Time has come for full disclosure
January 28, 2005
Sierra College trustees (specifically Trustee Aaron Klein) and administrators owe their shareholders – each one of us – an explanation. And not in the form of a three- or four-paragraph press release generated from days of closed-door meetings with lawyers and advisers. We’re talking full disclosure. The who, what, when, where and … most of all … the why.
They need to tell us why they paid former college President Kevin Ramirez $252,000 to leave with three years remaining on an employment agreement that paid him an estimated $168,000 per year, plus various perks. That severance doesn’t even include his salary and benefits through July 1, during a time when an interim president will be handling his duties.
They need to tell us what he did that caused newly elected Trustee Aaron Klein to demand his resignation last month. Klein, who represents Nevada County on that board, said Ramirez mishandled campaign money associated with the failed districtwide Measure E bond effort that would have provided $394 million for projects at both the Rocklin and Grass Valley Sierra College campuses. Western Nevada County voters eventually approved a bond that will go toward improvements at the local campus.
For now, we can only speculate.
If Ramirez did, in fact, mishandle those funds, chances are the trustees would not have agreed to such a generous “retirement” buyout.
On the other hand, perhaps Ramirez decided he didn’t have the appetite to deal with renegade board members who were out to get him.
In a press release last month, Klein called on Ramirez to resign for what he termed “a lack of public confidence in President Ramirez that is too great to overcome.”
Perhaps we are too far removed up here in Nevada County, but we hadn’t heard anything about that public lack of confidence. In fact, voters here seemed to believe the college was running very well under the leadership of Ramirez and our local campus Provost Tina Ludutsky-Taylor, or they wouldn’t have approved the bond in last November’s election.
In his concluding remarks on that very public press release, Klein accused Ramirez of “fiscal mismanagement and unethical behavior.” Those are pretty strong allegations to drop on anyone, let alone the president of one of the best community colleges in the state.
In his response, Ramirez strongly alluded to possible litigation. He has a right to protect his professional reputation against such serious allegations. Perhaps the college recognized its legal exposure from Klein’s remarks and decided to settle in the form of a buyout.
But it’s more likely that Ramirez simply decided, in the best interests of the college and its students, to go away quietly. Maybe he no longer wanted to be the focal point of the board’s efforts and realized that he would be, so long as Klein wanted him out.
If that was the case, our newly elected Trustee Klein has some explaining to do. Without that explanation, it appears he cost the district and its citizens a lot of money. And, sadly, the loss of a good and decent administrator.
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