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$468K salary and no work done: San Mateo County Community College District fires ex-chancellor from new post amid investigation by DA's office

College district board seeks to recoup Ron Galatolo's 'chancellor emeritus' salary for 18 months

An oceanography class at Cañada College in Woodside, which is part of the San Mateo County Community College District. Former chancellor Ron Galatolo is under investigation by the county District Attorney's office and was fired by the board from his $468,000-a-year job as chancellor emeritus. File photo by Natalia Nazarova

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.

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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."

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"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.

John Pimentel

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.

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$468K salary and no work done: San Mateo County Community College District fires ex-chancellor from new post amid investigation by DA's office

College district board seeks to recoup Ron Galatolo's 'chancellor emeritus' salary for 18 months

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Mon, Feb 8, 2021, 5:03 pm
Updated: Tue, Feb 9, 2021, 12:42 pm

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.

Comments

Michael B. Reiner, PhD
Registered user
another community
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:57 am
Michael B. Reiner, PhD, another community
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:57 am

Don’t overlook the role of the Board of Trustees in this travesty. As a former SMCCCD administrator, I spoke at Board meetings and in writing about how the contract for “Chancellor Emeritus” could be perceived as a quid pro quo. Even the Palo Alto Daily Post called it "An arrangement to conceal."

One has to ask:

1. What caused the Board, after nineteen years of promoting Galatolo, to force him out in August 2019? No one knows.
2. Ex-chancellors are usually shown the door with a severance and a good-by. The Board chose to keep Galatolo around with a new employment contract that extended 32 months. Why?
3. Galatolo was put on "administrative leave" in August 2019. The Board claimed it was NOT related to the DA's investigation. So, what was it about?
4. Once a leader is placed on “administrative leave,” typically an investigation begins to determine whether there is cause for dismissal or to go back to work. A new trustee stated the investigation began in January 2021. Why did the Board wait 16 months to investigate someone on paid administrative leave?

My view is that the old Board failed in their role as trustees. They failed to hold the chancellor accountable and failed in their fiduciary responsibility to the community. If they knew of the DA’s investigation in 2019, signing Galatolo’s new contract as chancellor emeritus was irresponsible and a failure to perform due diligence.

Don’t let the Board cover up their complicity in this scandalous affair.
--
Michael B. Reiner, PhD, is a higher education consultant and educational researcher. Previously, he was a professor of psychology and college administrator at City University of New York (CUNY), Miami Dade College, the Riverside Community College District, and the San Mateo County Community College District. [email protected]  LinkedIn: Web Link


ln
Registered user
Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 11, 2021 at 1:28 pm
ln, Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
Registered user
on Feb 11, 2021 at 1:28 pm

Seems to me that the community college district 1) has way too much money and 2) suffers from a sever lack of moral direction and judgement. How do these Board members remain in their positions? IS there no oversight, either legal, financial or both. If there were, it would seem that this would have been called out long ago and stopped. The big question in my mind is this: why do the so-called smart voters in this county continue to stand for this? Why do we continue to vote them more money to squander on ridiculous severance and employment packages, lavish gyms, and under-utilized buildings? Defund the CC District!!


Tecsi
Registered user
another community
on Feb 13, 2021 at 12:37 pm
Tecsi, another community
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 12:37 pm

Echoing Michael Reiner’s comments, this seems absolutely crazy.

I hope the Almanac will do a follow up and get some answers to Michael’s questions.


Brad
Registered user
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 14, 2021 at 6:59 pm
Brad, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
Registered user
on Feb 14, 2021 at 6:59 pm

Could not have happened to a more deserving, corrupt, sociopath as far as I am concerned. I REALLY hope the District Attorney uses all the evidence he has been given and actually takes this matter further rather than sweeping it under the carpet and letting it go. Galatolo has caused irrepairable, long term harm to many employees who tried to stand up to him. Finally the truth starts to come out but its only the tip of the iceburg and I pray everything is revealed and he ends up where he belongs - in Prison!


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