Ron Galatolo, the San Mateo County Community College District's contentious chancellor emeritus, has been fired from his post amid an investigation into his actions during his previous tenure as chancellor.
The district's governing board voted to end Galatolo's $467,700 annual contract during a closed session at its Feb. 6 retreat, said Trustee John Pimentel in an email on Feb. 8. Not only did the board fire Galatolo, but Pimentel said it also voted to try to claw back what it paid the chancellor emeritus under his 2019 contract.
As chancellor emeritus, Galatolo was the district's highest paid employee.
Galatolo has failed to complete any work over the 18 months, trustees said in a Feb. 6 letter to the former chancellor emeritus. He also "refused" to answer any of the board's questions about his work for the district, they said.
Galatolo did not respond to The Almanac's emailed request for comment.
The board outlines some of the allegations against Galatolo while he served as chancellor in a Feb. 6 board packet:
• The alleged use of public funds for retirement incentives, undisclosed personal relationships with vendors for the district, and undisclosed receipt of gifts from contractors who work for the district. These gifts appear to have included high-end travel, concert tickets and meals, and do not appear to have been reported on a Form 700 as required by law.
• The nature and/or extent of Galatolo's activities with vendors doing business with the district were not disclosed to the board.
The board asked Galatolo to provide it with any exculpatory information, according to its letter. Galatolo said that he should not be required to "incur the burden and expense of answering such allegations," even though he was being fully compensated as an employee of the district at the time, trustees wrote.
"Please know that we are disappointed and saddened by this turn of events and your blatant refusal to even respond to the substance of our concerns," board President Thomas Nuris wrote in the letter. "Our decision has not been lightly made. We are proceeding in what we believe is in the best interests of the college district and of the public that we serve."
"Working in collaboration with my board colleagues, and the district's administration, we initiated an investigation of the hundreds of thousands of documents and dozens of witness interviews that district staff have diligently and thoroughly produced for the San Mateo County District Attorney's 18-month long criminal investigation into the former chancellor emeritus, which remains ongoing," Pimentel said in a prepared statement.
The review turned up numerous material facts that were not provided to the Board of Trustees by Galatolo when he entered into the contract to be chancellor emeritus. "In light of these facts, and at a time when our hard-working students are struggling to pay SMCCCD tuition and fees to invest in their futures, the board found continued payments to the former chancellor emeritus to be unacceptable," Pimentel said.
On Aug. 12, 2019, the district announced that Galatolo would leave his chancellor post to become chancellor emeritus and work on a feasibility study to bring a California State University campus to the Peninsula. The total compensation over the full term of the new contract was $1,247,200, according to district spokesman Richard Rojo.
Last summer, the DA's office issued search warrants in connection with Galatolo's tenure as the district's chancellor, but there is no set timeline for resolution of the case yet, said District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
Galatolo has been on paid administrative leave since the DA announced the investigation.
There were allegations against Galatolo of improprieties with construction and purchasing contracts and of harassment of an employee, Wagstaffe said. The warrants and affidavits have been sealed by court order, he said.
"We continue to conduct dozens of interviews and review records obtained by way of search warrant," Wagstaffe said in an email. "We are as well working constantly with the law firm representing all the district employees and board members to be able to set up interviews."
The contract for Galatolo's new position was set to expire in March 31, 2022, and was nonrenewable.
A 2019 separation agreement between Galatolo and the district, obtained by the Palo Alto Daily Post through the California Public Records Act, said the two parties would craft a "mutually acceptable joint press release." It also states that district officials would stick to "talking points" when discussing Galatolo's departure.
The agreement prevents the district from suing Galatolo for anything he might have done as chancellor.
District officials said in a statement that it is important to avoid speculation or jumping to conclusions, and to allow the DA's Office to conclude the investigation.
Mike Claire, College of San Mateo's president, is serving as acting chancellor.
Galatolo first joined the district as executive vice chancellor in 1999, following 11 years as controller for the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, according to his Redwood City Chamber of Commerce profile.