Weary of their dispute, community college trustees and Stanley L. Bowers approved a settlement Saturday that demotes the Moorpark College president to dean at Oxnard College and cuts his pay by about $15,000 a year.
Bowers, who had faced firing on Tuesday for approving questionable financial transactions, agreed to resign his presidency June 30 and not to file a lawsuit against the Ventura County Community College District, according to the agreement.
District trustees agreed not to demote Bowers to classroom instructor or counselor, where he would have been paid about $30,000 a year less than his current salary of nearly $95,000.
As a tenured faculty member, Bowers was entitled to a teaching or counseling job if removed as president. But he was not entitled to a management job, according to the district.
"I have accepted the deal. . .," Bowers said after trustees ratified the agreement Saturday afternoon, following five hours of meetings and negotiation. "I have mixed feelings, as you might imagine."
Board President Timothy Hirschberg said the district agreed to a settlement, a form of which was proposed by Bowers a week ago, because the veteran administrator might have sued the district for canceling his contract a year ahead of time.
"I think the board is just happy to have this resolved," Hirschberg said. "We've battled this at long length. It reached a point where it became counterproductive to our mission here."
Legal fees for the Bowers investigation were under $10,000, Hirschberg estimated, but could have reached many times that if the district had been sued by Bowers. In addition, the district's legal position had been undercut by leaks of confidential documents to reporters, Hirschberg said last week.
The settlement prompted a series of new administrative appointments that also were announced Saturday.
Roger Boedecker, vice president of instruction at Oxnard College, will become acting president of Moorpark College on July 1. Ruth Hemming, another Oxnard College vice president, will take Boedecker's place, and the college's dean of counseling, Ron Jackson, will replace Hemming.
The shuffle will open up Jackson's position for Bowers. A vacant dean's post at Oxnard will remain unfilled because of a tight budget, Hirschberg said.
As a concession to Bowers, 56, the trustees will allow him to stay at Moorpark College and assist in Boedecker's transition until Oct. 1. He will receive president's pay until then.
"I think this allows Dr. Bowers to resign with some dignity," said a trustee who asked not to be identified. "He's too good an individual not to. I think this position is suited to him because he's real good with people. Maybe he's not so good at finances."
The trustees also approved at its special Saturday meeting a reprimand for Lawrence G. Lloyd, a vice president at Moorpark College. Lloyd is accused of mismanagement in the same transactions that led to Bowers' demotion. Lloyd, who has announced that he will retire next June, has accepted the reprimand and said it is warranted.
However, in accepting his demotion, Bowers has continued to maintain that he has not done anything improper or illegal. Indeed, neither side changed its position very much in the settlement agreement.
Trustees claim that Bowers has demonstrated "habitual neglect of his duties" and that he knowingly approved a plan to hire two district employees that circumvented state law.
And Bowers insists that he was caught up in a fervor for reform that has swept the college district since Trustee James T. (Tom) Ely was charged last summer with embezzling $15,000.
"Neither the district nor Dr. Bowers admits to allegations or contentions of the others," the agreement says.
Trustees notified Bowers May 21 that he would be fired for funneling $23,000 through the private Moorpark College Foundation to pay one part-time and one retired college employee for administering a special vocational program. The payments were designed to sidestep state employment and retirement regulations and also violated district requirements that contracts exceeding $5,000 be approved by trustees, the district maintained.
Bowers was also reprimanded last December for transferring $51,000 in college bookstore profits to the foundation, and then not being able to account for how all the money was spent.
The college president also approved payment of about $3,100 in bookstore fees for travel by Ingrid Ely, former president of the college's alumni association. She is now on trial with husband Tom for allegedly filing phony travel expenses with the district.
Bowers, a soft-spoken administrator popular with faculty and staff, has said his only mistake was to approve Ingrid Ely's travel expenses.
He said in an interview last week that he transferred the $51,000 in bookstore profits to the foundation's account to simplify bookkeeping. The money was spent for the same items--a campus sports stadium, expenses related to foundation fund-raising and college seminars--both before and after the transfers.
Use of bookstore profits has been left to the discretion of the district's three college presidents since 1985, he said, and state law allows use of the money to benefit the student body. All foundation activities help students at the college, he said.
Bowers has also maintained that he sanctioned the funneling of the $23,000 through the foundation only after he was assured by Lloyd that district Vice Chancellor Tom Kimberling had OKd the arrangement.
Trustees said Saturday, however, that Kimberling does not recall approving the plan and has denied that he was ever told about the legal questions it raised.