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President’s Contract Fuels Rancor Among Citrus Board Members

Dr. Geraldine Perri’s pay increase continues to spur debate.

Weeks after the Board of Trustees approved College President Dr. Geraldine Perri’s new contract , the accusations continue to fly among the trustees.

Trustee Dr. Gary L. Woods sent a written statement to the media, suggesting members of the board were not exercising transparency during discussions of Perri’s contract in closed and open sessions.

During the heated July 17 meeting, the five-member Board of Trustees voted 3-2 to approve Perri’s compensation package, which increases her current $215,000 salary to $251,000 after four years pending continued positive annual evaluations. The contract also gives Perri 2.83 vacation days per month, which can be cashed out at the end of the year.

Dozens of classified employees spoke out against the contract, calling Perri’s pay increase and other benefits “inappropriate” during a time when college faculty and staff are experiencing layoffs and hiring freezes. Their comments gained support from the two dissenting trustees, Woods and Dr. Edward C. Ortell.

In his statement, Woods takes issue with Trustee Dr. Pat Rasmussen’s claim that items on Perri’s contract were agreed upon among all the trustees in closed session, an action he says is a violation of the Brown Act.

“Personnel actions can be discussed under limited circumstances in closed session; however, any action must be discussed and voted on in public,” Woods wrote. “Transparency is vital to being a ‘Good, Responsible Board Member’ and it is vital that all actions be openly discussed and voted on in open session so it guarantees the public’s right to voice their opinion.”

Woods also claims the press statement issued by Trustee Joanne Montgomery was falsely called an official statement from the board when Woods claims not all of the trustees had seen or approved the statement.

Offering his own statement, Woods discussed several items in Perri’s contract, including:

  • A housing allowance to help cover the expenses of her San Diego home still on the market.
  • An automatic salary increase of $45,000 over the four years.
  •  An additional 12 days of vacation time and the ability to cash out her unused vacation days at the end of the year. “No one else receives the additional benefits or the ability to cash them out,” wrote Woods. Also, while Perri covered the vacant Vice President of Student Services and Foundation Directors positions, Perri requested that those vacation days be added to her current vacation days.

In his statement, Woods wrote:

“… I would like to make it clear that Dr. Perri has done a wonderful job as President of Citrus College.  She might very well deserve additional compensation if times were good.  However, in times when the college is suffering cutbacks in the budget, cutback in supplies, cutback in services, reduction of classes, no increases in the compensation of the classified and certificated employees, that I believe that this is not the time to be given generous compensation package to the President.  It does not send a good message of being fiscally responsible to the Citrus College staff or the people that we are elected to represent.”

Rasmussen fired back at Woods, calling his claims “a political move.”

“To not say anything during closed session and voice your concerns when you had an opportunity to, and then make an issue of it during a public forum, to me, that is reprehensible. It’s poor boardsmanship,” said Rasmussen.

She said trustees all followed protocol under the Brown Act when they approved Perri’s contract for discussion on a future agenda during closed session.

“We did not approve the contract itself,” said Rasmussen. “And I think Dr. Woods knows that.

“All the trustees had all the information at the meeting, and I think it’s unfortunate that a trustee would send these messages to media when he said absolutely nothing during the meeting,” said Rasmussen.

Rasmussen said she doesn’t believe the terms of Perri’s contract are overly generous or excessive, calling it comparable to other college superintendent contracts.

“We have lost very good managers here at Citrus College because we could not keep pace with their contracts,” said Rasmussen. “We can’t compare Dr. Perri’s contract with other employees because she is the CEO. She is not like any other employee here and she deserves a comparable package.

Rasmussen cited Perri's work in getting Citrus accredited under a new accreditation model, and developing long-term strategic goals as some of her accomplishments during her tenure at the college.

“To say we value your work here at Citrus College, and not back it up with a package she deserves…I don’t see how that affirms she has done a good job,” said Rasmussen. “It will never be a good time to give anyone a pay raise. We can’t wait for the economy to get better. If we do, we’re going to lose a lot of great people at Citrus College.”

Dan Crandell August 19, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Rasmussen should now be required to explain the source of her fears that Perri will depart Citrus. Has Perri threaten to leave if a pay raise wasn't approved. If Perri were to resign her post would she be offered this new employment package at another college in the California system? How can this board be so free to salary increases based on fear of an occurance

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