Yuba College chancellor’s pay hike spiked
Special to The Union
Yuba Community College District trustees – citing a public perception that they violated state law by granting a $29,282 raise to Chancellor Nicki Harrington – voted Wednesday to rescind her pay boost.
Several trustees praised Harrington’s performance. Lisa Jensen-Martin, president of the Yuba College Faculty Association, said it’s still possible they’ll approve the increase that pushed the chancellor’s salary to $249,282.
“If they do,” Jensen-Martin added, “it would be the most irresponsible act that they could come up with.”
“The community is outraged,” she said.
The unanimous vote followed a Tuesday rally attended by hundreds protesting the salary hike. More than 2,000 signatures were collected for a petition calling on Yuba Community College District trustees to rescind the raise, Jensen-Martin said.
She referred at Wednesday’s meeting to college district classified staff, including secretaries and custodians, agreeing to a 3 percent pay cut by taking furloughs amid budget cuts.
“You’re giving their money to her,” Jensen-Martin said of the pay boost for the chancellor.
Trustee George Nicholau praised Harrington as “one of the most capable administrators in the state.”
“No one has taken the time to let us know what kind of chancellor we have,” he said.
The overflow, calm crowd in the small board chambers spilled out into the hallway of the administration building during the board’s discussion. Of about 25 who could fit into the chambers, only three spoke during the public comment period.
Teresa Dorantes-Basile, president of the California School Employees Association at the college district, said she expects Harrington’s raise will ultimately win trustees approval.
“I think that’s exactly the action that will be taken next,” Dorantes-Basile said. “It’s going to happen.”
Trustee Brent Hastey, a former Yuba County supervisor, said the closed-door evaluation of Harrington at the board’s Jan. 20 meeting and the announcement of her pay increase didn’t violate the state open meeting law known as the Brown Act.
“I’ll be the first to admit,” Hastey added, “this is one we probably could have done better.”
He and other trustees said rescinding the raise is a remedy to address Brown Act concerns.
Jensen-Martin noted an attorney for the faculty association as well as the California Newspaper Publishers Association said the trustees had violated the state open meeting law.
Before the board vote, Dorantes-Basile told trustees that their January support for raising Harrington’s salary padded her retirement pay and came just two days before 30 college staff members lost their jobs because of budget cuts.
“Shame on you,” she said.
Harrington said after the vote that the decision to increase her salary reflects a board policy to pay all employees a median salary. The college district has said that the chancellor’s pay was the lowest in the state.
Harrington noted her plans to donate the raise back to the college district. She acknowledged, “This is a very difficult situation.”
“The raise has been intertwined with a lot of other things,” the chancellor said.
Next Wednesday’s meeting of trustees won’t deal with the pay hike but will include an agenda item asking the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office to provide a representative to negotiate with Harrington on her compensation and contract.
Trustees deadlocked 3-3 on appointing attorney Mark Williams, who represents the college district, to negotiate with Harrington on her pay.
Hastey and Trustee Alan Flory, who said they wanted an independent negotiator and not someone connected to the college district, voted with Nicholau against appointing Williams. Trustees Jim Buchan, Leela Rai and Xavier Tafoya supported Williams’ appointment.
Trustee Benjamin Pearson was absent.
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