BARSTOW — Superintendent/President Dr. Deborah DiThomas called for a "full investigation" of possible illegal and fraudulent activities conducted by employees and managers of Barstow Community College during Wednesday nights' Board of Trustees meeting
DiThomas told the board independent investigators will look into the allegations brought to the board by a terminated data analyst. Susan Rollinson reported the allegations during Wednesday's public comment period before the start of a closed session of the board of trustees.
A college statement released Thursday said Dr. DiThomas convened her president’s cabinet on Thursday morning to outline the complaints and to direct Associate Vice President of Human Resources Clint Dougherty to begin the search for a qualified team of independent investigators.
DiThomas told trustees at November's board meeting she would not seek a new contract with the college and would leave at the end of her current contract in the spring. Vice President George Walters also announced in November he was resigning and would finish out the school year.
"I would like to suggest to the board that I had enough of this slander and lies and innuendos and the repetition of character assassination," DiThomas said after telling Rollinson her public comment time was up.
"I would ask the board that we do a total investigation of this because all of this is lies. And it's actually maligning the character of people who have done nothing but ethical and legal behavior at this college since they came here. And I would like to know myself where all of this is coming from and why all of this is happening and what people think they are gaining by trying to destroy the college. When all we do try to do is fix the problems that are here, and doing it expediently as possible."
"So lets do a full investigation and bring in an outside source to do that."
Board Clerk Tim Heiden then said he agreed with DiThomas. He reminded everybody that the trustees can't make comments during the public comment period.
"And I also believe in due process. It appears based on what you (Rollinson) have presented ma'am, you have a lot of details. I would like to go to an independent third party. And also this way Dr. Thomas and Mr. Walters and anybody else, they will get due process. And they will be treated fairly. And when it comes out I would like it to be brought to the board and appropriately review it and make a decision and not make an uneducated statement," Heiden said.
"I would just like to add on to that, I can't as a board member sit here and wonder if it's going on and it's not going on," Trustee Fred Baca said.
Board Vice President Ted Baca said he would like to add the investigation as an action item for the January meeting, but DiThomas said, "I will just take that action."
In her public comment period statement, Rollinson alleged she was fired in January for trying to report fraudulent data reporting by the college.
"The reason I'm no longer here is that I reported to Dr. DiThomas, George Walters, my boss (that) this college was submitting data fraudulently to the chancellor's office. And Heather Minehart, the registrar, had known about it for years and admitted to me that if we couldn't get it out of the computer correctly, they simply made it up," Rollinson said.
"My former colleague who trained me told me he knew he could go to jail for letting this go on. And he just disappeared one day. The point he started showing me that he made up this data based on what the registrar told him to make it to be. If the numbers weren't high enough, he was to keep doing it until those numbers came up the way she wanted them to be.
"So he just left. He didn't want to show me that because I was incredulous because I commented that you don't get to make it up. If the chancellor's office audits you and if the system of record does not match what you have submitted is legal, that is fraud. I don't mean to exaggerate this at all."
Rollinson said she was repeatedly threatened with termination when she tried to report the fraudulent data. She said Walters "begged" her to stop talking. She said she was just told "to fix it."
Rollinson also said her motivation to come back to the college for Wednesday's meeting was to protect her former co-workers who "fear retaliation." She also wanted to submit documents directly to the board, but she was told by Heiden they would have to be submitted through Executive Assistant Michelle Henderson.
Rollinson also requested a meeting with one or all of the trustees.
At one point, DiThomas told Rollinson her time was up. But the next requested speaker, Albert Olguin, a former athletic director at the college, offered his time so Rollinson could finish.
"I have to say, you know what, she (Rollins) lost her home over this," Olguin said to the trustees and DiThomas when Rollinson was cut off a second time. "So I'm not going to say anything else. It's all on you."
Thursday morning, Rollinson told the Desert Dispatch that she was escorted off the campus while she was trying to leave Wednesday night after the meeting.
Thursday's statement released by the college said the superintendent/president was not worried over the results of the independent investigation because she is confident in the honesty of the president’s cabinet members and her management team. She credited them with putting in long hours because of their commitment to the mission and core values of the college and the success of students.
It also said, while recognizing that mistakes can happen in the best of organizations, that DiThomas emphasized her team promptly acknowledges errors and are quick to make corrections or changes.
“I am proud of the leadership team at this college and the many improvements we have made during my administration,” DiThomas said
Mike Lamb can be reached at 760-957-0613 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter@mlambdispatch.