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Ventura County

College Trustee to Call It Quits

Education: Norman Nagel changes his mind about seeking reelection to the county board, which is mired in a spending scandal.

July 27, 2002|AMANDA COVARRUBIAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The president of the troubled Ventura County Community College District Board of Trustees said Friday he has changed his mind and will not run for reelection in November.

Two weeks ago, Norman Nagel announced that he would seek another four-year term. On Friday, however, he said he reconsidered after talking with his family, friends and supporters. He said that he determined he had accomplished everything he set out to do since he joined the board in 1994, especially with the passage this year of a $356-million bond to upgrade the district's three campuses.

Nagel said the recent spending scandal involving Chancellor Philip Westin, who has been placed on paid leave pending an investigation, was not a factor in his decision.

"I thought it was time to turn over the reins to somebody else," said Nagel, 59, a Thousand Oaks orthodontist. "I thought about what it is I would need to accomplish in the next four years and decided there wasn't a lot. I set some goals and priorities, and I feel I've met them."

If he had sought another term, he undoubtedly would have faced stiff competition from a teachers' union-backed challenger for his seat on the five-member board. The Ventura County Federation of College Teachers and other critics have said they would fight to unseat any trustee who supported the chancellor.

Westin faced enormous public criticism earlier this summer when it was revealed that he had charged the district more than $119,000 for business-related expenses from 1997 to 2001. An audit cleared him of violating district policy and criminal wrongdoing, but critics still demanded that he resign or be fired.

Although the board knew of Westin's spending, it voted 4 to 1 in May to award him a new contract and a $30,000 raise, bringing his annual salary to $203,000.

"I'm dismayed and saddened by the way he's been vilified, and the way his situation has been handled," Nagel said Friday. "I think the bond issue was passed because of the board and Dr. Westin, not in spite of the board and Dr. Westin."

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

Trustee Allan Jacobs, whose term expires in 2004, is the target of a recall effort by a conservative Republican organization because of his support for Westin. Trustee Bob Gonzales, whose term also expires in two years, has not been targeted for recall.

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