Former chancellor Ron Galatolo used public funds for retirement incentives and held secret personal relationships with San Mateo County Community College District vendors who supplied him with gifts such as vacations, concert tickets and meals, according to a district report.
The allegations were unveiled Monday, Feb. 8, as part of the resolution passed by San Mateo County Community College District Board of Trustees terminating a chancellor emeritus contract with Galatolo during a weekend meeting.
The decision was carried out by community college officials who claimed the former administrator held back critical information in an investigation by county District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe regarding mismanagement of public funds and other improprieties during Galatolo’s term as chancellor.
Galatolo subverted public disclosure laws by not declaring he had accepted gifts and benefits from district vendors, according to a report that further claimed he refused to cooperate with an internal investigation into his behavior.
The district did not present to the Daily Journal documents detailing the allegations against Galatolo, but the report cited unspecified assertions that he used public money for retirement incentives and kept secret gifts from vendors such as concert tickets, meals and high-end travel. Additionally, the report said Galatolo withheld information regarding his relationship with district vendors.
When asked to respond to the most recent allegations, Galatolo asserted that he should not be required to “incur the burden and expense of answering,” according to the termination letter which noted he was the district’s highest-paid employee while working as chancellor emeritus.
In a phone conversation with a reporter, Galatolo said his attorneys have advised him not to discuss the matter publicly.
In light of the various concerns, trustees admonished Galatolo in a letter notifying him of their intent to terminate the chancellor emeritus position which was created for him when he suddenly departed from the chancellor’s post in 2019.
“We are disappointed and saddened by this turn of events and your blatant refusal to even respond to the substance of our concerns,” said a letter signed by board President Thomas Nuris. “Our decision has not been lightly made. We are proceeding in what we believe is the best interests of the college district and of the public that we serve.”
When the criminal investigation was announced, trustees placed Galatolo on administrative leave from the chancellor emeritus position created when plans were announced for him to depart from the chief administration post in 2019. In the chancellor emeritus position, Galatolo earned roughly $39,000 monthly in a baseline annual contract worth $467,700, slated to expire in 2022.
Beyond the baseline compensation, terms of a 2015 supplemental agreement paid $100,000 annually to Galatolo under an annuity plan worth as much as $1.2 million, according to a district document.
In the emeritus position, Galatolo was initially expected to work on plans for establishing a California State University branch through the community college district. Officials had previously pushed the proposal vigorously, but momentum has leveled off recently.
To that end, the district letter said Galatolo has done no work since he assumed the chancellor emeritus position.
“Given your compensation level and the fact that you have not provided any services to the district for over 18 months, your objection is specious, a breach of your fiduciary duties and a showing of conscious disregard of your obligations to the board,” said the termination letter, regarding Galatolo’s claim that he should not have to provide documents in the district investigation.
More broadly, the termination letter claimed Galatolo would not have been offered the chancellor emeritus position if he’d been more forthcoming with details about the relationships in question.
“Had the college district been aware of the information you withheld, it would not have entered into the 2019 agreement,” said the termination letter.
Concerns regarding Galatolo’s fiscal management have swirled for years, following a 2017 report that he spent from a district expense fund on alcohol during meals enjoyed amidst business trips.
During dinners with school colleagues and fellow educators at conferences in Las Vegas and student recruiting trips to Vietnam, Galatolo racked up hundreds of dollars worth of alcohol purchases during dinners costing the district more than $1,000. Officials ultimately amended district policy to permit such spending.