SACRAMENTO — Charging that information about sexual harassment and other problems at the California Maritime Academy have been covered up, a member of the school's Board of Governors on Friday called for an independent investigation of the Vallejo-based merchant marine school.
Glendale attorney Phillip C. Kazanjian, one of seven voting members of the Board of Governors, said in an interview that an outside inquiry is needed because board Chairman Bruce Johnston and Adm. John J. Ekelund, president of the academy, "have covered up important information."
Asking Johnston and Ekelund to investigate charges of sexual harassment and other alleged wrongdoing aboard the academy training ship Golden Bear, and at the academy itself, is "like Richard Nixon undertaking the Watergate investigation," said Kazanjian, an appointee of Gov. George Deukmejian and a commander in the Naval Reserve.
Instead, a special counsel should be appointed by the Legislature, Kazanjian said, "to look into the whole thing, investigate it from top to bottom."
His remarks came one day after the state Senate Select Committee on the Maritime Industry heard testimony about sexual abuse of women on the academy's annual training cruises and about the failure of the school's administration to discipline students and faculty members who were involved.
Kazanjian also called on Johnston to resign as chairman of the Board of Governors because "I've learned that he's covering up information."
He said Johnston and Ekelund "met with legislators about (student) complaints but did not share this information with all board members."
Johnston, vice president of a Sacramento construction materials company and a former officer in both the Navy and the merchant marine, said it was "not true" that he withheld information from fellow board members.
"I have kept nothing from the board that was a matter I could talk about," Johnston said, indicating that he had held off-the-record discussions with one or more state legislators that he believed he could not discuss with other board members.
Ekelund could not be reached for comment. But Tom Kilpatrick, vice president for student affairs at the academy, said: "Nothing has been covered up . . . nothing has been hidden from the board at all."
The board is meeting on Wednesday and is scheduled to discuss whether Johnston should resign.