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News + PoliticsSpecial Trustee skips City College hearing

Special Trustee skips City College hearing

But supes learn that he commutes to his $216K job from Lake Tahoe in a City College car, works less than full time on campus, and has a $3,500 a month pied-a-terre in the city paid for with college funds

City College Board President Rafael Mandelman and Chancellor Art Tyler discuss the school's future with the supervisors
City College Board President Rafael Mandelman and Chancellor Art Tyler discuss the school’s future with the supervisors

By Tim Redmond

MAY 7, 2015 – A Board of Supervisors committee held a hearing on City College today, but the person who really calls the shots at the school – Special Trustee Guy Lease – didn’t bother to show up.

Sup. David Campos asked Lease to come forward and speak to the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee; no answer. He asked school administrators if Lease was present; no, they said, he wasn’t.

“I am shocked that at a hearing at City Hall, the person who has been given unlimited power is not here. It’s disrespectful to the people who we represent,” Campos said.

“This illustrates the problem of the lack of accountability.”

But thanks to his sharp questioning of the school’s chancellor, Art Tyler, Campos was able to get some information that most of us didn’t know about the special trustee and his compensation.

Lease, Tyler said, doesn’t live in San Francisco; he commutes in from Lake Tahoe a few days a week. He’s paid $216,000 a year – and City College also gives him a car to drive back and forth to Tahoe, and pays for his gas, and gives him $3,500 a month for a place to live in San Francisco the days that he’s here.

More: We don’t even know when or how much he works for that sweet paycheck.

Campos: Is there some sort of schedule that shows how much he works?

Tyler: No

Campos: Does he work 40 hours a week?

Tyler: He’s in the office less than 40 hours.

Campos: Is there any other City College employee who gets a monthly housing allowance?

Tyler: No.

John Rizzo, a member of the College Board, told me that board members knew nothing of that arrangement. “I haven’t even seen his contract,” Rizzo said. “This absolutely concerns me.”

Tom Temprano, a candidate for College Board, made the point during testimony: “I was looking this morning, and the median rent for an apartment in San Francisco is about $3,500 a month,” he said. “The special trustee is one of the few people who can afford that rent. The City College teachers certainly can’t.”

Temprano later told me: “We ought to be spending money on students and faculty.” He also suggested that, since the special trustee is taking up a housing unit that is vacant a lot of the time while Lease is in Tahoe, “maybe a student could live there, too.”

I realize that in the grand scheme of things, with all the problems City College is facing, the $3,500 a month housing allowance for a drop-in special state monitor isn’t a huge sum of money. But it sends a terrible message, at a time when undocumented students are forced to pay out-of-state rates, when the faculty haven’t had a raise since 2007 (and in fact are making 3.5 percent less today than they were eight years ago), and when students are getting kicked out for late payments on their fees.

“It’s the same thing we’ve been seeing, one set of rules for the people on the top, and another set for the rest of us,” Tim Killikelly, the head of the City College teachers union, told me.

The good news, as College Board President Rafael Mandelman told the supervisors, is that the elected board gets its authority back in July. But the special trustee won’t be gone; he’ll still be around, and will have the authority to veto or rescind any action by the local elected board that he doesn’t think is fiscally prudent or that he thinks might threaten the accreditation process.

Mandelman didn’t sugar-coat the challenges ahead: City College, he said, had a “near-death experience, and being this close to death isn’t good for you.” It will take years, he said, for the school to fully recover.

“The faculty is underpaid, the staff is overworked,” he added.

Campos pointed out that the mayor wasn’t much help to the school in the early days of the crisis. “He was critical of the [city attorney’s] lawsuit, and I hear from my sources in Sacramento that he wants to move slowly on restoring power to the elected board.”

But Mandelman defended Mayor Ed Lee, saying that he had argued for restoration of the school accreditation. He also said that at the time the crisis hit, “our board was known around the state as an example of dysfunction.”

