The chancellor of one of the nation’s largest community college systems is being fired amid accusations of improper conduct around women, according to performance evaluations released Tuesday.
With a unanimous vote and little discussion, the fivemember governing board of the Maricopa Community College District at their Tuesday meeting chose to terminate the contract of chancellor Fred Gaskin, who was hired three years ago after a nationwide search.
Gaskin left a private meeting with the board on May 12 after his 2003 performance evaluation was reviewed. Gaskin, who oversees 10 county colleges — including Scottsdale and Paradise Valley community colleges — has been on paid personal leave ever since. He could not be reached for comment.
Comments by unidentified board members in the 2002 and 2003 evaluations, which were previously withheld, include:
• Women reported feeling uncomfortable by the way Gaskin "looks at them with his up -anddown glances and his stares at the upper part of the body."
• "Your treatment of women borders on sexual harassment and only their fear prevents them from filing charges against you."
• "Females . . . are uncomfortable with your staring at them and won’t ride alone in the elevator with you."
A recent allegation involves a trip to Washington, D.C., in February that was designed to allow students to learn more about politics.
On that trip, which was attended by the governing board members and other district officials, "a female student was embarrassed by your comments at the banquet and thought that you and others with you were inebriated," the 2003 evaluation states.
Governing board president Ed Contreras said Gaskin’s alleged behavior on that trip was discussed during the private session May 12, but he would not elaborate.
Vice chancellor Steve Helfgot, who once worked with Gaskin at Cerritos College in California, sat with the chancellor at the Feb. 10 banquet, but told the Tribune he did not see Gaskin drunk or hear him make improper comments.
Gaskin generally received high marks by the board in his first evaluation in 2001. Many "good" and "excellent" ratings were given in 2002, as well for Gaskin’s job in planning, financial leadership, increasing community support in college programs and other areas.
But in 2002, members wondered whether Gaskin fully supported the board’s ideas for the college district’s future. Hispanic hiring had not been improving as expected. And concerns were raised that Gaskin treated men with more respect than women and made sexist comments.
"At best, this is unprofessional and unbecoming, and at worst could bring about a lawsuit against the district," a board member wrote.
Despite those concerns, Gaskin was allowed to enter a new four-year contract in May 2002, one that paid him each year $198,884 in base salary, $12,000 in automobile expenses, $5,000 in undocumented expenses, $20,000 in deferred compensation, and 32 days of vacation.
Comments by board members in the most recent appraisal chronicle a far worse relationship. Gaskin was reported to play favorites, exclude women and minorities from his "inner circle," work poorly with those who didn’t share his view, and act like an arrogant bully.
The only question now is how many tax dollars will be needed to satisfy both parties. Gaskin wants to be paid for the full three years remaining on the four-year contract, Contreras said. That would amount to almost $750,000.
Contreras said the board had hoped Gaskin would resign, but he wanted too much money to leave. The board will vote on a final resolution, detailing whatever agreement is reached.
"We believe this is the right action for the Maricopa community colleges to continue to flourish," Contreras said.