Facts surface from investigation inquiry

Light shed on former Trustee Tim Farley’s resignation

Adria Watson, Twitter.com/adriarwatson

A preliminary investigation by the Contra Costa Community College District into sexual harassment allegations against former Trustee Tim Farley found witness statements appear to support accusations made against him in an anonymous letter that sparked the inquiry.

According to the report by Associate Vice Chancellor Dio Shipp, who serves as the district’s chief human resource officer, “It is reasonable to believe that approximately three years ago Mr. Farley did engage in unlawful sexual harassment.”

In the course of the investigation, Shipp notes in the report that he met with Farley and current trustees Greg Enholm and Vicki Gordon who all attended the Community College League of California Annual Trustee Conference in Monterey in May 2015. The incident is alleged to have happened during a “vendor-sponsored dinner” not far from the conference hotel.

In the report Shipp explains, according to witnesses, Farley appeared to be intoxicated and was engaging in conversation with a male trustee from another district about women’s breasts. During or right after the conversation Farley allegedly leaned over the woman sitting next to him, wrapped his arms around her “and tried kissing her on the mouth.”

The report further alleges that when the woman tried pushing him away, Farley “tried putting his head in her lap and continued to heavily stare at her breasts.” Fellow trustee Gordon then tried to pull Farley away and change the topic to his wife and children. But Farley allegedly said loudly, “I love my wife, but she’s not here,” then tried to hug the woman again.

As of press time, the Experience has made numerous unsuccessful attempts via phone and email messages to contact both Farley and Gordon for comment about the incident noted in the report.

The investigation also found that former district Chancellor Helen Benjamin, who was at the conference in Monterey but not at the dinner, “received several complaints from other trustees and chancellors from other districts about the inappropriate behavior” the previous night. The report also said that at least one unnamed district trustee apologized to the woman for Farley’s behavior.

When contacted by the Experience April 11 for details about the district’s response to the incident three years ago, Benjamin said she had “absolutely no comment.”

Shipp sent his preliminary findings and anonymous letter to Governing Board Vice President John Marquez Feb. 20 to discuss how the board should handle the situation since it involved Farley, the sitting board president. 

In an email response to Shipp obtained by the Experience, Marquez explained that although saddened about the incident he believed “a thorough investigation by an outside investigator is warranted.”

But when Farley resigned Feb. 26 and Marquez was named to replace him as president, the board decided close the case.

“I took it to the board because I’m just one individual, it’s not up to me… I’m just the president and I believe in democracy and I go with the majority of the vote of the board,” said Marquez in a recent interview. “What it determined was that Farley had resigned and there wasn’t much more we could do in terms of getting a remedy as was being requested by the [anonymous] complainant — which mentioned a training and apology by Farley — he’s out of the picture and that’s the fact.”

Marquez said that he suggested to the board that even though Farley had resigned and they can’t force him to apologize or to participate in sexual harassment training, that the board can still provide that training for everyone on the board and employed in the district.

The district’s Human Resource Department is now providing sexual harassment prevention training to all employees at each college and at the district office beginning Thursday, April 19.

According to an email sent to district employees March 29 by HR Support Services Manager Andrea Medina, the training will look into “all forms of harassment and how employees can handle these situations effectively and respectful,” and will cover addressing incidents of sexual harassment, potential liability and practicing tools for identifying, preventing and correcting sexual harassment — including discussions surrounding preventing abusive conduct and gender identity discrimination

Marquez added that this training has been in discussion but had not been scheduled until now.

“We as a board should get the training because if one board member allegedly did something like that, then we all should get some training,” said Marquez.