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Official Gets 60 Days for Beating Wife : Community colleges: Tom Kimberling says he will step down from the district's top fiscal post if asked to do so.

May 11, 1991|JANE HULSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The top financial officer for the Ventura County Community College District, already under attack for his supervision of district money, was sentenced Friday to 60 days in jail for beating his wife.

Minutes before sentencing, Tom Kimberling, vice chancellor for administrative services for the district, said he will step down if asked to do so. His comments came in the wake of a rumor that district trustees decided in closed session Tuesday to ask for his resignation.

"If asked to resign, I would comply," said Kimberling, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to misdemeanor spousal battery. "I don't want to do anything to damage the district."

Kimberling, 44, was charged in a Feb. 10 attack on his wife, Ann Kimberling, in Ventura. She suffered facial cuts, bruises and scratches during the incident and later fled to a shelter for battered women, according to court documents.

In a letter to the court, Ann Kimberling said she believed her husband was trying to kill her during the attack. She said he threw her onto a bed, punched her in the nose and mouth, pinched her nose shut and tried to force a stuffed animal into her mouth to suffocate her.

"I truly believe I was going to die and Tom, for whatever reasons, wanted my death," she wrote. The couple are divorcing, and she has moved out of the area.

Kimberling said in an interview he did not try to suffocate her. He said he put his hand over her mouth and face to stop her from screaming, then she bit him and he slapped her.

"The only stuffed animal in the house is a two-foot-high fuzzy dog, and I don't think an elephant could swallow that," he said.

Kimberling said he was shocked when police contacted him about the incident. "The whole thing was a fabrication from the beginning," he said.

Neither publicity over the altercation nor his previous problems with alcohol have affected his performance as the district's key fiscal officer, a position that pays $88,698 a year, he insisted.

His management of district funds, however, has come under fire during the past year.

Most recently, district officials learned last week that Moorpark College and its private foundation might have improperly juggled funds in paying two employees about $25,000 in salary.

Trustees met in closed session Tuesday night with district officials to discuss whether the money was funneled from the college through the foundation to circumvent union contract restrictions and a pension regulation.

District officials learned in December that the district might have to pay the Internal Revenue Service about $65,000 in penalties and interest because of a bookkeeping error by a former payroll supervisor under Kimberling's supervision.

It was Kimberling's office that approved district travel expenses for Trustee James T. (Tom) Ely, who faces trial later this month for allegedly filing false travel claims.

During the probe into Ely's spending, investigators said that Moorpark College President Stan Bowers had improperly transferred funds from campus bookstore profits into the college's foundation.

But Kimberling said Friday he is not to blame for the district's troubles during the past year.

Trustees would not comment Friday about any call for Kimberling's resignation. A district source, however, confirmed that trustees voted 4-0 to ask him to step down, saying they had lost confidence in his ability to supervise the financial affairs of the district. Ely did not attend the meeting.

The source said the spousal-battery case and drinking problems were not key factors in the trustees' vote.

Kimberling said he had not been drinking when he struck his wife, but he acknowledged that he spent 18 days in an alcohol treatment program at the Betty Ford Center near Palm Springs in 1989 while employed by the district.

At the time of the battery incident, he was on probation for a drunken-driving conviction for which he was placed on probation for three years. In 1985, he was convicted in Orange County of trespassing after what authorities described as a rampage at the office of a girlfriend who was ending her relationship with him.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Mary Peace asked for a jail sentence in the spousal-battery case, contending that Kimberling has minimized the attack and accepts no responsibility for it.

Kimberling's attorney, Chuck Cassey, sought a sentence of no more than 30 days. He said Kimberling had suffered enough because of the prospect that he could lose his job.

Judge John Smiley ordered Kimberling to appear June 17 to begin serving his sentence. Smiley also placed him on probation for three years during which he must undergo counseling and sobriety testing and abstain from alcohol.

Kimberling has applied for a work furlough that would allow him to continue working but spend nights and weekends in jail.

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