Update: Criminal charges filed against former college district chancellor

Ron Galatolo

Daily Post Staff Writer

After 2½ years of investigation, the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office has hit former community college district chancellor Ron Galatolo with 21 felony charges, accusing him of taking lavish gifts from contractors who were working for the district.

Among the gifts were tickets to concerts and sporting events — such as Warriors games — as well as international travel, according to District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Court documents allege Galatolo, 58, of Menlo Park, benefitted after giving contracts to Palo Alto architectural firm Allana, Buick and Bers, or AB&B, and McCarthy Building Companies, which has an office in Santa Clara.

McCarthy got contracts for the new Math and Science Building, or Building 23 at Canada College. The construction of that $64 million project was funded by bond measure money. The district’s board approved a contract for $40 million with McCarthy on Jan 11, 2017.

The district had a series of contracts with AB&B that total over $7 million, according to court documents. One of those projects was to build a solar energy system at Canada College.

AB&B’s attorney, Stephen Pahl, sent the Post a statement saying that the district’s contracts with AB&B saved the district money.

“While one of the principals of AB&B has a friendship with Mr. Galatolo, in all of the many discussions the principals have had with the San Mateo County District Attorneys’ Office, there has never been even the hint of impropriety even suggested by the District Attorney, nor that the district contracted with this civil engineering firm and failed to receive excellent value for the investment and consultation,” Pahl said in an email to the Post.

The Post also reached out to McCarthy Builders, but did not hear back.

Contractors won’t be charged

Wagstaffe said he has no plans to charge the contractors, pointing out that private businesses have different ethical obligations than public employees.

“Mr. Galatolo, as a government employee, has a different set of standards to adhere to,” Wagstaffe said.

Chuck Smith, Galatolo’s attorney, told the Post yesterday that he plans to challenge all of the charges Galatolo faces.

Galatolo, who was the district’s chancellor for 18 years, is not expected to be formally arrested until next Friday. However, if Galatolo gets pulled over for a speeding ticket or something like that, it will show that he has a warrant out for his arrest, according to Wagstaffe.

Wagstaffe said the hearing date was set for next week because Galatolo is out of town.

Wagstaffe said his office is still looking at “additional matters” which may result in more charges for Galatolo down the line, but said his office has no intent at this point to charge anyone else.

No one has been granted immunity for their testimony at trial. However, some college district employees wanted immunity before providing statements to the DA’s office, the DA said. But Wagstaffe said none of those people were actually criminally culpable.

“Our investigation has not shown any criminal activity on the board or elsewhere within the district,” Wagstaffe said.

The DA in December charged former vice chancellor of facilities, Jose Nunez, with 15 similar charges. Nunez took a plea deal on Jan. 5, cutting his number of felonies from 15 to two. In exchange, Nunez will testify against Galatolo.

Nunez will not be sentenced until the other cases are completed, Wagstaffe explained. If Nunez holds up his end of the bargain, he will get probation. The maximum penalty for those charges is three years and eight months in jail, Wagstaffe said.

Tax charge

Galatolo is also charged with lying to the DMV and on tax forms.

Galatolo is accused of saying on his 2017 tax form that he made a $10,000 charitable donation to the Santa Rosa Junior College Foundation Fire Relief Fund to help people after the Tubbs Fire. However, the DA’s office discovered the district’s nonprofit foundation made the donation.

The DA’s office also discovered that Galatolo on Sept. 24, 2015 told the DMV that he had bought a 1963 Corvette for $2,500. Online postings estimate that a 1963 Corvette would cost between $63,000 and over $100,000.

Similarly, on May 29, 2019, Galatolo allegedly told the DMV that he bought a 2006 Chevy SSR for $1,000. Chevy 2006 SSRs are listed on Carfax for around $35,000.

College District Communications Director Ana Maria Pulido said in a statement to the Post that the district “severed its relationship” with Galatolo in February 2021 and has cooperated with the DA’s investigation and will continue to do so.

The district’s elected board fired Galatolo from his cushy $467,700-per-year job as chancellor emeritus that he started in August 2019, two weeks before the Post broke the news that he was under investigation by the DA’s office.

When the board fired Galatolo once and for all, the board cited the fact that Galatolo had not properly disclosed his dealings with construction companies or the gifts he received from them.

Questions arisen in the past about Galatolo activities.

In 2015, Galatolo came under fire after NBC Bay Area revealed he was buying alcohol with district money, a policy violation.

Purchases included a $100 bottle of Rubicon Cask at a San Diego hotel. He said the wine was to entertain donors to the college.

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 in 2020, but withdrew from the race when the Post revealed he had been paid $2.28 million to resign, a fact that had previously been concealed from the public.

Reaction story that appeared on Saturday, April 9

Headline: College watchdog: ‘It’s about time’

Daily Post Staff Writer

A long-time watchdog of the San Mateo County Community College District said “it’s about time” that criminal charges be filed against former chancellor Ron Galatolo.

But former San Mateo Planning Commissioner Maxine Terner said it’s unfortunate that the 21 felony charges filed against Galatolo, 59, of Menlo Park, don’t directly involve fraud related to the district’s bond measures.

The district passed three 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. The most recent was Measure H in 2014, aimed to benefit Canada Col- lege in Redwood City.

It was with some of that money that Galatolo allegedly fixed contracts for two developers in particular, Allana, Buick and Bers and McCarthy Builders. AB&B was given a series of contracts totaling over $7 million for various projects, primarily to set up so- lar panels for Canada College. McCarthy was given a contract to build the new Math and Science Building, or Building 23, at Canada.

