While Garden City Community College continues to try to take steps to move past the turmoil that engulfed the school throughout the spring and summer, an instructor at the school told the GCCC Board of Trustees Tuesday that she still feels there is a persisting division between the college’s faculty and the board.
“I had hoped and expected when the former president and athletic director left the college that things would change,” reads a written statement GCCC instructor Holly Chandler read to the board. “Unfortunately, they haven’t.”
Chandler told the board that she feels she has been the target of retaliatory and intimidation tactics by certain college leaders ever since she began advocating for a student in January who was not allowed to enroll.
Chandler told the board that she first felt that when she saw then-GCCC Athletic Director John Green filming her earlier this year helping students move.
Chandler is also one of many GCCC employees listed on an open records request that attorney Bob Lewis presented copies of to the board on Tuesday, and that he said he believes is evidence of retaliation from former GCCC President Herbert Swender.
Lewis said sources have told him Swender was the only person to access the completed KORA request, which was made in May after the GCCC Faculty Senate presented an extensive report to the Board of Trustees accusing Swender of bullying, intimidation, sexual harassment, retaliation and otherwise fostering a toxic work environment. The request called for all emails, phone records, text messages, written and digital communications from Jan. 1, 2017, to May 10, 2018, between those listed, which included college personnel, some students, community members and members of the media.
Chandler also told the board Tuesday that at the Nov. 29 NJCAA championship football game in Pittsburg, she saw Trustee John Crist appear to use his cell phone to film her and other faculty members celebrating during pregame and that it made her feel uncomfortable.
In a separate interview, Crist denied ever filming or attempting to film Chandler or other faculty members.
GCCC booster Toni Douglass, who has been critical of the trustees and college administration in recent months and who also was at the championship game, told The Telegram on Wednesday that she was frustrated when she saw Crist sitting with former AD Green in the stands that night. Green resigned his AD duties in August and left the college in October.
Douglass said she confronted Green and “called him out” for coming to the game in light of a messy exit from the college.
Before Green stepped down as AD, sanctions were brought against the GCCC volleyball team after Green allowed a volleyball player to stay for free at his house — a violation of NJCAA rules — in the summer of 2017. Before that, he was criticized by several, including Douglass, for not properly responding to sexual harassment accusations against former GCCC cheer coach Brice Knapp.
Crist said Douglass ranted at him and Green and that her husband, Mark, made a statement to Crist’s adult son that offended Crist. At one point, Crist said, he tried to film her with his cell phone, but could not get it to work. He said he filed a complaint against Douglass with the GCCC Police Department.
GCCC Director of Public Relations Ashley Salazar said GCCC Police Chief Randy Dozier sent the information to administrators so that they could share the information with GCCC Attorney Randy Grisell if needed, and told Crist the incident was out of the department’s jurisdiction.
When Crist attempted to film Douglass, she said, she told Crist she wanted the GCCC insurance company, involved with investigations and potential litigation against the college, to know that he was sitting next to Green, who had “left in disgrace.”
When reached by phone Wednedsay, Green declined to comment.
Crist's filming, or attempted filming, stood out to Chandler as an instance of persisting negative feelings surrounding the recent issues at the college. She saw it as purposely intimidating and said it made her and other staff members feel uncomfortable. She wanted to move forward from that, she said.
“In my opinion, and in the opinion of a lot of other faculty and staff that have talked, we feel like (board members) are upset with us and there is definite division between them and us … We just want to communicate with them, that’s all. Just have a sit-down communication and try and establish some sort of cohesion between us, so we can work together,” Chandler said Wednesday.
Criticism does not bother Crist, he said, but he said he was frustrated by “untruths,” “punches” and “vitriol” directed at the board by some faculty, staff and community members over the past few months. He claimed community members, including Douglass, had lied or suggested things that were not true.
Crist said he had never shut anyone out, but, speaking personally, he would not be in favor of sitting down with some faculty members until Kansas City attorney Greg Goheen completed his investigation into issues at the college first addressed in a report the Faculty Senate presented to trustees in May.
“If (the investigation) would show that there are faculty members that have not been forthright and truthful, I don’t know that there would be any profit, any gain to be had from a one-on-one conversation with someone in a situation like that if there was a lack of trust,” Crist said, emphasizing he spoke for himself, not the board.
“We would like to move forward, but there’s got to be some give and take on both sides," he said.
At the end of the board’s public comments portion of the meeting Tuesday, local radio sports announcer Ross Miller — who helps broadcast GCCC football and basketball games — approached the podium.
“It’s time for all of us, in some way or another, to come together … If you’ve got a lawsuit, good for you. Continue to pursue that. If you’ve got complaints, good for you, because it needs to come out. And let’s get some good things going,” he said.
He then turned to the board.
“Honestly, all I’m going to say to you is let’s move forward," Miller said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported what GCCC Police Chief Randy Dozier did with Crist’s complaint. Dozier forwarded it to administrators in case they wished to share it with GCCC Attorney Randy Grisell.
Contact Amber Friend at firstname.lastname@example.org.