College district should fully admit its errors - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

College district should fully admit its errors

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Posted: Thursday, April 23, 2009 8:43 pm | Updated: 1:33 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

 Our View: The Maricopa County Community College District and its chancellor, Rufus Glasper, have landed in a no-win situation in addressing a collection of improper deals to pay the salaries and retirement benefits of people working for special-interest groups.

 The Maricopa County Community College District and its chancellor, Rufus Glasper, have landed in a no-win situation in addressing a collection of improper deals to pay the salaries and retirement benefits of people working for special-interest groups.

The State Auditor General’s Office confirmed this week what the Tribune first reported in June: The district had a bad practice of picking up employee costs of these outside groups in exchange for their active support of causes that both sides hold dear.

As Tribune writer Ryan Gabrielson reported Tuesday, the auditor general says 26 “nonemployees” were placed on district payrolls, with most of them also getting state retirement pension accounts. In essence, the district was loaning pension payments to these outside groups in violation of the state constitution, according to the auditor general’s report.

Glasper already has admitted the district never should have entered these deals, and moved to cancel most of them in 2008. But the district is claiming in its formal response to the state audit that these arrangements didn’t actually violate the law as the auditor general says.

If the district were to admit to some kind of legal wrongdoing, there would be a great deal of political pressure for someone with MCCCD to take the fall. And a top target would be Glasper, because of other district scandals that also have been uncovered by Tribune investigations during his tenure.

But, by defending the legality of these deals, MCCCD is exposing county taxpayers to additional costs as those “nonemployees” should be entitled to every dime they were promised. One beneficiary — East Valley Partnership CEO Roc Arnett — has filed a claim for $274,000 in pension benefits, Gabrielson reported. The state auditor general doesn’t have any authority to enforce the law or to punish the district. Either the MCCCD governing board or state lawmakers need to step in and protect the interests of taxpayers instead of preserving the careers of Glasper and other district administrators.

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