A trustee of the South Orange County Community College District announced her resignation this week as political foes investigated allegations that she had violated state law by living outside the area she represents.
In a letter to Chancellor Raghu Mathur dated Friday and delivered Monday, Dorothy Fortune, 64, vice president of the district's board of trustees, attributed her resignation, effective immediately, to "my husband's retirement and our decision to relocate outside the district."
The district, made up of Saddleback and Irvine Valley colleges, issued a press release accepting Fortune's resignation "with sincere regret" and praising her "tireless efforts in support of sound fiscal management, administrative and staff accountability ... and programs [of] immeasurable benefit to this district and the community."
But some members of the South Orange County Community Faculty Assn., which represents the district's teachers, said they had, for the past month, been investigating allegations that Fortune had moved out of the district in March.
"We're not surprised that Dorothy has submitted her resignation," said Bill Hewitt, the group's treasurer. "There have been questions in the past about whether or not she still resided in the district."
Micael Merrifield, the association's president, said there was evidence that Fortune and her husband had purchased a home in Central California in March. "It was somewhat common knowledge on the campus that she had moved," he said. "We've been talking about it -- what she had [locally] is a drop box in a post office."
The California Education Code requires community college trustees to live in the area they represent. In Fortune's case, that includes Laguna Beach, Aliso Viejo, Dana Point and portions of Laguna Hills, Newport Beach and unincorporated areas of Orange County.
Fortune, a board member since 1996, could not be reached for comment. Speaking on her behalf, Donald P. Wagner, president of the board and a friend of Fortune's, denied that she had done anything wrong. She had been living in an Aliso Viejo apartment, he said.
"This stuff, frankly, has been kicking around for a while," he said. "We asked her about it, the chancellor visited the apartment and, as far as I know, that is her official residence. I do talk to her, and I know that she's been out of state a lot."
Mathur declined to comment.
This year, Fortune sent district officials a memo saying she intended to sell her Laguna Beach house and rent an Aliso Viejo apartment. Because its mailbox was "very small," however, she asked that her mail be sent to another Aliso Viejo address. She added: "Please advise staff that from Feb. 26 on, they should not send me faxes as we are going on a trip."