No decision on Ramirez
ROCKLIN – After meeting in closed session for the third time since Jan. 11, Sierra Community College trustees failed yet again to reach an agreement Tuesday on the future of embattled college President Kevin Ramirez.
The board members issued a joint statement saying they were working diligently to reach an end to the logjam between the board and Ramirez, who has been asked by at least one board member to resign his post because of alleged campaign improprieties and mismanagement of college funds, which the college and Ramirez emphatically deny.
“The board and Dr. Ramirez are continuing to discuss proposals and counter-proposals relating to his departure at the college,” the joint statement read. “These discussions will continue at a time and date that will be reported out at the end of the meeting after consulting with Dr. Ramirez.”
As of 9:15 p.m. Tuesday evening, no such time had been set, which gave those packed into the Dietrich Theatre on the Rocklin campus one more chance to express their support or criticism of Ramirez, who has led the four-campus system for nearly 12 years.
As with a meeting held Jan. 11, the majority who spoke during the public-comment portion of the meeting were in staunch support of Ramirez.
Newly elected Nevada County-area Trustee Aaron Klein, with the support of new Roseville-area Trustee Scott Leslie and board President Jerry Simmons, who represents Rocklin, asked for the college president’s resignation in a Dec. 20, 2004 memo.
Klein alleges that Ramirez illegally transferred as much as $100,000 from the nonprofit Sierra College Foundation to contributors supporting Measure E, a $384 million bond issue for the college rejected by voters in March. He also blames Ramirez for cutting courses at the college, borrowing money to replace the bleachers at the Rocklin football stadium and giving unnecessary raises to college administrators.
Ramirez, who was not present at the meeting Tuesday, has denied any wrongdoing, as have those with ties to the Measure E fund-raising campaign.
Dick Marasso, who was president of the foundation during the campaign, said he followed the tax code and had the process approved by auditors.
“There are no devices of mass deception of the foundation,” he said, adding that $60,000 was legally transferred from the foundation for Measure E, and $42,000 was transferred from the foundation to the successful November campaigns for Measures G and H, which will provide expansion of the Nevada County and Truckee campuses.
“For heaven’s sakes, for those who believe we’re not on the level, get your facts straight,” Marasso said. “There was no ‘funneling,'” he said, mocking a term used by Klein to describe the transaction.
At least one speaker Tuesday for the recall of Simmons, Leslie, Klein and Nancy Palmer, the Nevada City resident who represents part of Nevada County, for their actions regarding Ramirez. In the November elections, Palmer didn’t endorse incumbents Robert Tomasini or David Parker, who lost to Leslie and Klein, respectively.
“I’m disturbed, frankly. I’m amazed at the behavior of (Simmons, Leslie and Klein) and I’m not too happy with Nancy Palmer. They all seem intent on advancing their political careers,” said student Maureen Roche. “We have to make sure that … the board of trustees does not have a political agenda.”
Nearly all of the two dozen who spoke Tuesday supported Ramirez. Those who didn’t hammered at the president’s debated financial moves, some of which were done at the expense of teachers.
Ken Campbell, a frequent Sierra College watchdog and former professor at the University of the Pacific’s dental school, said Ramirez squandered money on raises that should have gone to fix leaky roofs and toilets on the Rocklin campus. He also said Ramirez has created a financial situation that will leave benefits for many retired teachers in peril.
“The issue here is mismanagement, financial mismanagement,” Campbell said. “I commend Simmons, Leslie and Klein for bringing accountability back into the open.”
Doug Smith, the vice president for finance at Sierra, said Campbell is referring to a stipulation that states those hired after 1994 do not receive health benefits once they retire. Approximately $4 million is available for those who are eligible to receive health benefits, Smith said.
“The allegations that (the fund is broke) are completely erroneous and false,” he said.
Personnel back chief
By Dave Moller
Employees interviewed at Sierra College’s Grass Valley campus were not happy Tuesday with the controversy swirling around college President Kevin Ramirez, while some students were unfazed.
“Employees of all ranks are all very upset by the tactics more than the possible change,” said Ginger Dial, an administrative assistant. “The allegations are half truths, there’s no basis for them, they are exaggerated and I think personally slanderous.”
New Sierra College board member Aaron Klein has rallied opposition to Ramirez by accusing him of misusing college money and routing donations to the college’s expansion campaign through the system’s nonprofit foundation.
Thomasina Lane, a student service technician, said, “It’s a sad day for a lot of people, what’s happening. I support him. What a great leader he’s been for the institution.”
For Rebecca Ortega, the coordinator of student services in Nevada county, the timing is wrong.
“It’s right before the semester; it’s disruptive,” Ortega said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty and it makes for a very insecure type of environment.”
Students are beginning to ask questions about the college’s top-level leadership, Ortega said, and staff members can only say so much.
“This shouldn’t have been handled this way,” she said.
Ortega said she has worked at several community colleges and found Ramirez’s leadership to be “very positive.”
Former student Cathleen Patterson, who now works in financial services, said, “It’s terrible what’s happening. He’s done so much for the college.”
Meghan Garn is a student and an employee who said, “I think Kevin’s doing a wonderful job. It’s unfortunate what’s happening.”
Some of her fellow students in Nevada County were not as moved.
“I don’t even know who the guy is,” said student James Darnell, who said he takes most of his classes at the Rocklin campus.
“How can you talk about something you don’t know much about?” said Penelope Partch. “It’s a shame. This is a wonderful place to go to school.”
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