Tyler said the school is “on the road to recovery,” and he vowed not to close any campuses.

Which is good news for the students who work and have families and can’t make it across town on Muni for all of their classes.

But while the school is coming back, and the power of the board is coming back, it appears the special trustee from Tahoe will be around in his part-time $3,500 apartment for some time to come.



Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. While the Supervisor is tsk tsking the Special Trustee, lets remember that City College is an independent governmental body, not answerable to the City’s Board of Supervisors, but to the State. Likewise, while the CCSF Board Members are lamenting the money spent upon said Special Trustee, lets not forget that it was their incompetence, irresponsibility and stubborness that led to his appointment in the first place. This hearing was nothing more than grandstanding and posturing. The Trustee was right to ignore it.

  2. I wouldn’t call it racist nonsense Gary; Sam reserves that term for those who criticize racist texts by SF police. I would call it ignorant nonsense, and Sam has demonstrated his ignorance of matters involving CCSF time and time again.

  3. Lease’s salary is $219K p/y, not including travel costs and apartment expenses. If Brice Harris keeps to his word, Lease won’t be around for more than a year.

  4. Here’s how I estimated that 1-2% figure:
    – SB 965 funding in FY14-15 was $20 million, per this Examiner story (http://bit.ly/1FTkbGb).
    – Per the legislation, FY15-16 funding should not be less than 95% of the 14-15 amount or $19 million (assuming the Examiner was correct).
    – I ballparked the total cost of Lease at $350k/year which seems high/conservative. $350k is 1.8% of $19 million.

    So this is a rough estimate of annual costs going forward, not a consideration of total Special Trustee expenses looking back to 2013 when Agrella was appointed (prior to any stabilization funding).

  5. No, he said that in response to a comment of mine that NEVER said anything about the board of supervisors.

    I was describing the involvement of the city in CCSF’s downfall, and that is a much broader class of people, interests and entities than just the BofS. The mayor’s office, the city attorney’s office, the management, the unions, the voters and the staff and students all contributed to the crushing malaise that has befallen CCSF.

    IOW, marcos was trying to twist my words into something he felt more comfortable debating – a typical straw man tactic.

  6. He never wrote that. He wrote that “the BOS had not been ruled incapable of running City College.”

    You are a troll, here to provoke and spew your racist nonsense.

  7. Depends. If the trustee believes that those same elected officials either directly or indirectly contributed to the devastating mismanagement of CCSF, then he is justified in keeping his distance while he fixes their mess.

    The trustee is accountable – just not to local politicians. I feel sure that he will educate them when appropriate. The state trumps the city, as always.

  8. The failure to respect elected officials in a jurisdiction coterminous with the City College District speaks volumes to the extent which an unaccountable “trustee” conceals his conduct.

  9. I happen to think that at the right moment the special trustee should educate the Board on how the city directly and indirectly sabotaged CCSF, and how its over-politicization damned it.

    But that should be at a time and place of his choosing. The special trustee is the de facto CEO of CCSF. The BofS are at this point just interested observers. They need him but he doesn’t need them.

  10. Yes, there is no contradiction between the fact that the City does not govern CCSF and that the trustee should talk to the BofS.

    It speaks volumes that the state appointed trustee would not defend his positions to local government.

  11. That’s an interesting fact, and a shortcoming of the legislation. There’s no reason stabilization funding could not have been approved under an elected board. I didn’t run the numbers. Did you include Agrella’s cost as well?

    That issue aside, Lease was a cad for not showing up. He’s been similarly dismissive and arrogant regarding our elected choices to the CCSF Board of Trustees. He cites his 35 years of experience in the field (an article in the campus newspaper) not mentioning that half of that time was spent as a president of a community college with a fraction of CCSF’s enrollment.

  12. You are the one who claimed BOTH that the CCSF special trustee should talk to the BofS AND that the BofS have zero influence over CCSF

    I merely said that the city (and not the BofS) created the mess at CCSF, which the state now has to fix.

