An arrangement to conceal — separation agreement prevents officials from explaining Galatolo’s removal

Ron Galatolo

Daily Post Staff Writer

San Mateo County Community College District officials haven’t told the public why Ron Galatolo was removed as chancellor because of a clause in his separation agreement.

The settlement agreement, obtained by the Daily Post, said the district and Galatolo agreed to put out a “mutually acceptable joint press release,” and that everyone would follow a set of “talking points” when discussing Galatolo’s exit.

The separation agreement said that all comments relating to Galatolo’s departure must be consistent with the press release.

Also in the agreement is a non-disparagement clause, which means Galatolo and the board can’t speak ill of one another.

As a result, the public has not been told why the board decided to remove Galatolo as chancellor after 20 years in the position.

As the Daily Post reported on Aug. 24, the San Mateo County District Attorney’s office has executed search warrants at the college district in connection with Galatolo. District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said his staff is looking into allegations of harassment and improper handling of construction contracts.

The separation agreement doesn’t say why Galatolo was removed, but said that “disputes arose between the (district and Galatolo) regarding their employment relationship,” which was taken to mediation before retired Judge Richard Kramer on Aug. 7, just five days before the district and Galatolo issued the press release.
After the mediation, it was agreed that “to avoid the uncertainty and expense of litigating disputes between them,” a settlement agreement would be written up, the agreement states.

Galatolo shielded from lawsuits

The separation agreement prevents the district from suing Galatolo for anything he might have done as chancellor.

As part of the agreement Galatolo was given a new position, chancellor emeritus, which will pay what he was making as chancellor, $467,700 a year plus benefits.
In both the new employment contract and the settlement agreement, Galatolo is supposed to work at home, not on campus.

The agreement also notes that Galatolo no longer reports directly to the board, but instead to the district’s new acting chancellor, Michael Claire, who was previously president of the College of San Mateo, one of the three colleges that makes up the district.

If any issues arise during Galatolo’s new contract — which lasts until March 2022 and cannot be renewed — the board and Galatolo must again go back to mediation with Judge Kramer. The Post obtained Galatolo’s separation agreement in response to a California Public Records Act request.

While the district is silent on why Galatolo was removed, the District Attorney’s office said it began looking into Galatolo after receiving a complaint. Investigators are gathering information to determine if they should open a full blown investigation, which could lead to criminal charges.

Investigators are sifting through thousands of pages of records from the college district, DA Wagstaffe told the Post previously. Wagstaffe said he does not know when the inquiry will be completed.


  1. Not surprising at all.
    All I want to say is thank you very much to Emily Mibach for actually going above and beyond to try and get to the bottom of this matter.
    I do hope you will stay on it and report future findings also.
    Just the tip of the iceberg as I’m sure time will tell.
    Hopefully the pressure will stay on DA Wagstaff to do a thorough investigation too and not let it be swept under the carpet.
    Thanks again for your efforts!

  2. What? Is there no accountability? This isn’t some private business – it’s a public tax-funded college district! The public deserves to know what’s going on. The “hush” agreements described in this article make no sense when the administrators are supposed to be completely transparent and answer to the public. Don’t expect us to approve more bond measures.

  3. It appears the Administrators in SMCCD are not transparent. It’s a game of show and tell, they show only what they want to be seen and when the questions are asked by employees, faculty and staff are targeted and labeled as troublemakers. Residents of San Mateo County, please come to the Board of Trustees meetings at the SMCCD District Office and ask questions. They can’t target you!

  4. Clearly, the former chancellor, now “emeritus chancellor,” had better lawyers than the Board of Trustees… How can the Board approve a new contract that supersedes the former contract and shields the chancellor from “dismissal for cause” if there were wrong doings during his tenure? Basically, he was given amnesty for whatever he did, though the public is totally in the dark.  As a public institution with an elected Board of Trustees, they are responsible and accountable to the public, yet they intentionally negotiated an “arrangement to conceal.” 

    According to the above article, “After the mediation, it was agreed that “to avoid the uncertainty and expense of litigating disputes between them,” a settlement agreement would be written up.”  So the Board agreed to pay the ex-chancellor over $1.2 million until March 2022?  They claim that litigation would have been more costly?  How can the Trustees have let problems come to this?  Didn’t they hold the ex-chancellor accountable when they continually gave him raise after raise? The Trustees are costing taxpayers millions of dollars.  For shame.

  5. What on earth is this Board of Trustees doing? Obviously not enough. It seems our tax dollars continue to fund overpaid administrator salaries and whatever else they can finagle.

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