Friday, March 31, 2006

Grand Juries, Ramirez, Klein, Ackerman

I have not met Ramirez or Klein; my information comes from papers and the web only.
(I have met Mr. Ackerman)

From the Sac Bee's Grand jury: Sierra trustee sowed chaos:
A Sierra College trustee tarnished his institution's reputation and helped force former President Kevin Ramirez from office by leveling unfounded allegations of misconduct, the Placer County grand jury has found.

For irresponsible actions that led to damning publicity and chaos in the college community, trustee Aaron Klein owes the public an apology, states a grand jury report obtained Thursday by The Bee. The grand jury also called for the Sierra Joint Community College District trustees to acknowledge Klein's error and apologize to Ramirez and the public.

The Bee article came out last Friday; the Union covered the news Saturday - but, as of a week later*, they have had no Opinion on it*.
Which would seem curious, given the splash the report made...
but less curious given the tone and substance of Jeff Ackerman's column* (here or here) from last year, written after he met with trustee Aaron Klein:
There is a lot more than meets the eye on this issue of renegade trustees firing poor innocent college presidents.
...Part of the closed-door settlement stipulated that nobody say anything bad about anybody else, which is why Klein really couldn't tell me anything bad about Ramirez.
... faculty members are calling for Klein's head, suggesting that he and Leslie and perhaps one or two other trustees are part of the "right-wing conspiracy," which Republicans are frequently being accused of participating in. Why else would those mean and nasty conspirators ask such a wonderful and kind and talented college president to leave?

Some highlights from the Placer County Grand Jury report:
Complainant believes that the former Sierra College President orchestrated a "scheme" to solicit funding for the three 2004 bond campaigns from donors while purposefully omitting their names from FPPC filings to avoid public scrutiny, and that he implemented the "scheme" by illegally using the Sierra College Foundation as an intermediary. Complainant alleges that through this process the former President "money laundered" in excess of $100,000, violated the California Political Reform Act and may have committed acts of misdemeanor or felony under Education Code Section 7054. His testimony, reported herein, fully explains the basis of his belief, and the Grand Jury does not doubt that he believes his allegations.

However, the facts of the case speak in total opposition to the complaint. All donors surveyed gave willing financial support to the bond measures and welcomed any accompanying publicity of their donations. In our investigation, no donors were found who requested anonymity, none who felt pressured or coerced, none who based their decisions on the tax deductibility of their donations and none who expected anything in return other than a thriving College community.
The Grand Jury believes the public, the College, and the former President deserve resolution rather than leaving unanswered allegations of wrongdoing that never occurred.
The 2005-2006 Grand Jury investigation shows five significant reasons to make this final report.

1. As a result of the former President’s retirement and settlement agreement with the College, the public never received closure on the merit of the claims.

2. Even senior members of the College staff still believe that some public agency may ultimately investigate these charges and take action.

3. Since there has been no investigation, the local press continues to report unresolved allegations.

4. We wish to reveal the truth of the matter to the public.

5. We hope to reduce the cloud of suspicion over the College.

Based on the facts, the Grand Jury makes the following findings...:

1. The Foundation could, in fact, operate legally as an intermediary.

2. The Foundation had no intent to suppress donor names.

3. Filing errors were made, but they were due to inexperience, inattention to detail, and confusing underlying documentation.

4. The filing violations were minor and easily correctable.

5. The former President was far removed from the process of making the filings and had no participation in causing the violations.

6. Complainant failed to exert reasonable due diligence before making the complaint. The complaint is utterly without merit.

7. Although not the total basis for the former President’s decision to seek a retirement settlement, the complaint was a contributing and unjustified factor.

8. Complainant’s insistence that the Foundation be barred from supporting Sierra College bond measures by donor solicitation as an intermediary is an unfounded opinion.

Placer County's Grand Jury seems unlike ours; compare the level of detail and clarity in their report* to last year's Nevada County Grand Jury report on mismanagement and intimidation by the Board of Supervisors.

I wonder if we could hire them to investigate a case that's like that of Ramirez.


maxr99 said...

Here are two letters than ran recently in the Sacramento Bee regarding the damage Trustee Arron Klein has done to Sierra College, Mr. Ramirez and to the community at large.

Playing politics at Sierra College
Re "Grand jury: Sierra trustee sowed chaos," March 24: The grand jury found that Aaron Klein's public accusation of Sierra College President Kevin Ramirez was "utterly without merit." Klein and Scott Leslie ran for positions on the Sierra College board so they could begin their political careers. Klein, in particular, moved to be able to run for the board. Klein sullied the good name and reputation of Ramirez.
Klein's malicious acts have cost Sierra College Ramirez's retirement settlement of $464,950, $54,750 for a national search for a new president and an additional $42,000 per year that is the difference between Ramirez's old salary and what Sierra must now pay his replacement. Klein, Leslie and President Jerry Simmons have cost Sierra College more than $519,000 in one-time costs and an annual additional cost of $42,000.

At the very least Klein, Leslie and Simmons should resign from the board.

- George Rose, Rocklin

Hypocrisy in Sierra board actions
Sierra College Trustee Aaron Klein accused then-President Kevin Ramirez of laundering political contributions through the Sierra College Foundation based on knowledge of an FPPC ruling at "another community college" that was fined for what he claimed were identical violations. Chairman Jerry Simmons claimed a conversation he overheard in a men's bathroom confirmed Klein's charges. They were wrong. The grand jury investigation found the charges "utterly without merit."
Foothill-De Anza Community College was the college Klein cited that was fined by the FPPC. The chancellor of Foothill-De Anza when those violations took place was Leo Chavez, recently enthusiastically endorsed as the new president of Sierra College.

How could these two vilify one president, then turn around and replace him with someone who, according to them, was in charge while the same alleged campaign-filing violations were occurring in his district?

The community deserves better than these two irresponsible hypocrites.

- Leslie Carroll, Davis

Anna said...

> "Foothill-De Anza Community College was the college Klein cited that was fined by the FPPC. The chancellor of Foothill-De Anza when those violations took place was Leo Chavez, recently enthusiastically endorsed as the new president of Sierra College."

That is bizarre.

BTW, I went looking for the letters, so as to provide URLs for them, but didn't see them online - in fact it looked like the Sac Bee only puts one or two letters online per day. Am I missing something, or is this really the Bee's policy?

Anonymous said...

All the letters to the editor are there. You must scroll to down to access all the letters.


Sacramento Bee Letters to the Editor about Aaron Klein's False Accusations.