Demands that they quit hit PCC board members

Probe's findings, harassment issue dominate meeting
2013-03-21T00:00:00Z 2014-08-05T10:52:33Z Demands that they quit hit PCC board membersCarol Ann Alaimo Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Members of Pima Community College's Governing Board faced calls for resignation and an emotional exchange with a sexual harassment complainant at their first public meeting since an investigation found widespread dysfunction in the school's upper echelons.

At least five of the eight women who have said they were sexually harassed by former PCC Chancellor Roy Flores looked on Wednesday night as former college employee Jacquelyn Jackson publicly identified herself as one of the eight and confronted former board Chairman Scott Stewart.

Stewart acknowledged at the meeting that he initially disbelieved the women's claims.

"For you to sit there and say we weren't credible, I found that deeply offensive and I want an apology," Jackson told Stewart, noting that several other female complainants were in the audience.

"I apologize," Stewart told her.

More than 150 people attended Wednesday's meeting, from taxpayer groups to representatives of PCC employee groups.

Some urged board members in charge during the Flores years - Stewart, current Chairwoman Brenda Even, Marty Cortez and David Longoria - to resign for the good of the college.

None of them did, but all pledged to do whatever it takes to put the college back on track.

"Whatever is broken, we will fix it. You have my word on that," Even told the crowd.

Some called on the board to consider replacing the senior administrators who worked for Flores.

Jason Brown, president of the Association of Classified Exempt Staff, an employee group representing supervisors and technical experts at PCC, told board members they will not have credibility with the school's workforce "if some of the people in positions of authority remain unchanged."

Joe LaBuda, president of PCC's Faculty Senate, said many faculty members "no longer have confidence" in the board members who served under Flores.

PCC's accreditor, the Chicago-based Higher Learning Commission, is poised to put the school on probation after investigators it sent to Tucson in January identified a litany of shortcomings at the school.

It said PCC's problems include corrupt hiring and contracting practices, a "culture of fear and retribution" created by abusive administrators, and a "dysfunctional" board that neglected its oversight duties and adopted a "siege mentality" toward its critics.

Investigators faulted Flores, the board and current top administrators, saying they committed "serious breaches" of the ethical standards expected from those who hold such positions.

Flores left the college last year in the wake of the sexual harassment allegations. The accreditor found that PCC's board failed to investigate early indications that Flores was engaged in unprofessional behavior.

Flores' longtime second-in-command, Suzanne Miles, announced Tuesday she's stepping down as interim chancellor in the wake of the commission's findings.

Investigators found it "highly unlikely" that Miles didn't know about Flores' misconduct.

If PCC is put on probation, the school will have two years in which to correct the problems the commission identified.

If it doesn't, the college could lose its accreditation, making its degrees nearly worthless and its students ineligible for federal aid.

TUITION VOTE

The PCC Governing Board had not voted as of press time on proposed tuition increases. Go to azstarnet.com today for updates and read more in Friday's Star.

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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