In 2014, Terner spoke out against Measure H, labeling the campaign behind the bond measure a waste. She pointed out at the time that instead of up- grading libraries, classrooms and labs, as promised in the other two bond measures, the money was put toward lavish new buildings, roads, parking lots and athletic facilities.

The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office filed charges against Galatolo, who was chancellor for 18 years before suddenly resigning in August 2019, He was then given a position as “chancellor emeritus” where he got the same pay, but the board ended that contract in February 2021. Galatolo will be in court on Friday, where he will be arraigned on 21 felonies including perjury, lying on his taxes, to the DMV and not properly disclosing gifts he got from vendors over the years. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

“Galatolo lied to and manipulated the previous board of directors and they did not do their jobs to protect the legitimate faculty and student facility needs, the voters and taxpayers. The influence of the building trades & consultants on school bonds cannot be underestimated and voters must beware,” Terner said as a warning to other elected officials.

“My public trust has been severely shaken by what Galatolo was allowed to get away with,” she said.


  1. I feel vindicated. I do hope they investigated the situation that happened with Building 12 (you know, the one sitting on the edge of the cliff at Skyline), and the monies that should have gone to tearing down Building 1 and rebuilding a new building. Supposedly, the $$ that were to complete this rebuilding was reduced as more money went to the ex-chancellor’s ‘baby’ Building 12.

  2. Multitudes of faculty, staff, and middle-management were stepped, lied to, and manipulated by Galatolo. He deserves to be found guilty on all accounts and pay his dues. Also notable, is Mike Claire’s absurd claim to have not known what was going on. He is either lying or deeply unqualified to be serving as the current Chancellor.

  3. So the whistleblower was Eugene Whitlock, the lawyer they sued to block from the Community College race?

  4. I hope at least one of the 21 felonies includes sexual harassment. He is a despicable pig, and everybody who enabled his disgusting behavior should be fired and charged as well.

  5. Tip of the iceberg. His right hand Executive Vice Chancellor Tom Bauer hightailed out of here a short time ago. Wonder why?

  6. the college media station fiasco lost the SM College millions of dollars under his watch, but to hear the trustees, he was made things happen. He was paid to transform the college into university status. Is the new chancellor going to take this up?

    • I’m sorry to say that the new chancellor, while a very nice person does not have the “chops” or leadership skills needed. The pandemic showed this big time.

  7. $468K a year to run a C list institution for students who’d be better off learning a trade? You’ve got to be kidding me.

  8. “Our investigation has not shown any criminal activity on the board or elsewhere within the district,” Wagstaffe said.  I am glad this was the finding. However, as the district attorney said, there is a different set of ethical standards for public employees vs those that work in the private sector, let alone elected officials. 
    The FORMER Board during Galatolo’s reign (three current members were in the room where it happened) had responsibility to hire and fire their one and only employee, the District Chancellor. I find it preposterous, over all those years, that they had no idea what was going on given all the reports in the press. In the face of these allegations, they gave him raise after raise of taxpayer dollars. Were they indifferent, blind, or complicit? 
    Those three trustees, Richard Holober, Maurice Goodman, and Thomas A. Nuris should do the honorable thing and RESIGN. Improprieties involving billions of dollars of taxpayer money took place right under their noses. Aren’t they somewhat accountable?
    Citizens, can you trust these trustees?

    • Nothing worse than dishonest public officials. This happens too often. It’s bad enough to get one of these privileged, protected, and overly-compensated positions and then commit crimes and misdeeds. There are too many crooked creeps in our governments. Too many people who think of themselves – who gain offices saying anything to get votes and then run their own activist or special interest agendas, or peddle influence, or steal. We are not very good at selecting leadership. We have a deeply entrenched one party political machine in California with far to many self-serving creeps holding power and promoting idiot policy. We can’t trust our officeholders, commissions, and trustees to keep the system honest. And that’s a really big problem for all of us. We must do a much better job vetting these people and throw the bums out.

    • Michael, as a disgruntled employee who no longer lives in our community, why not be transparent and state your frustration and bias toward an institution you no longer work for and explain in your own words why you no longer work for or on behalf of our students, staff and faculty?

      As a professional you know all too well that words have meaning and your words ring hollow as you know that after your many records requests or research for your “book” if there was anything worth talking about you would have done so by now.

      Two of the three Board members you mentioned (one being me) were responsible for removing our then Chancellor. Our Board has been, and will continue to be responsible for our one employee. We acted in the manner that best served our taxpayers and community and worked within the laws and regulations to separate from our one employee.

      Our College community continues to respond to the needs of our County’s most marginalized and underserved students providing access and opportunity to economic pathways and career success. We provide quality free education, addressing basic needs barriers to success such as transportation, housing and food insecurity.

      I thank and welcome all of our community for their comments of a critical nature but not those like yourself as disgruntled employee that can’t and won’t move on. I wish you all the best in continuing your career and any book that you may be writing about your short lived experience with our district.

  9. I hate to beat a dead horse (sorry), but can someone tell me whether the DA investigated the Building 12 (Environmental sciences building) and Building One fiasco. Building One was supposed to be demolished (it is the oldest and in terrible shape) and a new building put in place. Instead, Building 12 became the poster child of Galatolo and others. The costs ran over, and monies were supposedly taken from Building One. Building 12 has copper-pressed bathroom doors, something that the district would not have paid for, especially since it was for faculty and staff. Building 12 was to make money for the district, and to serve as a banquet and wedding venue.

  10. [Post deleted. Please do not post copyrighted material from other publications. For your information, a more accurate story appeared in the Daily Post on April 13.]

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