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DA's Office to charge former community colleges chancellor with fraud

The entrance of Cañada College in Redwood City on Feb. 10, 2021. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

The San Mateo County District Attorney's Office plans to bring fraud charges against disgraced former San Mateo County Community College District chancellor Ron Galatolo.

Among the allegations leveled against Galatolo are awarding construction contracts to vendors in exchange for valuable gifts like international travel and writing off a donation made with district funds to Tubbs Fire relief efforts on his personal tax return, the DA announced Thursday, April 7.

Galatolo, who the district's board of trustees fired last year, is the second district official to be charged with fraud. In December 2021, the DA brought felony charges against Jose Nuñez, former Vice Chancellor of Facilities. He pled guilty to two felony charges for using school funds for political purposes in January, according to the DA.

Following a nearly three-year investigation, the DA said in a statement Thursday that Galatolo:

• Reported a $10,000 charitable donation to the Santa Rosa Junior College Foundation Fire Relief Fund, intended to aid students, staff and faculty in recovering from the October 2017 Tubbs Fire, on his 2017 state income tax return when it was actually a donation made by the San Mateo County Community College District Foundation

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• With the assistance of Nuñez, directed that construction projects be awarded to vendors from whom he had received valuable gifts, including concert and sporting events tickets and high-end travel

• Didn't report gifts from contractors on a Form 700 as required by law

• Purchased high-end and classic cars and purposefully underreported the purchase price to the DMV (outside of his district role)

In the summer of 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 district's governing board voted to end Galatolo's $467,700 annual chancellor emeritus contract during a closed session in February 2021.

The board said Galatolo failed to complete any work over the 18 months he served as chancellor emeritus. He also "refused" to answer any of the board's questions about his work for the district, trustees said.

The district's board of trustees, through their outside counsel, Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw, Pittman, LLP., has been supportive of the DA's efforts in obtaining records and conducting interviews of district personnel, assisting the investigation that has resulted in the filing of these felony charges, the Thursday press release states.

"The college district severed its relationship with Mr. Galatolo more than a year ago and has cooperated with the District Attorney's Office throughout its investigation and will continue to do so pending the upcoming criminal proceedings," said district spokeswoman Ana Maria Pulido in a statement. "The college district remains focused on providing access to a world-class education to the people of San Mateo County.”

There is an arrest warrant issued for Galatolo, but he is not yet in custody, said District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe in an email. Galatolo is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. on April 15 at San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City.

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Angela Swartz
 
Angela Swartz joined The Almanac in 2018 and covers education and small towns. She has a background covering education, city politics and business. Read more >>

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DA's Office to charge former community colleges chancellor with fraud

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Fri, Apr 8, 2022, 11:19 am

The San Mateo County District Attorney's Office plans to bring fraud charges against disgraced former San Mateo County Community College District chancellor Ron Galatolo.

Among the allegations leveled against Galatolo are awarding construction contracts to vendors in exchange for valuable gifts like international travel and writing off a donation made with district funds to Tubbs Fire relief efforts on his personal tax return, the DA announced Thursday, April 7.

Galatolo, who the district's board of trustees fired last year, is the second district official to be charged with fraud. In December 2021, the DA brought felony charges against Jose Nuñez, former Vice Chancellor of Facilities. He pled guilty to two felony charges for using school funds for political purposes in January, according to the DA.

Following a nearly three-year investigation, the DA said in a statement Thursday that Galatolo:

• Reported a $10,000 charitable donation to the Santa Rosa Junior College Foundation Fire Relief Fund, intended to aid students, staff and faculty in recovering from the October 2017 Tubbs Fire, on his 2017 state income tax return when it was actually a donation made by the San Mateo County Community College District Foundation

• With the assistance of Nuñez, directed that construction projects be awarded to vendors from whom he had received valuable gifts, including concert and sporting events tickets and high-end travel

• Didn't report gifts from contractors on a Form 700 as required by law

• Purchased high-end and classic cars and purposefully underreported the purchase price to the DMV (outside of his district role)

In the summer of 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 district's governing board voted to end Galatolo's $467,700 annual chancellor emeritus contract during a closed session in February 2021.

The board said Galatolo failed to complete any work over the 18 months he served as chancellor emeritus. He also "refused" to answer any of the board's questions about his work for the district, trustees said.

The district's board of trustees, through their outside counsel, Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw, Pittman, LLP., has been supportive of the DA's efforts in obtaining records and conducting interviews of district personnel, assisting the investigation that has resulted in the filing of these felony charges, the Thursday press release states.

"The college district severed its relationship with Mr. Galatolo more than a year ago and has cooperated with the District Attorney's Office throughout its investigation and will continue to do so pending the upcoming criminal proceedings," said district spokeswoman Ana Maria Pulido in a statement. "The college district remains focused on providing access to a world-class education to the people of San Mateo County.”

There is an arrest warrant issued for Galatolo, but he is not yet in custody, said District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe in an email. Galatolo is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. on April 15 at San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City.

Comments

Michael B. Reiner, PhD
Registered user
another community
on Apr 8, 2022 at 12:14 pm
Michael B. Reiner, PhD, another community
Registered user
on Apr 8, 2022 at 12:14 pm

DA's Office to charge former community colleges chancellor with fraud

Headlines are one thing, but it can obscure the reality of a complex situation. As a former employee of the SMCCCD, I have no evidence related to the charges, two of which have nothing to do with Mr. Galatolo's role as chancellor. If he misrepresented a donation on his personal state income tax and filed false registration of cars with the department of motor vehicles, those are a reflection on his personal character. Not my business.

However, as CEO of the District, he was in control of billions of dollars of construction funds from taxpayer bonds. If he received perks from companies to funnel business their way, that is a violation of the public trust. The public trust also rests with the elected District Board of Trustees. The current Board is made up of only two Trustees elected since 2020 (the post Galatolo era). The other three and two other former members were Galatolo's supervisors. They were elected officials responsible for holding their one and only employee, the Chancellor, accountable. There were many stories in the press over the years of behaviors that might have provoked Boards at other colleges to investigate and reconsider their trust in the Chancellor. Instead, they gave him raise after raise, up to $467,000, plus numerous perks.

Were they blind, inattentive, or just complicit?

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


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