An Important Response to the Charges

I have read the charges against “The City College Three” many times. They remind me of the story of the boy who was found busy digging through a large pile of horse manure. When asked why he was doing such a thing, he replied, “With this much ____, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere.” Is there? The District Attorney’s office and some local newspapers have put forth pages and pages (piles and piles) of accusations. Most of the charges are against Dr. Philip Day and Stephen Herman, and are grouped around the donations, routing, and some expenditures of funds from three vendors: Pacific Bell, Pepsi, and Bean Scene. (The single charge against James Blomquist involves changes in a fourth vendor’s rental fee contract, which were corrected years ago.) The donations by the three listed vendors were usually signing-bonuses in nature, not payments, services, leases, etc., and were made with recommendations towards scholarships, College bond measures, and/or the Chancellor’s Discretionary Fund. On those occasions when there was a routing question, and since bonus and other extra vendor-generated funds could be considered not public money per se, such funds were placed in private Foundation accounts while legal opinions were sought as to where the donations should most appropriately be placed. (Where’s the pony?)

 

During the last three decades, I’ve been a Faculty Representative on various CCSF Foundations including the current one. All have included a Chancellor’s Discretionary Fund; however, in the past, the money came primarily from “unrestricted” areas of scholarship investments. Actually, the encouragement and use of vendor donations seems a much more scholarship/student-friendly way to generate discretionary funds. But the big question, of course, is: may contributions be solicited and used to pass College bonds? The State Chancellor’s General Counsel Office is against doing so because of “appearances,” although it did not forbid the practice, maybe because it is completely legal to fund and run educational campaigns in support of College bonds and issues. (Where’s the pony?) Although most of the charges against former Chancellor Day and Mr. Herman involve accusations of political misuses of the vendor-generated bonus/extra funding, the fewer charges of misuse of the Chancellor’s Discretionary Fund seem particularly misguided. Many members of the College community have used the Chancellor’s Discretionary Fund over the years. It is supposed to be as flexible as possible. For example, the College has no parking areas for guests; so, sometimes we can reimburse their parking citations through the Fund. For events, fundraisers, receptions that involve food, we’ve been able to use the Chancellor’s Discretionary Fund to reimburse those costs as well. Should the Fund have paid for the Chancellor’s one-year business membership in City Club – an organization where connections through golfing with potential major donors can be made? Well, Willie Brown did point out recently that the most confidentially secure place to negotiate business is on a golf course. Do the Board Members of either the College or the Foundation have rules against such a business membership or against the past practices of flexible uses for discretionary funds? No? (Again: Where’s the pony?)

 

Some at City College are saying that we should not protest the charges against “The City College Three” because such protests may bring retaliation onto the College and imperil any future bond issues to help CCSF. Obviously, I believe the opposite. Political activity is messy and involves risks, and risk-takers. Chancellor Day, a charismatic leader, was a risk-taker, but always for the good of the College and the students. This was an administrator who worked 24/7 for City College and also who, the truth must be told, stepped big time on some big toes! So: NO PONY [criminal activity] at all, just a perfect storm of some ‘important’ people getting revenge, along with others gaining political opportunities, and still others selling newspapers. Although the three defendants may have to admit to something, if only for a variety of personal, health, and fiscal reasons, all of us—friends and foe alike—know that these men are not, and have never been criminals. Criminal charges should be dropped!

Madeline Mueller, Chair, Music Dept., City College of San Francisco

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