Trustee inquiry dropped

Anonymous letter claimed harassment

Adria Watson, @adriarwatson

An investigation into an anonymous complaint of alleged sexual harassment by former Contra Costa Community College Governing Board President Tim Farley was halted after Farley’s unexpected resignation Feb. 26.

The investigation was prompted by an anonymous letter dated Jan. 24, addressed to the district chancellor, board of trustees and human resources, that claimed the author heard “allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior by Tim Farley at a conference in Monterey, California.”

In Farley’s letter of resignation from the board, he said his departure was prompted by “a pressing personal family matter that requires my immediate attention.”

RELATED: District trustee resigns

As of press time, the Experience has made several unsuccessful attempts via phone and email messages to contact Farley for comment about the anonymous letter.

Current Governing Board President John Márquez said although the anonymous letter was addressed to the board, none of the board members had received it from anyone but that it was brought up to them in an executive session Feb. 28 after Farley’s resignation. Márquez said that there was nothing left for them to do once Farley resigned so the investigation stopped.

“It doesn’t make sense in my opinion to conduct an investigation about an anonymous complaint or hearsay,” said Márquez. “I’m not going to do that, I’m not going to spend the district’s money doing something like that.”

Chancellor Fred Wood opted out of commenting on the subject of the anonymous letter and explained, “If we receive a complaint, we always investigate. But I can’t comment on any personnel matter about anyone in the district because it’s confidential and they have privacy rights.”

Even though governing board members are public officials, district Director of Communications and Community Relations Tim Leong explained they are also “covered under the district’s policies and procedures such as the handling of personnel matters,” because they are also considered employees governed by the policies and procedures of the district.

Leong also explained that when there is any inquiry or investigation in the district, the findings of the investigation are reviewed to see if any district policy and/or procedure was violated and from there, depending on the issue, any actions that may be taken are decided by the chancellor, college president or the governing board.

“Whether a complaint is submitted anonymously or someone signs their name to a complaint, the district’s process is the same,” said Leong. “As you can imagine, it is harder to investigate an anonymous complaint since there is no one to ask for more details or clarification.”

In the governing board meeting minutes from March 25, 2015, there is mention of the California Community College Trustee Annual Conference in Monterey May 1-3, 2015. District reimbursement records show Farley attended a conference on those same dates with then-Chancellor Helen Benjamin, board Secretary Vicki Gordon and Ward V Trustee Greg Enholm.

Enholm confirmed that he, Farley, Gordon and late Ward IV Trustee John Nejedley attended the annual trustee conference in 2015 in Monterey and said he did not see “anything remarkable or unusual or out of the ordinary at that conference.”

The Experience obtained a copy of the anonymous letter of complaint and in it the author claimed the following motivation for writing it:

“Today, I choose to no longer remain silent in hopes to protect women in the future, and give voice to women who, for many reasons, cannot come forward and tell their stories. I look to the districts’ representatives and leaders to stop sexual harassment when situations like this surface. I hope, for the sake of all parties involved, that these rumors are not true … In respect to the #metoo and #Iwillnotremainsilent movements, I write this letter in hopes that the district takes these matter seriously, and get to the bottom of these rumors.”