A lawyer with extensive experience in sexual harassment issues is the top contender to become the next chancellor of troubled Pima Community College.
Lee D. Lambert, president since 2006 at Shoreline Community College in Washington state, was named the preferred candidate for the position at a Governing Board meeting Friday.
An agenda PCC posted online for the meeting didn't mention that a preferred candidate would be announced at the session. It said only that the meeting was to approve travel costs for "site visits in connection with the chancellor search process."
PCC also did not alert local news media, as it often does, that the meeting was going to take place.
Shortly after it ended, PCC public information chief C.J. Karamargin emailed college employees that Lambert "has emerged as the leading candidate" for the chancellorship.
"Chair Brenda Even announced that Lambert was 'the candidate that seemed to rise to the top,' " Karamargin's email said.
He also said the board voted unanimously at the meeting to send five people - two board members and three PCC employees - to conduct a site visit at the college where Lambert now works.
His email was posted to PCC's website shortly afterward.
Lambert was one of four finalists who recently visited PCC. The others were Terrence J. Burgess of San Diego City College, Greg P. Smith of Central Community College in Nebraska and Elñora T. Webb of Laney College in Oakland, Calif.
It wasn't clear Friday if employees intend to take part in the visit to Lambert's current school. All PCC's major employee groups are opposed to the naming of a new chancellor at this time.
Each has said that any new leader chosen by the current board would be tainted since most board members also were involved in hiring disgraced former Chancellor Roy Flores, who resigned last year accused of serial sexual harassment.
The board has been deemed "dysfunctional" by PCC's accreditor, which recently placed the college on probation. The accreditor said board members shirked their oversight role as Flores and other top executives broke college rules and created a "culture of fear and retribution" at PCC.
The college now has two years to clean up problems or risk losing accreditation.
In an email to PCC faculty Thursday, Ana Jiménez, president of the Pima Community College Education Association, said "it is clear" from employee feedback that they aren't impressed with any of the four finalists.
"None of the chancellor candidates rose to the top," said Jiménez, noting all four are less qualified than PCC's current interim leader Zelema Harris, retired chancellor of St. Louis Community College.
"We do not wish to have a full-time chancellor who has less credentials that our current interim," Jiménez wrote.
Lambert has never dealt with accreditor sanctions, but told Tucsonans during his recent visit he's helped turn around a number of schools with problems similar to PCC's.
Of all the finalists, he has the most hands-on experience with human-resource issues including prevention and detection of sexual harassment. He was a vice president for human resources and legal affairs at two colleges before assuming his current job.
PCC's accreditor found the school's human-resources practices deficient and said the board mishandled harassment allegations against Flores.
Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-4138.