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
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?
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?
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.