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Westin Supporter to Seek 3rd Term

Politics: Ventura County college district president believes the chancellor should stay. Faculty union says Nagel won't run unopposed.


The president of the Ventura County Community College District Board of Trustees said Monday that he will seek a third term in November, despite threats from critics that his support of embattled Chancellor Philip Westin will cost him his job.

Trustee Norman Nagel, 59, and his board colleagues are expected to decide Westin's fate during a special closed-door meeting tonight.

He shrugged off mounting pressure from the public and the faculty union to fire Westin for charging the district more than $119,000 for business-related expenses from 1997 to 2001.

Nagel, a Thousand Oaks orthodontist first elected to the board in 1994, said he does not feel any additional pressure, despite the political drama unfolding around him.

"I don't think there's any more pressure this time than any other time," Nagel said. "It's the same group of banner-waving, flag-waving individuals as four years ago. It's the same people with the same agenda."

Specifically, Nagel said, the faculty union wants him and his board colleagues to oust Westin for what they consider excessive spending on meals, computer equipment, automobile repairs and other items. An audit cleared Westin of violating district policy or of criminal wrongdoing.

"Does his action warrant discharge?" Nagel said. "No, I don't think his actions warrant discharge at all."

Although it knew of Westin's spending practices, the board voted 4 to 1 in May to award the chancellor a new four-year contract and a $30,000 raise, bringing his annual salary to $203,000. After Westin's spending was made public, critics demanded that he resign or be fired.

Trustees have since vowed to monitor Westin's spending and to develop policies that will place limits on his expenses. But opponents say that is not enough.

"Norm Nagel is a very proud man and a very stubborn man," said Larry Miller, president of the Ventura County Federation of College Teachers, the local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

"He doesn't see the big picture," Miller said. "I'm not sure the union even has to mount a vigorous attack. I think the taxpayers are going to outstrip us in terms of being vigorous. They're outraged. He's not going to run unopposed."

Trustee John Tallman, who voted against renewing Westin's contract, and board Vice President Art Hernandez also face reelection in the fall. Both have said publicly that they favor removing Westin as chancellor.

Trustee Allan Jacobs, whose term expires in 2004, is the subject of a recall effort by a conservative Republican organization for his continued support of Westin. Trustee Bob Gonzales has not said whether he has changed his mind about his support of Westin. He has not been not targeted for recall.

Nagel said that if he does not take a stand now, a new board and a new chancellor will face similar political pressure when a new administration refuses to cater to the union's demands.

"They'll have to relive this in four to six years again," Nagel said. "As long as the [union] continues, this is going to occur."

Nagel canceled a news conference Monday at the county elections office to announce his candidacy because he had not completed the paperwork. Monday marked the beginning of the three-week filing period for county elections.

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