Sylvia Lee


One longtime member of Pima Community College's Governing Board was ousted Tuesday and another was locked in a race too close to call until thousands of provisional ballots are counted.

Sherryn "Vikki" Marshall, who has occupied PCC's District 3 board seat for 12 years, was defeated by political newcomer Sylvia Lee, a retired PCC administrator who promised to push for changes at the college that's been dogged by controversy.

The winner of the District 5 seat, held since 1995 by incumbent Marty Cortez, is up in the air, with Cortez holding a slim lead over challenger Richard Fridena, who trailed by about 700 votes just after 11 p.m. with 50 of 64 precincts reporting.

Percentage-wise, Cortez had a little less than 42 percent of votes, and Fridena a little more than 39 percent.

A third District 5 candidate, PCC adjunct faculty member Francis Saitta, was never in serious contention, trailing the other candidates by several thousand votes according to unofficial and incomplete results.

Lee, 53, a retired PCC campus president, said in a phone interview Tuesday she's honored to be the college's newest board member and pledged to follow through on campaign promises to make PCC more transparent and accountable to Pima County taxpayers.

"Tomorrow starts a new day for Pima Community College," said Lee

She said she already has a long list of information she'll be seeking from the college's administration.

"The voters in District 3 understood that change was needed and I intend to bring a new voice and a new perspective to the board," she said

Marshall, 67, a re-employment counselor who works for Pima County, had no comment on the election results late Tuesday.

Cortez, 76, had little to say about the tight race in District 5.

"I knew it was going to be a hard race. I guess we'll just have to wait and see," she said.

Fridena, 64, couldn't be reached for comment.

PCC board seats, which are unpaid positions, usually are not contested at election time.

Often, they are won by acclamation when only one person signs up to run.

Both incumbents, Marshall and Cortez, have been elected like that in the past.

But things were different this election as the governing board faced a string of controversies, many linked to former Chancellor Roy Flores.

The board allowed Flores, 70, to resign for health reasons after eight current and former female employees accused him of sexual harassment, which he has denied.

Dozens of administrators left the college during Flores' tenure, and in recent forums employees reported sinking morale.

The college's spending and procurement practices also have come into question.

Arizona Daily Star investigations showed PCC gave more than $300,000 in unbid consulting work to a man who claimed to be a boyhood friend of Flores. The investigation also showed the college has been overbilled on legal work.

Cortez has maintained throughout the campaign that Flores had a positive impact on the college, and that the school's problems are being blown out of proportion by the media.

Her challengers have described her as asleep at the wheel.

PCC, founded in 1966, is one of the largest community colleges in the country with six campuses and a budget of $299 million.

About 30,000 are currently enrolled at the school.

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at or at 573-4138.