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Pima Community College

PCC chancellor finalist withdraws after report of overbilling

Fudged enrollment, billing missed by search consultant

One of the two finalists to lead Pima Community College has withdrawn her name, after PCC officials learned of fudged enrollment and $5.2 million in overbilling during her tenure at a former college. The search process has been put on hold, Pima officials said.

Dr. Maria C. Sheehan, president of Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, has withdrawn her name from consideration.

"Because of concerns that have arisen regarding one of the finalists... The search process has been put on hold," Pima search committee co-chairs Brenda Even and David Longoria said in a letter to college employees Thursday.

"My understanding is that she has withdrawn her name" from consideration, college spokesman C.J. Karamargin said Friday.

Sheehan and Terrence J. Burgess, Ph.D., the president of San Diego City College, were announced a week ago as the finalists as Pima seeks a replacement for longtime college head Roy Flores.

From 2001-2007, Sheehan was the president of College of the Desert, in Palm Desert, Calif. That school overstated its enrollment and overbilled the state between 2003 and 2010, California auditors said late last year.

California's Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team characterized the practice as potential fraud, and the school will have to repay $5.2 million, California Watch reported in November.

The fiscal team's report said College of the Desert's "senior management team" knew the school was submitting false reports.

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Sheehan told California Watch that she did not know of the exaggeration of enrollment figures.

“I would never do anything like that,” Sheehan said. “That’s ridiculous for any president to try to skim around numbers that are inaccurate.”

Sheehan did not respond to TucsonSentinel.com's request for comment Friday.

Sheehan did not disclose the issue to the search committee, Karamargin said.

"The vetting process was flawed," Karamargin said. The search was facilitated by Washington, D.C., executive search consultants R.H. Perry & Associates.

That firm has been paid about $50,000 of the $60,000 budgeted for the search, he said.

Search committee leaders Even and Longoria, who sit on the college's Governing Board, aren't pleased that R.H. Perry missed the overbilling, Karamargin said.

He said it was "a fair assessment" that Pima "did not get the services they were offered."

The news was "a total surprise to us," Even said on the John C. Scott Show on Friday.

Sheehan was interviewed by the search committee and consultants in mid-January, Karamargin said, well after the California report was released on Nov. 28.

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The consultant's role was to "find candidates who would be good for the college, and vet them," he said. The members of the search committee were to determine which of the candidates would be a good fit for the college and the community.

"Any info about their past, the committee relied on the search consultant."

Liz Rocklin, the R.H. Perry consultant who worked on Pima's search, refused to comment Friday and abruptly hung up the phone.

Karamargin said he believes a refund "is something the Board will explore."

"Clearly, when you enter into a contract for a service, and you do not believe you've been provided that service, you have an issue," he said.

The Governing Board will meet Tuesday to discuss next steps, he said.

"That's something that'll have to be discussed with an attorney," Even said. "We couldn't believe that our search consultant couldn't come up with that information," she said.

Karamargin said allowing Burgess to remain a finalist in a restarted search would be the right thing to do, but he won't get the post by default.

"You can't have a valid search with only one candidate," he said. "He was selected as a finalist and he can remain as a finalist."

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Latest comments on this storyRead all 4 »

Feb 3, 2013, 9:09 pm
-1 +1

Upon further reflection, I think this shows that a long-standing problem at PCC still exists…

One of the many symptoms of the corruption that plagues PCC is that far too many hiring processes were tainted. Far too many times, the “successful” candidate was selected before the job was even opened for applications, and the so-called competitive process was just for show, to satisfy the public-sector rules or whatever.

I have no proof to back up what I’m about to say…except for the fact that the theory I’m about to share fits PCC’s past hiring practices like a glove:

PCC wanted Sheehan from the start, and Burgess and the third finalist from New Mexico were just for show. Now that they’re preselected candidate withdrew from consideration, that throws their plan into disarray.

Most of us who employ common sense, were we the ones making the decision, would think that we have three candidates, two leave, we have one left standing, we have a winner. Unfortunately, PCC does not employ common sense.

Will the corruption at PCC never cease?

Feb 3, 2013, 12:05 pm
-0 +2

Congrats to Dylan for breaking this important story. Keep up the good work!

Feb 1, 2013, 5:56 pm
-0 +1

Ummm….two finalists, one withdraws. My PCC math education taught me that 2 minus 1 equals one. Is that not what we’re teaching there any more?

Putting this thing “on hold” just shows that PCC hasn’t learned a damn thing. When I was there, far too many needed changes were put “on hold” and nothing productive ever got done. This process has already taken an inexcusably long time as it is…just give Burgess the job, already. PCC needs a permanent, outsider Chancellor sooner rather than later. But, don’t make a bad deal you can’t get out of if need be.

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Pima Commmunity College Governing Board meeting

  • 7 p.m. Tuesday
  • PCC Community Campus, 401 N. Bonita Ave., Room A109-112