By Audrey Garces/ News Editor
Use of college funds by college officials will face stronger scrutiny following a recent San Francisco Chronicle news report that two City College administrators spent thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on fine dining and travel without justifying the educational purpose behind these expenditures.
Interim Chancellor Susan Lamb has launched an investigation and requested an audit on the possible misuse of college funds, according to Board of Trustees President Rafael Mandelman.
“I am glad that Chancellor Lamb is going to be investigating what specifically happened with these types of expenses,” Trustee Alex Randolph said. However, during a board meeting on Jan. 2, he highlighted the level of complexity surrounding the issue and warned against an overreaction which might deter the funding of future beneficial travel by administrators.
“I know that the current chancellor, as well as the board, are dedicated to honest and transparent use of public funds for the betterment of City College and its students,” Trustee Amy Bacharach said.
State officials are requesting that Trustee President Mandelman must now approve future travel expenses.
The new process was enacted when the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Dec. 27 that former Chancellor Art Tyler took 26 trips from January 2014 to March 2015 – an average of two trips per month at the college’s expense. Tyler resigned as chancellor in June 2015 only to become vice chancellor of facilities. He left that post on Dec. 21 just five days before the San Francisco Chronicle story went public.
Trustee President Mandelman responded by saying he hopes that Tyler’s resignation “allows the college to move on.”
Although Tyler’s contract is through July 20, he told college officials he will be resigning upon his return from vacation on Feb. 4. The San Francisco Chronicle reported Tyler believes City College should pay him through his contract expiration.
Meanwhile, records show that Tyler traveled to various major U.S. cities, and included one trip to Ireland. As a result, Tyler was absent from the college one third of the time during his tenure.
Although Tyler was often attending or speaking at conferences that were related to college enrollment or diversity, expense sheets are vague and do not offer substantial evidence that all of these expenditures were for educational purposes, according to the report the San Francisco Chronicle obtained.
Special Trustee Guy Lease told the San Francisco Chronicle that Tyler, at the college’s expense, would often stop in Houston to visit his wife for the weekend when traveling to the East Coast.
The San Francisco Chronicle investigation also disclosed that in 2014, Tyler created the position of City College president for his former colleague Virginia Parras who was reimbursed for travels to China, Vietnam, and Taiwan. College officials claim Parras’ trips focused on recruiting foreign students. However, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, no information as to the rate of success of her recruitment efforts was available.
City College, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, also reimbursed Parras for expenses of $1,759 and $1,377 at Best Buy and $735 at Amazon, but records do not provide the information of what she purchased.
Records also show Parras spent thousands of City College’s dollars on extravagant restaurant meals, without stating who attended these outings and why.
In July 2015 the college removed Parras as City College president.
City College policy requires travelers to fill out a form that includes detailed information about attendees, date, time and the educational purpose of the trip. Also, colleges are only permitted to reimburse employees for “actual and necessary expenses,” according to state law.
“As a faculty member, who like all faculty, is still being paid 2007 wages, while the administration continues to hide and misappropriate funds CCSF has received from various sources, I can only say I am disgusted, but not necessarily surprised,” said Professor Jack Sparks, counselor at City College since 1998.
A Critical Time
Tyler was hired by Special Trustee Robert Agrella who was initially appointed by the Board of Governors to address the issue of accreditation during a critical time when City College was under state control and the Board of Trustees were stripped of their power.
Since 2008, the college has challenged attempts by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) to strip it of its accreditation that would lead to a loss of public operating funds. The accreditation issue will be reconsidered by ACCJC in January 2017.
A lawsuit filed against the agency in August 2013 resulted in a two-year reprieve for the college to prove it meets the necessary financial and administrative standards, as well as demanding more transparency from the ACCJC throughout the accreditation process.
In the most recent development, the California Community College Board of Governors unanimously approved in December 2015 a resolution claiming that the ACCJC was unfit to oversee California community colleges and called for a new state accrediting model or agency.
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