A dark chapter dawns for PCC Page 3» Volume 105, Issue 14
Online edition pccCourier.com
Pasadena City College
Facebook PCC Courier Twitter @pccCourier June 13, 2012
The independent student voice of PCC. Serving Pasadena Since 1915.
Moving forward Two senior school officials currently ‘on leave’ will soon be replaced NEIL PROTACIO AND NICHOLAS SAUL Staff Writers
PCC President Mark Rocha asserted on Tuesday that he will be moving forward in finding replacements for two high-ranking school officials. According to Rocha, there are already efforts in finding people qualified for the positions. Richard van Pelt, vice president of administrative services, and Alfred Hutchings, facilities servic-
es supervisor, were put on administrative leave on June 7 due to a criminal bribery investigation that led to District Attorney’s agents serving search warrants on the homes and offices of the two men. In an on-camera interview in his office, Rocha made it clear that the district will be moving forward in filling the vacant positions and carrying on with school duties. “We can’t make decisions based on whether [van Pelt and Hutchings] are or are not guilty,”
he said. “The investigation is a whole separate matter; our main focus is moving forward.” Rocha emphasized that accountability is paramount. He has not spoken to either van Pelt or Hutchings since they were placed on leave. “There are a lot of things I’m feeling,” he said. “The first thing I’m feeling is responsible and accountable. I’m trying to work hard with our faculty, staff and students to deal with this situation openly and try to move the
college forward.” According to Rocha, he is most concerned with how his colleagues feel about the situation. “I’ve been dealing with the situation on a day-to-day basis, but this situation has affected everyone,” he said. “So I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to get to staff and ask [them how they felt].” The current crisis was a touchy subject for Rocha who gave stern answers regarding the administration’s current and past involve-
Speak out! How do you think Board and administration officials are handling the bribery crisis?
vote at pccCourier.com ment with the investigation. “I have shown everything that I’m able to show,” he said. In another admission, Rocha Continued on page 7
Five trustees ‘unavailable’ for comment
CHRISTINE MICHAELS Staff Writer
Steven Fuel / Courier Facilities workers are seen working outdoors on Tuesday amid the ongoing scandal surrounding their director, Alfred Hutchings. More pictures Pages 4 and 5.
Campus shocked by criminal probe THE COURIER STAFF
Members of the campus community are shocked and saddened by revelations of a criminal investigation into allegations of bribery on campus. As the news spread through the community, comments covered a wide spectrum. Students, faculty and staff
were stunned by Thursday’s announcement that search warrants issued by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office targeting Vice President of Administrative Services Richard van Pelt and Facilities Supervisor Al Hutchings had been served at both men’s homes and offices. According to Dave Demerjian
of the Public Integrity Division of the District Attorney's Office, both officials are under investigation regarding conflicts of interest and suspicion of bribery. “This is a very dark day for our campus,” said Interim Dean Joe Futtner of the Visual Arts and Media Studies division. “When all of this is resolved we all have Continued on page 7
Only two of seven elected Board of Trustees members agreed to make a public comment about the bribery scandal involving two campus officials despite repeated attempts by the Courier to contact them. Trustee Linda Wah of Area 5 and Trustee Bill Thomson of Area 4 responded after two phone calls and three emails asking for their reactions to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s criminal investigation of Vice President of Administrative Services Richard Van Pelt and Facilities Supervisor Alfred Hutchings. In the last two days, a Courier reporter sent 17 e-mail requests for comments and made 11 phone calls attempting to get Board members to talk about the campus scandal. Four board members ignored all of the requests for comment. At deadline Tuesday, a final urgent email was sent to board members urging them again to make a public statement about the crisis. Board President Geoffrey
Trustee Bill Thompson
Trustee Linda Wah
Baum of Area 1 and Board Vice President John Martin of Area 6 along with Trustees Jeanette Mann of Area 2, Berlinda Brown of Area 3, and Anthony Fellow of Area 7 chose to stay silent. Late Tuesday afternoon, a Courier reporter spotted Mann in the staff parking lot minutes before deadline and rushed out to get a quote on the crisis. Mann would make no comment on the bribery charges. “The press release clearly stated that all questions on this matter were to be directed to Director of Public Relations Juan Gutierrez,” she said. When the reporter asked if she had gotten any of the reporter’s phone messages or emails requesting a statement, Mann Continued on page 7
For breaking news, video and pictures, visit Courier online at pccCourier.com
June 13, 2012
Interim replacements are appointed LUIS RODRIGUEZ Staff Writer
The college president on Monday announced the appointment of a replacement for Vice President of Administrative Services Rick van Pelt who was placed on leave Thursday after Los Angeles County District Attorney’s agents served a search warrant on his office and home. Vice President of Educational Services Robert B. Miller has been appointed as acting vice
president of administrative services, Rocha announced in a campus-wide email received at 10 a.m. Van Pelt and Facilities Supervisor Alfred Hutchings are under investigation by the DA’s office in a probe of allegations of bribery. “I've asked Vice President Bob Miller to assist me as acting VP of Administrative Services until we can bring in additional support very soon,” Rocha said. Another appointment in Facilities Services was also
announced. “Similarly, I've asked Vice President [of Information Technology] Dwayne Cable to assist me as acting director of facilities until we can bring in a new director very soon,” Rocha said. Interviewed in his office a few hours after his appointment, Cable had nothing to say about the bribery crisis enveloping the campus community. “No comment,” he said. But he did comment about the current atmosphere inside the
administration. “All that we’re doing is like having a team,” Cable said. “I’m just a member of the team trying to help the college heal through this turmoil … [including] the turmoil from the Board of Trustees meeting [on June 6].” Commenting on his new responsibilities as acting director of the Facilities Services Department, Cable said he was asked by the president on June 7 to assist with running the facilities operation. “I’m just helping out the team.
