There is an old say that states, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and squawks like a duke it usually is a duck! This saying can be applied to the recent agenda item maneuvering that was witnessed last week at the Southwestern Community College District Board. The agenda item maneuvering acted like a deal, smelled like a deal, which usually means that a back room deal was attempted. That is the situation that surrounded the last minute addition of an agenda item to postpone the resignation of Greg Sandoval.
In May, Greg Sandoval, the vice president for student affairs at Southwestern Community College (SWC), submitted his resignation after he had been accused of sexual harassment by a female college employee. The complaint stated that Sandoval made sexual statements, as well as sexual overtures. The complaint also alleged that Sandoval used a photo of the employee in an evening gown as a screen saver and that he invited her to lunch and asked her to read the message in his fortune cookie and to add the words “in bed” at the end.
In June, on a 3-1 vote, the Southwestern College board accepted the resignation with an effective date of September 30, 2008. Jorge Dominguez who works for the Sweetwater Union High School District where Sandoval sits on that school board, voted against accepting the resignation. Dominguez’ vote represents a conflict of interest since his vote has the potential of benefiting himself. SWC board president David Agosto recused himself from the vote citing his long time relationship with Sandoval. Trustees Jean Roesch, Yolanda Salcido, and Terri Valladolid voted in favor of the resignation.
After two months the decision to accept the resignation of Greg Sandoval, saw a last minute maneuvering to put a special item on the already-published August 13 board agenda to postpone Sandoval’s resignation until January, so he could be eligible for lifetime health care.
The additional agenda item was added at the sole discretion of Board President David Agosto. SWC Board President and College President, Dr. Raj Chopra had set the regular board agenda for the August 13 meeting in plenty of time to comply with the 72-hour notification that is required by state law. The additional agenda item was inserted over the weekend without consultation with the Superintendent/President. School district policy clearly states that, board agenda items must be developed and placed in consultation between the Board President and the Superintendent/ President.
The majority of the board was unaware of the special agenda item and were caught off guard by the special meeting that was to be discussed at 9:45 pm following the regular board meeting. The majority of the board refused to attend the meeting; citing disapproval with the under handed manner in which the item was placed on the agenda.
Additionally, the majority of the board was unaware that the originally-posted regular board agenda had been altered until the Monday before the August 13 meeting. The majority of the board refused to attend the meeting; citing disapproval with the under handed manner in which the item was originally placed on the agenda, as well as the public’s possible confusion regarding the Special Board meeting.
The agenda item smelled like a back room deal because of the manner in which it was placed on the agenda. The issue to consider having Sandoval resignation postponed was requested in a letter from Bill Virichis, a former Sweetwater High School District employee. That would have provided plenty of opportunity to discuss the matter and for all concerned to address the issue at the September 10 board meeting. It is obvious that placing the item as an addition to the already-published agenda item was done to limit input and discussion on the matter.
The supposed reason for the Sandoval postponement in his resignation was for the humanitarian goal of achieving lifetime health insurance from the college. The interesting thing about this is that La Prensa San Diego has learned that Sandoval is not currently enrolled in the Southwestern College health plan, enrollment in the health plan is a pre-requisite to obtain the lifetime benefit. Sandoval opted out of the plan and instead receives the cash equivalent as part of his salary.
Jorge Dominguez who sits on the Southwestern Community College Board and who is an employee of Sweetwater Union High School District, where Sandoval is a Board member, played a key role in moving this additional agenda item forward and rallying support for the agenda item.
The above raises serious questions about the relationship, (for all to see) between Sweetwater Union High School District, Southwestern Community College and the political power game being played by the above individuals.
What is obvious about the issue is that clearly this is not about life time health insurance, Sandoval will receive health insurance benefits from the Sweetwater Union High School District as a Board member until the age of 65 when Medi Cal insurance will then become effective.
The politics being played and witnessed in this issue seems to be who has the political power to control? That come, in our opinion, from the last remnants of the political structure that first surfaced with Bob Griego, was supported by ex-Sweetwater Union High School District Superintendent, Ed Brand, where Greg Sandoval was a key player. Agosto and Dominguez now support Sandoval. One has to ask if the Board majority of Roesch, Salcido, and Valladolid at SWC will support Dr. Chopra and break the cycle of the interconnecting relationships between Southwestern and Sweet-water? Those interests as we have seen with the Sandoval issue are about self-serving individuals, rather than the interests of students, parents, teachers, or the district.
Bottom line is, Sandoval resigned, the SWC Board accepted his resignation and that is the end of the issue. However those responsible for SWC need to work to keep out self-serving politics out of the college, and allow Dr. Chopra to bring about the changes that he was hired to do, to better serve the community and to education our community. SWC must move forward so the education for our community and taxpayers is better met.