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College Official's Contract Not Renewed

Personnel: Trustees decline to explain their decision concerning the district's budget chief. Some teachers aren't surprised by the vote.

February 25, 1996|KELLY DAVID | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Acting in a hastily called special session, trustees for the county's community college district voted Saturday evening not to renew a top administrator's contract.

The decision leaves Jeff Marsee, the district's chief budget official, without a job after June 30, when his contract expires. He is paid $96,000 yearly as vice chancellor of administrative services.

Marsee--who on Friday accused trustees and the district's chancellor of blindsiding him weeks after assuring him that his job was secure--was not at the meeting.

"I have advised the board in writing that I will not be attending the meeting tonight since I was not specifically invited to appear before the board," he said before the meeting, which was called Friday evening.

Trustees, who came to the unanimous decision in an hour during the closed-session, declined to explain their decision or comment on Marsee's allegations. Trustee Pete Tafoya did not attend the meeting.

But Chancellor Philip Westin flatly denied having told Marsee that his job was safe.

"I didn't say that," he said. "The decision on whether people continue to be employed is not mine to make. It is the board's to make, so it would be impossible for me to assure someone that they are going to continue to be employed."

A handful of teachers stood outside during the meeting, which was monitored by two district security officers and a plainclothes Ventura police officer. Some hugged after the trustees announced their decision.

Most said that though they were not surprised that Marsee was given his walking papers, they were shocked by the quickness of the action.

"I have never heard of a single faculty person or administrator be supportive of him," said Elton Hall, an instructor at Moorpark College. "But this way of getting rid of him is very unusual."

Westin declined to comment on the suddenness of the decision, except to say: "It is not punishment. It is not for cause. It is simply an action the board has taken to not renew his contract."

Before announcing its decision, board members denied an earlier request by Marsee to meet with them.

Critics have said privately that Marsee was not a consensus builder and often ignored the recommendations of faculty as well as Westin. Often, they said, they were given directions by Marsee that conflicted with those given by Westin.

In addition, they have said that Marsee maintained a centralized approach to running the district at a time when Westin had moved to decentralize operations by giving more power to the college presidents over their own budgets. Marsee has denied that, saying he threw his full support behind the new chancellor.

Marsee, 46, joined the district in 1992 after leaving a similar post at a multicampus district in Houston.

He was asked to bring the district--then on the state watch list for colleges on the brink of financial ruin--into solvency. When he arrived, district reserves were less than 1%. They now stand at more than 5%.

Marsee says he has done his job well, consistently receiving evaluations full of "great support" from the board.

His termination will leave two of the district's three vice chancellor positions vacant.

The vice chancellors, who report directly to Westin, oversee the district's primary operations.

One position has been open since Trustee John Tallman resigned as vice chancellor of instruction and administrative services in 1992. Since then, Marsee and Jerry Pauley, associate vice chancellor of human resources, have jointly taken over those responsibilities.

Westin said he is not yet certain when the board will launch a search for Marsee's replacement.

Next month, the board will consider several options to reorganize the district staff, including dividing the responsibilities of the vice chancellors among four newly created positions, to be called executive directors.

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