    You put your big fat foot in your mouth again, marcos.

  13. “Why would he show up to talk to a group of people who have already been
    ruled incapable of running the institution that he has been appointed to
    rescue from them?”

    You meant the Board of Supervisors. And then you just wrote:

    “We agree the BofS has no real direct authority. And that the special trustee has no reason to meet with them.”

    Please, keep on digging yourself in deeper, this is fun!

  14. So you now finally admit that the city is involved in running CCSF? Excellent, I knew you would get there in the end.

    We agree the BofS has no real direct authority. And that the special trustee has no reason to meet with them. Although personally I think he should educate the board at some point about the city’s failings with CCSF.

  15. Given the extra cash CCSF is receiving from the State, the special trustee may be worth the expense.

    Normally, State allocations for a college are tied to recent enrollment. A bill passed last year, SB 965, connected CCSF’s funding to its 2012-13 enrollment rather than its current student population which has declined in recent years. This measure provided CCSF with three years of “stabilization” funding. Freed from the normal funding formula, CCSF received an extra $20 million in FY14-15 and is due another $18-19 million in the upcoming year.

    In order to receive these special funds in FY16-17, CCSF must be “applying resources in accordance with a budget plan approved by the special trustee.” (Here’s SB 965’s complete text: http://bit.ly/1KR3gDT)

    Would stabilization funding have been approved without a special trustee in place? It’s hard to say, but legislators did bake the role into the deal. Setting aside individual performance and focusing just on finances for a moment, the special trustee is costing CCSF about 1 to 2% of its SB 965 funding.

  16. Supervisors can hold hearings on whatever they want.

    The City Attorney can sue on whatever the office has standing to sue on.

    The trustee can make choices on what to respond to and not.

    And we can all evaluate this politically.

    The fact remains that the City never had governance authority over City College.

    You are caught in One Big Trolling Lie. Again.

  17. No, it was sffoghorn/marcos who was caught out in a lie. He claims the city has no influence over CCSF. Clearly a ridiculous statement but he was desperate.

  18. So there have never been city elections for the CCSF board?

    No local voter initiative to provide extra funds?

    No interference from the city attorney?

    If CCSF has nothing to do with the city, why are we even having this discussion?

    You are wrong, as everyone can now see.

  19. Sam/Ellis/Phil/SolAlex lobs a bomb of a comment that is a lie and then twists that lie into more lies to provoke a flame war.

  20. The city has been stripped of the right to run CCSF because of incompetence. The college’s elected board is moot and redundant.

    You claimed I said the BofS ran the CCSF but you cannot prove that, because I never said it.


    The special trustee has no reason to talk to the BofS for the reasons I stated.

  21. Sam wrote: “Why would he show up to talk to a group of people who have already been
    ruled incapable of running the institution that he has been appointed to
    rescue from them?”

    You lie and troll.

  22. Liar. I never said that the BofS was stripped of power over CCSF. You said that.

    I said the city was stripped of its power over CCSF as represented by the elected board of CCSF.

    I am happy that you agree there is no reason for the special trustee to talk to the BofS. I suggest you explain the reasoning to Tim who evidently is confused.

  23. No reason other than to go through the motions of caring what the people think, to appear to give due consideration.

  24. You have just proven my point then – that the trustee has no reason to talk to the BofS. We both agree the Board is irrelevant.

    By your own admission, the BofS should not be holding any hearing on CCSF.

  25. The Board of Supervisors never had the authority to run City College, so City was never stripped of anything. City College is a state institution, not a local institution. That is why the state had the power to suspend the elected Board.

  26. The city has been stripped of its authority to run the college. The state has taken over, which is why the decisions are now being made by the special trustee.

  27. Why would he show up to talk to a group of people who have already been ruled incapable of running the institution that he has been apointed to rescue from them?

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