In a surprise move that could signal the end of their chancellor's controversial tenure, South Orange County Community College District trustees voted this week not to allow Raghu Mathur's contract to automatically renew.
This is the first crack in the board majority's support of Mathur after standing by him despite three faculty votes of no confidence.
Mathur's contract would have been automatically renewed for three years on Dec. 30, effective June 30, with a $4,000 annual boost to his current salary of $183,000. Trustees voted 4 to 3 Tuesday not to renew it.
Don Wagner, the board president, said Mathur still remained a candidate for the job. "There's a very real possibility in my mind that the next chancellor will be Raghu Mathur, but I wouldn't put any odds on it," he said.
The key vote against Mathur was cast by Nancy Pad- berg, who had supported him in the past as a member of the board's politically conservative majority. She said she thought Mathur should not receive the automatic raise or an $8,400-a-year car allowance, but she declined to say whether she wanted a new chancellor or what their differences were.
Wagner said the board had not begun seeking a successor.
Mathur said in an interview that the move took him by surprise and that trustees had not indicated they wanted to negotiate a new contract.
Lewis Long, president of the faculty union, said trustees had told union officials they would be surprised if Mathur kept his job. Long said a new chancellor would help restore trust between the faculty and the board.
Mathur and the faculty have battled for most of his 2 1/2 years on the job. Faculty leaders say he is disrespectful of them and dictatorial and excludes them from the decision-making they are legally entitled to participate in.
Mathur has fought with faculty since he was appointed president of Irvine Valley in 1997 and did away with a system that relied on faculty chairs to handle many administrative duties.
In the last no-confidence vote, in May, 93.5% of the faculty opposed Mathur.