After spending roughly an hour in closed session Wednesday night, the Garden City Community College Board of Trustees spoke publicly for the first time about an investigative report they received in December regarding allegations made in a Faculty Senate report aimed at former GCCC president Herbert Swender and the college.
After the GCCC Faculty Senate presented its report, claiming Swender’s continual fostering of a toxic work environment, to the board in May, trustees retained Kansas City attorney Greg Goheen to investigate the validity of the allegations in the report.
In mid-December, Goheen submitted his final report to the college, which was distributed to all trustees, Interim President Ryan Ruda, GCCC Attorney Randy Grisell and Director of Public Relations Ashley Salazar. The college and board refrained from commenting on the report until after the board would have a chance to meet and discuss the report on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, all six board members met with Grisell and Ruda in closed session. When they emerged, the board took no binding action, but Chairman Steve Martinez issued the following statement:
“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.”
Goheen's report broke down the Faculty Senate report's allegations one by one, finding little validity in the claims from a legal perspective. Allegations in the Faculty Senate report included that Swender had violated students' and employees’ rights, acted unethically or unprofessionally and belittled or harassed students, employees and community members. The Faculty Senate report also stated that the board was complicit in Swender's alleged actions.
Goheen stated that most of the accusations, especially those regarding Swender, required “a subjective rather than an objective determination.”
Goheen ultimately noted that distrust had grown between employees and Swender over time, and that a review of policies, particularly grievances policies, may help the college move forward in the former president's wake.
Attorney Jean Lamfers, who is representing several current and former GCCC employees who have filed suit against Swender and the college, also received a copy of Goheen's report. She claims that many local accounts Goheen gathered through hours of interviews were absent or lacking in the report.
Lamfers, as well as some of her clients who were interviewed by Goheen, have said they feel his conclusions were disingenuous and favor the college and Swender.
Martinez, trustees Terri Worf, Merilyn Douglass, Blake Wasinger, Jeff Crist and Hitz and Ruda declined to comment beyond Martinez’s statement. Ruda said he did not know when the board or college administration would discuss the report in the future and that he did not have any response at this time to witnesses’ concerns of it omitting certain accounts.
Martinez said that Goheen’s report would be made public on the college’s website Thursday night. The Telegram posted a redacted copy of the report, provided by Grisell, on its website on Dec. 29.
In an emailed statement Thursday, Ruda said he is "glad that the investigation has finally come to an end, and regardless of the findings of the report, GCCC faculty, staff, and administration will press on toward our values of unwavering integrity; trust, transparency, and accountability; responsible leadership; and a student-centered focus in the 2019 semester and beyond."
Swender has declined to comment on Goheen's report.
Contact Amber Friend at firstname.lastname@example.org.