President Mark Rocha will receive $403,826, plus up to $16,000 in “reasonable” legal expenses from the District, according to a severance package agreement released by the college.
“The terms of the severance package are in the best interests of all parties,” Board President Anthony Fellow said in the prepared statement. “Despite challenges and concerns that Dr. Rocha faced from various College constituents groups, with the support of the Board, he continued in his mission to improve the College.”
Fellow wasn’t sure if the $400,000 severance expenditure will affect the function of the school.
“No I don’t think, I don’t believe so,” Fellow said in a telephone interview with the Courier.
The college announced Rocha’s retirement Aug.7 and will take effect Aug. 31. However, the agreement released by the college also states that Rocha resigned and will get his regular salary through the end of August.
“Dr. Rocha hereby resigns as an employee of the District, effective August 31, 2014,” the agreement reads. “Dr. Rocha will receive his regular salary through the end of August, which means he will receive a regular paycheck on August 1, 2014, for July’s work and a regular paycheck on September 1, 2014, for August. The parties agree that Dr. Rocha’s resignation is irrevocable immediately upon executions of this Agreement.”
Rocha’s last official working day was July 31, according to the agreement. His severance payment equals to 18 months of his regular monthly salary.
Academic Senate President Eduardo Cairo wondered where the money for the severance package was coming from.
“The college would say there’s no money for X, Y and Z, but suddenly there’s money to pay this individual,” Cairo said. “I disagree to paying someone so much money for having done so much damaged to this institution. He received three no confidence votes and created a climate of fear on campus. He’s gone, but his policies are still in place causing problems on campus.”
Cairo also didn’t understand why Rocha was getting money for attorney fees.
“Why is the college on the hook for his legal expenses and why would he need an attorney if he’s retiring?” asked Cairo. “I never heard of such a thing.”
Rocha did not respond to several phone calls, texts messages and emails requesting comment on this story.
Board member Bill Thomson had a different take on the agreement between the District and Rocha.
“The severance package is not going to have an impact on the college’s ability to offer classes or provide teachers,” Thomson said. “I would urge people to keep both issues separate.”
Thomson would not comment on whether a vote was ever officially taken by the Board on Rocha’s severance package.
“I’m not at liberty to get into things like that,” Thomson said. “It was obviously discussed and approved by the Board and that’s about as much as I can comment on that.”
Board member Ross Selvidge was also reluctant to discuss the Board’s vote on the agreement.
“Any comment about the vote on the severance package I must refer you to Dr. Fellow,” Selvidge said.
Fellow told the Courier that he believes there was a vote, but he was out of town when it was taken.
“Yes [there was a vote taken] that’s what I understand, but I was away in Europe,” Fellow said.
Several local media organizations took the college’s General Counsel Gail Cooper to task publicly after she responded to several public records request and said there was no severance package “in effect.”
According to the agreement, Rocha had seven days to revoke the agreement following its execution. After the seven days expired, the public records requests were than honored by the General Counsel’s Office.
“The seven day period…is a mandatory period under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act when the agreement can be revoked and is therefore not yet effective,” Cooper said in an email.
The agreement isn’t clear as to its date of execution. Rocha signed the agreement on Aug. 4 and Fellow on Aug. 7. The deal also included a letter of recommendation from Fellow.