Ramirez’s ‘retirement’ costly to us all
First, some full disclosure. My daughter attends Sierra College. Just 20 years old, she also works in a bank and has her own apartment. She is independent, beautiful and smart, which means she has one of her father’s traits. (I’ll let you guess which one.)
That stated, I thought about my daughter as I contemplated the unfortunate circumstances that led to the “retirement” of Sierra College President Kevin Ramirez. I put quotes around the “retirement” part because lawyers don’t generally get involved in retirement agreements unless there is a potential for someone to get sued, jailed, or both.
Most retirements I’m familiar with include a roast, some funny speeches and a gold watch.
For those just catching up, Ramirez “retired” after a couple of new board members accused him publicly of being unethical and fiscally irresponsible, which is not something a top administrator of anything would take sitting down. As imagined, the 12-year top administrator of my daughter’s college didn’t take that very well and the next thing taxpayers knew, lawyers and trustees locked themselves in a room for three days and haggled over the details of a “retirement” package for Ramirez.
In the end, the “Golden Handshake,” as we’ve come to know high-level payoffs, or separations, cost us the equivalent of 403 two-year scholarships for students who might not otherwise be able to afford the annual $624 cost of fulltime enrollment at Sierra College. On a 6-1 vote, trustees agreed to pay Ramirez 18 months of severance, or nearly $250,000.
The settlement agreement between the college and Ramirez begins with a bunch of “whereas’s” and “hereby’s,” which gives you some idea of the seriousness of things. Government only uses a “whereas,” or a “hereby” when someone dies, or is getting ready to die, or when they want us to know that everything in the agreement is very solemn and legal.
The first thing they wanted us to know is that Ramirez still has a title, even if he is no longer calling the shots. “Effective January 29, 2005, the parties agree that Ramirez will resign as President/Superintendent of the College and be reassigned to the position of President Emeritus,” it reads. Emeritus is a Latin term for, “You’re not the boss anymore, but if it makes you feel good, put that on your business card.”
When they run me out of town, I will print 2,000 business cards that read, “General Factotum Emeritus.”
In addition to the cool title and 18 months’ worth of paychecks, Ramirez also gets an additional three-and-a-half years of credit applied to his State Teachers Retirement System, which isn’t exactly chump change.
He also gets to attend a couple of conferences at the district’s expense. One in Yosemite and the other in Santa Clara.
And … tell us, Vanna, what’s behind Door Number Three? You got it … President Emeritus Kevin Ramirez will receive free tickets to any home Sierra College sporting event. That’s right, citizens. Free tickets. Can’t find a seat at that water polo tournament down in Rocklin? Call Kevin.
The rest of the “Settlement Agreement” pretty much orders that both sides keep their mouths shut for the rest of their lives when it comes to the agreement. Ramirez can’t sue the college, and the college can’t sue him. No matter if there was any truth to the allegations of fiscal mismanagement of our money.
“All parties recognize that this includes, but is not limited to, the complaint filed by Aaron Klein on or about December 20, 2004…,” warns the agreement.
That’s the complaint Klein sent out in the form of a press release to every newspaper, radio and television station in the Free World, accusing Ramirez of being a rotten college president.
That seems like the kind of thing you may not want to talk about in public. You know … maybe he could have taken Ramirez aside and said something like, “I don’t like you and neither do my Republican friends, and if I do nothing these next four years, I will make your life so miserable you’ll wish you were sweeping floors.”
Klein is a major player in the Placer County Republican Central Committee.
I called Trustee Klein yesterday, just to see if he’d spill the beans. In spite of the legal agreement, I think he and a few others owe Sierra College District taxpayers, students, faculty and others a better explanation. If Ramirez mismanaged our money, we need to know how and when. If he did not, we need to know why Klein accused him of that and potentially cost us a good college president and a great deal of money.
I caught up with Klein on his cell phone Monday and he agreed to come in next week to discuss this further. Or, in his words, his “vision” for Sierra College.
I look forward to his visit and to sharing his comments with you.
Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299, email@example.com, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.
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