The Oxnard College bookstore manager has been fired after 17 years in the post, the apparent victim of a scathing audit that turned up incomplete records and losses of nearly $10,000 a month.
Sharon Davies, a 22-year college employee, was notified by certified letter last month that she had been fired, said her lawyer, David Bernstein.
"She was never suspended with or without pay, or told not to come to work until her dismissal. (She) was 100% blindsided," Bernstein said.
Davies intends to file a lawsuit if necessary to get her $65,000-a-year job back or to receive damages, he said. Davies could not be reached for comment.
Jerry Pauley, a vice chancellor in the Ventura County Community College District, would not confirm that Davies was fired. But he did release a list of the district's classified employees, and Davies' name was not on it.
"The whole thing is a liability issue," Pauley said. "We've already been threatened with a defamation suit. It's simply a personnel issue that's not been settled yet."
Meanwhile, officials said they had made no progress in determining why the bookstore was allowed to operate at a loss for the last half of 1993. College President Elise Schneider said routine annual audits had failed to uncover any problems.
Bookkeeping irregularities and bookstore losses were not discovered until district officials decided to take over the record keeping earlier this year, Schneider said. Since then "we've implemented corrective measures to ensure fiscal accountability in the bookstore," she said.
The Ventura County grand jury subsequently investigated the bookstore. It recommended last month that college officials explain how the store and other district enterprises lost money when they should net substantial profits.
It also suggested that the new grand jury monitor the district's progress in cleaning up its record keeping.
Trustees said Thursday that the decision to fire Davies was made at a closed-door meeting in late June. But they failed to announce the dismissal on the recommendation of their lawyer, who said public notification is not required until Davies' appeals have been exhausted.
"There were facts that were presented in closed session regarding the management of her employment duties," said Trustee Gregory P. Cole, refusing to elaborate.
Davies was fired after the district's audit concluded in May that bookstore records were sloppy or nonexistent.
The audit said that bookstore officials failed to keep track of how much money was taken in at the store, how much was owed to employees and how much the store was losing.
"Controls which are basic to any accounting system were not implemented," the audit said.
The bookstore lost more than $183,000 in the last six months of 1993--the most recent period evaluated, auditors said.
But those losses could be reduced by $140,000 by factoring in uncollected accounts and inventory that was not initially counted, district Comptroller Sue Johnson said.
The final 1993-94 year-end analysis is still under way, Johnson said. "The numbers right now could go either way," she said. "I won't know for two weeks."
Most community college bookstores, however, earn a 24% annual profit, the audit said.
For example, the Ventura and Moorpark college bookstores combined to post profits of more than $135,000 in the 1992-93 fiscal year, the most recent figures available. The Oxnard bookstore posted a $4,000 profit over the same year, Johnson said.
Bernstein said Thursday that his client did nothing wrong.
"She was running the bookstore in a fashion that generated written praise," he said. "She believes that once everything is fully evaluated she will be exonerated."