Critics of the leadership at Garden City Community College expressed frustration and the college's Faculty Senate made a call for open communication over a final investigative report looking into concerns the Senate expressed regarding the college’s work environment and the conduct of former President Herbert Swender.
The Senate was not in agreement with the report, Faculty Senate President Phil Hoke told the GCCC Board of Trustees Tuesday night, and had concerns regarding it.
But, what faculty were most concerned with was opening up lines of communication between them and the board in order to discover common goals and opinions and move forward and heal collaboratively on better terms, Hoke said. He asked two to three board members to join the Senate in executive session so they could simply talk.
“Clearly differences will be heard then,” he told the board. “But, the goal of that is to … discover common goals and common opinions, and I honestly believe that there is more commonality of our goals and opinions than are differences … When two different groups get together and they focus on their common bonds and what ties them together, then, even though they have different opinions, different viewpoints, different ideas, resolution can happen.”
Newly appointed Trustees chairman Blake Wasinger said the board appreciated Hoke’s comments and would talk in the future regarding any meeting.
In May, the Faculty Senate presented an extensive report to the board detailing over 20 faculty members' accounts of bullying, intimidation, sexual harassment and retaliation from former GCCC President Herbert Swender, among other concerns. The board retained Kansas City attorney Greg Goheen to investigate the report. Goheen submitted his findings to the board last month.
The report broke down each of the Senate’s allegations, finding little legal substance in their concerns. Distrust had clearly built between Swender and the faculty, and perhaps communication and a review of policies, particularly grievances policies, would help mend any simmering unrest, Goheen said in the report.
At a special meeting on Jan. 2, then-board Chairman Steve Martinez issued the following statement after the board met with GCCC Attorney Randy Grisell and Interim President Ryan Ruda for over an hour:
“The Board of Trustees has reviewed the report entailing the investigation conducted by Greg Goheen into the items brought forward in the 2018 Faculty Senate report. The board and administration will collectively continue reviewing the report to assess if any practices need further evaluation. The majority of the board concurs with the report and that the report is thorough and encompasses the scope of what was requested by Mr. Goheen. Trustee (Leonard) Hitz noted that he found the report to be inconclusive and inconsistent.”
As they have stated before, former GCCC host parent Toni Douglass and Shawnee attorney Jean Lamfers, who represents Douglass and several others with concerns with the college, approached the board during the public comments portion of the meeting, in part to discuss Goheen’s final report. Douglass claimed the report omits much of her witness testimony and no information from other witnesses she knew about.
The report acknowledges some comments the Faculty Senate counted as intimidating or harassment, but attempted to excuse them, Douglass said. Besides that, she claimed that Martinez had repeated a rumor that Douglass had slept with student athletes, which she unequivocally denied, and accused him of telling Goheen otherwise. In Goheen’s report, Martinez is attributed as saying he never heard Swender make these comments.
When Douglass asked Martinez for a response, he said he “apologize(d) for repeating what I heard.” Martinez declined to comment further.
Lamfers told the board the report was inadequate and left out the voices of those harmed by the college, and said that Goheen had focused on the Senate’s concern that Swender had sexually harassed employees by asking if they wanted birthday spankings, singling out GCCC Police Chief Rodney Dozier as someone who had received one.
Lamfers and her colleague, Garden City attorney Bob Lewis, also claimed the description of their comments at the December board meeting were inaccurate and requested corrections.
Dozier also stood before the board regarding comments Lamfers has made regarding him and allegations she has made against him over the past several months. Dozier said Lamfers had accused him and the GCCC Police Department of losing documents related to an investigation by the college into sexual harassment allegations; he denied the claims and said the documents disappeared after he had passed them on to Human Resources.
He said he did not think he had done anything wrong, but, hearing Lamfers might report him to the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training regarding the alleged action, he reported himself to the organization. He said he was told the organization was not investigating him or the incident and had no plans to. Lamfers said in an email her reports to the entity were “reportial,” no accusations against Dozier.
Dozier said the Goheen report was accurate regarding his input.
“Last year, I told you the faculty loves this college. I need to be clear. This faculty, this staff, this administration, this community and, yes, this board — we all love this college,” Hoke said. “It is the bond that unites us together, and that is the common goal from which we build.”
In other business:
• During public comments, Callie Dyer, executive director of LiveWell Finney County Health Coalition, asked the board to consider making the campus smoke- or tobacco-free for students and employees. Dyer made a near-identical request in April, with little response. Since then, Holcomb and Finney County have made it illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase tobacco products. Wasinger said the board had not discussed the issue since she first brought it up since it coincided with other community concerns, but they would discuss it at a future time.
• The board approved Ruda as secretary to the board, Executive Assistant to the President Debbie Atkinson as deputy clerk, Vice President for Administrative Services and CFO Karla Armstrong as college treasurer and alternate designated agent for KPERS, Payroll Coordinator Dallas Crist as designated agent for KPERS and Trustee Jeff Crist as designated endowment representative. Ruda, Armstrong, Atkinson and comptroller Debra Nicholson were named authorized signatures. The board will revisit Crist’s reappointment after she retires at the end of the month.
• Ruda told The Telegram the college has hired Kellee Munoz as human resources director. She will start in late January or early February.
Contact Amber Friend at email@example.com.