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Regional Report : CERRITOS : College Administrator Faces Conflict Probe

October 27, 1994|JOHN COX

A Cerritos College administrator has been placed on leave pending an investigation into conflict-of-interest allegations.

Viet Be, vice president of student services, allegedly steered foreign students to a company he owns to evaluate their transcripts and complete their academic files, college President Fred Gaskin said. The company, International Service Center, charged students as much as $120 for its services, Gaskin said.

The students received letters warning that their transcripts from foreign high schools had to be evaluated by the company for them to remain at the college, records show.

Both the district attorney's office and the Fair Political Practices Commission have been asked to investigate the allegations, college officials said. Be and his attorney, Glenn Rothner, did not return repeated phone calls.

The college's board of trustees, which placed Be on paid leave Oct. 19, plans to meet with him in closed session Nov. 10 to discuss the allegations, Gaskin said. The president said he also has ordered the college admissions staff to stop sending letters that tell foreign students to send transcripts to Be's company.

Be, who was hired in January, 1992, as director of admissions and records, apparently began sending the letters to foreign students in January, 1993, Gaskin said. The letters told students that high school and college records "must be evaluated by the International Service Center." Be had added the requirement to a policy that previously required only proficiency in English for foreign students.

A few weeks later, the admissions office, over which Be had authority, also amended the college's general catalogue, adding the requirement that international students have their foreign high school work evaluated, Gaskin said. The president said he rescinded the policy last week.

College officials have sent out letters to the 1,400 foreign students who have enrolled at Cerritos since 1993 to notify them that they are not required to have their transcripts evaluated. The letter also asked students whether the company had actually provided the evaluations.

Officials said they do not know how many students paid for evaluations.

Be founded the International Service Center in 1990, according to documents filed with the Los Angeles county clerk. The documents listed Be's Canoga Park residence at the time as the address of the company.

Officials said college counselors received complaints from students who said they never received transcript evaluations after paying for them. Officials said they were unable to contact the company because no phone number is given on its forms and the address provided on applications is a post office box in Woodland Hills.

Be was promoted last July to vice president of student services. His salary is $90,000 a year.

Before coming to Cerritos College in 1992, Be was assistant director of admissions and records at Cal State Northridge. He had been a transcript evaluation clerk from 1978 to 1980 at the university, a Cal State Northridge spokeswoman said.

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