By the Daily Post staff
UPDATE, 10 p.m., Monday — The San Mateo County Community College District Board fired chancellor emeritus Ron Galatolo after learning that he was receiving concert tickets, “high-end travel” and meals from the college district’s contractors, according to documents the district released today.
The district says that Galatolo never disclosed the gifts on his Form 700, a financial disclosure document government officials in California are supposed to file annually.
Also no explanation was offered as to why Galatolo was receiving these gifts although during his years as chancellor he had been in charge of nearly $1 billion in construction contracts on the district’s three campuses, Canada, Skyline and the College of San Mateo.
The district didn’t say which contractors were giving Galatolo gifts.
The board was upset that Galatolo hadn’t disclosed the gifts to the board during his 20 years as chancellor and 17 months as chancellor emeritus.
The documents released today also indicate that he used public funds to fund a retirement account for himself.
ORIGINAL STORY, 7 a.m., Monday — The San Mateo County Community College District board has booted Ron Galatolo from his $467,700-per-year job as chancellor emeritus as an investigation by the district attorney nears its conclusion.
District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe’s office is investigating allegations of harassment and improper handling of construction contracts by Galatolo.
On Saturday, the college district’s five-member board met in a closed session and, at the end, announced that it had voted unanimously to rescind the district’s employment contract with Galatolo. In fact, the board wants back all the money the district has paid him over the past 17 months.
Galatolo served as chancellor of the three-campus district — Canada, College of San Mateo and Skyline — for 20 years until he abruptly resigned in August 2019.
When his resignation was announced, the board said it had approved in secret a contract with Galatolo for the newly-created job of “chancellor emeritus,” which would pay $467,700 a year, the same as he was making as chancellor.
• Required the district to issue a “mutually acceptable joint press release,” and that anyone speaking about Galatolo’s removal would follow a set of “talking points.”
• Contained a non-disparagement clause forbidding Galatolo and the board from speaking ill of one another. This clause prevented the public from knowing why Galatolo was removed as chancellor.
• Said that any disputes between the board and Galatolo would be settled by retired Judge Richard Kramer. It’s not known if Kramer was consulted about the board’s decision Saturday.
• Ordered Galatolo to stay away from the district’s three campuses.
The board, which is elected, attempted to distance itself from Galatolo as soon as he was gone. But the board replaced Galatolo with his top lieutenant, Mike Claire, previously president of the College of San Mateo, one of the three colleges that makes up the countywide district.
A key figure in the prosecution’s case is former college district HR chief Eugene Whitlock.
In 2019, Galatolo arranged for the district to pay Whitlock $2.28 million if he would resign. Galatolo’s reasons for wanting Whitlock out aren’t publicly known.
But days before Whitlock agreed to resign, he sat down with investigators in the district attorney’s office. DA Wagstaffe confirmed to the Post that the investigation began with information provided by Whitlock.
Whitlock ran for the college district’s board last fall, but withdrew from the race when the Post revealed he had been paid $2.28 million to resign.
College district’s building boom
While the details of the DA’s investigation aren’t known, the district under Galatolo’s leadership has been on a building boom since the early 2000s. The district passed bond measures that raised a total of nearly $1 billion. Many of the companies that got contracts for the new buildings were donors to those bond measure campaigns.
John Pimentel, a college district trustee who was elected in November, said that the board decided to rescind the contract after discovering Galatolo had not disclosed “numerous material facts” to the board when it approved his emeritus contract in August 2019.
The board not only plans to cancel the contract but take back the $662,575 it has already paid Galatolo under the chancellor emeritus contract since it began on Aug. 8, 2019. The actual figure will be higher because the board is intent to get back the cost of fringe benefits paid on Galatolo’s behalf as well.
“We are confident the courts will agree with our action to rescind the contract, terminate all payments, and seek recovery of all funds previously disbursed to the former chancellor emeritus,” Pimentel said.
Board composition changes
In the year and a half since Galatolo was removed as chancellor, the composition of the five-member board of trustees has changed.
Gone are longtime incumbents Karen Schwarz and Dave Mandelkern. They were replaced in November by Pimentel, a renewable energy entrepreneur from Menlo Park, and educational nonprofit executive Lisa Petrides of Half Moon Bay.
They joined attorney and former Jefferson Union High School District trustee Tom Nuris; consumer rights attorney Richard Holober and former South San Francisco school board trustee Maurice Goodman.