One needs a script to follow the drama surrounding the San Mateo County Community College District and Ron Galatolo.

The recent annulment of his contract as chancellor emeritus and subsequent firing based on his penultimate contract as chancellor was a lawyering switcheroo. How did we get here?

“Disputes between the parties in their employment relationship” caused his departure as chancellor. As a consolation prize, the old board negotiated a 32-month contract for a newly created job as chancellor emeritus totaling $1.6 million. Mr. Galatolo was held harmless for prior transgressions during his eighteen-year reign as chancellor. Furthermore, the board abdicated its authority to fire him as chancellor emeritus, putting the sole power in the hands of retired Judge Richard Kramer. All this was very unusual and suspicious.

Some think the brewing DA’s investigation was the cause for ending the bromance between the Board and Galatolo. I contend that the Board was unaware of the DA’s intentions; after all, it would be dumb to arrange a quid pro quo with a person the DA was about to hammer.

That begs the question, what did the former Board of Trustees get from this unconventional transaction? Did it benefit students? Did it fulfill their fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers?

Now the new board hopes to claw back $700,000 in salary paid Galatolo after the old board placed him on paid administrative leave. We still don’t know why the old board created “An arrangement to conceal.”

I asked former board President Maurice Goodman. No comment.

Michael B. Reiner, Ph.D.

Boynton Beach, Florida

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(3) comments

Ray Fowler

Dr. Reiner

I concur with Just Mike... thanks for staying on top of this issue.

Even if the Office of the District Attorney had no interest in the district's business, this sweetheart deal to give a fired employee $50,000 a month... that's not a typo... $50,000 a month to work at the district with a made-up job title is wrong.

Can anyone on the district's board explain what a Chancellor Emeritus does to warrant $50,000 per month in salary? Voters in the district deserve to have that question answered.

Michael B. Reiner, PhD

Mr. Fowler, you are absolutely correct that voters and taxpayers deserve to know why the old Board, Trustees Schwarz, Mandelkern, Goodman, Holober, and Nuris, agreed to what you called a "sweetheart" deal to create the new job of chancellor emeritus for Mr. Galatolo, one that was not in the budget nor organizational chart. 

While they claim it was to establish CSU Cañada, there was no job description, no timeline, no deliverables. In fact, state Senator Hill and assemblymember Mullin had yet to secure funding to conduct a feasibility study. When I queried, they made clear that the District would not be involved in the process due to its "enthusiasm for a four year school that might override more practical matters." In the end, CSU decided that Cañada was too small to establish a full fledged university; also, political considerations favored Stockton or Southern California.

I've been in higher ed for 35 years and things are not done this way. To really explore the possibility of establishing CSU Cañada, a consultant would be hired with a limited scope and specific deliverables, not create a new job of Chancellor Emeritus, which is only a ceremonial and honorary post (no salary).

I interviewed Mr. Galatolo while he was on paid administrative leave. He told me the Board was so eager to get him out as chancellor that they gave him whatever he wanted. Indeed they did.

As you noted, the public deserves to know from District elected officials, three of whom still serve on the SMCCCD Board, what took place "in the room where it happened." This was not just a private personnel matter, as Galatolo was not sanctioned or terminated by the Board back in 2019, but a District policy issue about expansion of a campus. Did the public advocate for a CSU at Cañada?


Michael B. Reiner, PhD, is a higher education consultant and educational researcher. Previously, he was a professor of psychology and college administrator at City University of New York (CUNY), Miami Dade College, the Riverside Community College District, and the San Mateo County Community College District. mreiner32205@gmail.com  LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-b-reiner-phd-14057551/


Michael B. Reiner, Ph.D.- as always, thank you.

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