancy could be added to that search, but Lambert said he’ll consult with the campus before that decision is made.