BY DAVE PRICE
Daily Post Editor
Facts are slowly beginning to emerge about the decision by the board of the San Mateo County Community College District to remove longtime Chancellor Ron Galatolo.
Last week, the board put out a pleasant sounding press release saying he was stepping down to become the chancellor emeritus of the three-college district.
From reading the release, you’d think he was going into semi-retirement. The title “emeritus” is commonly given to professors who retire but are allowed to retain their title as an honor.
But now Galatolo’s new employment agreement has been posted on the district’s website because the board will be voting to approve it on Wednesday (Aug 21). It contains some startling provisions.
First, Galatolo’s new contract shows that he will get $38,975 a month (or $467,700 a year) to serve as chancellor emeritus. That’s what he was making as chancellor.
His replacement, at least on an interim basis, will be College of San Mateo President Mike Claire, whose pay will be in the same ballpark.
Two expensive chancellors
So the district is stuck with two very expensive chancellors, each costing the district half-a-million or more a year when you include benefits.
Galatolo is leaving with more than two years on his old contract.
Since his new contract is described as a “negotiated” agreement, I’m wondering if the negotiation went something like this.
Board of directors: You’re fired. Leave now.
Galatolo: But I have a contract that runs through 2021. I’m entitled to that money. I’m calling my lawyer.
Board: OK, we’ll remove you from your job but will pay you what you would have received under your contract.
And, just to keep the public from catching on, both sides agree to send out a cheerful press release saying he would become chancellor emeritus.
But Item 2 in the contract states that he won’t be going to the district office anymore. “Employee shall perform his duties from a home office or other remote office,” the contract says.
I guess he’s losing his parking space.
As chancellor emeritus, Galatolo has been given the job of developing a CSU program at Canada College. State Sen. Jerry Hill and Assemblyman Kevin Mullin have obtained $1 million to do a feasibility study about opening a CSU branch at Canada in Redwood City.
But the board set no benchmarks for Galatolo in his new contract regarding the CSU branch, which leads me to believe it’s a “make work” job. They don’t care what he does or else they would have given him some goals and written it like a real personnel contract. When it comes to a feasibility study, the actual work will probably be farmed out to a consultant to write a report.
Judge named to settle future disputes
If you’re curious about how the negotiations to remove Galatolo went, go to Item 15 of the contract. It lays out a procedure the board has to follow if it intends to fire him for cause as emeritus chancellor. “The matter shall be presented to Honorable Richard A. Kramer, judge of the Superior Court (retired).” It says Kramer will decide if Galatolo is to be removed, and he will have the final say.
Wow, it’s as if they’re already preparing for another fight and have picked the judge who will decide the case.
But after the emeritus contract expires in March 2022, Galatolo is finished with the district. Item 14 says the emeritus contract cannot be renewed or extended.
Why did the board remove him? Given the district’s penchant for secrecy, we may never know. There are a couple of incidents that are on the record.
There’s the time he charged a $100 bottle of wine to the district. But after that came to light, some board members actually defended him.
Then there was the botched sale of KCSM-TV. The district had a chance to sell the station’s bandwidth in an FCC auction for $114 million. But a district administrator didn’t submit a bid with the FCC at the required time, and the district got nothing. Galatolo kept the bad news from the board and the public for six months.
You’d think that keeping a mistake of that size from your board would be an immediate firing offense. But a few months later the board gave Galatolo a raise and a new contract.
What happened this time is a mystery.
But the public has a right to know what triggered his removal. It may be the result of a major problem in the district. Perhaps the board didn’t manage him properly.
Whatever mistake was made, the board needs to reveal it publicly so that it isn’t repeated in the future.
This isn’t a private business. It’s a public institution, and the board is accountable to the public. No more flowery press releases, just tell us the truth.
Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.