I know nothing [about the responsibilities],” he said. “I learned about this just when the president made the announcement [Monday morning] – well, actually shortly before that. We’ve all got plenty going on.” “I’m happy to do what I can to support the college during these difficult times,” said Miller. “I’m also very proud to be working with the hardworking men and women within the administrative services division.”
Van Pelt’s fiscal impact on campus CICELY CHISHOLM Staff Writer
For 15 years Richard (“Rick”) van Pelt has had an enormous impact on the college, holding positions of increasing responsibility and overseeing the annual expenditure of millions of dollars. Van Pelt was officially appointed to the permanent vice president of administrative services position after having served for two years as the interim occupant of the position. He has worked at PCC since 1997. Van Pelt previously served as the director of facilities and engineering services. His positions have had him oversee the business and financial aspects of the college. He also oversees all minor construction, repairs and maintenance. His most recent project was the proposed demolition and replacement of the U Building,
which allegedly has been deemed seismically unstable. The U Building’s fate has been discussed since 2010, and many of its occupants were moved out in 2011, but all plans to vacate and demolish it seem to have stopped this year due to uncertainties in the budget. In a Feb. 29 Courier article, van Pelt said: “I do need to stress that the current plans only call for the [vacating] of the U Building, and not its replacement. Then we will put a fence around the building [while] wait for funding.” The estimated cost to replace the U Building has been pegged at about $70 million, and there is no money set aside for its replacement, van Pelt said. Part of this amount – $15 million – would be required to accommodate faculty and classrooms in temporary quarters. “Buildings that are functionally obsolete need to be replaced with modern ones in order to
Blair Wells/Courier Due to a wide-spread blackout in Pasadena, which affected the U Building, Debra Folsom (kneeling), assistant professor of biology, gives a final exam on Tuesday.
continually provide students with the first-class education that they require,” van Pelt said in a Dec. 9, 2009 Courier article. Many articles in past Courier issues about van Pelt have frequently led to questions from the PCC community. In a Sept. 5, 2002 article, faculty and students questioned the removal of an oak tree from in
front of the Shatford Library. This was said to have occurred late in the night, and there allegedly was no permit for removal from the city of Pasadena, as required by law. Van Pelt said he removed the tree because it was dead. When asked if the city inspected the tree to see if it was dead, and if he obtained a permit, he replied:
“The city has no jurisdiction on this issue.” A Sept. 30, 2009 article reported that the Faculty Association questioned the Board of Trustees’ rushed approval of a budget, which was prepared by van Pelt. Some believed the process showed a lack of respect for the faculty, staff, and students.
From the Editor
A very Special Edition: We are privileged to serve you The two Journalism classes (writers and photographers) that make up the staff of the Courier had just wrapped their last meeting of the semester June 7 when news began breaking of a criminal investigation of two senior college officials. As staffers were preparing for finals and summer vacation, their journalistic instincts took over. Twenty minutes before President Mark Rocha began his arranged news conference downstairs from the newsroom, the Courier published its first breaking news alert to its online readers. The rest is PCC history. The breaking news came just as staff writers and photographers were recovering from the most arduous print production night in recent memory. As is customary, on the Wednesday evening we had just completed the preparations for the printed newspaper when a commotion erupted at the Board of Trustees meeting across the hallway from
the newsroom. We could hear the uproar. For more details of what followed check this article online: http://www.pcccourier.com/ news/notebook-a-hectic-24hours-1.2877012#.T9ejHb_lLmY A decision was made to delay sending the files to the printer, and staff members scrambled to cover the unfolding drama. At 9 p.m. the existing front page was scrapped and the revised version made it to the press about an hour later. Exhaustion on Thursday was not an option. As the historic events cascaded one atop each other, Courier staffers snapped images, wrote copy and published it immediately online, working until late in the evening. Friday morning saw an
almost full complement of staff in the newsroom. Instead of working on the Journalism final, however, they were researching, reporting, writing and photographing stories relating to the bribery investigation. Soon, they began to chat on our internal network about putting out a special edition, even though the semester was all but over and all scheduled newspapers had been published. At around noon, Courier Adviser Warren Swil announced that permission had been granted to publish a print version of the paper the following week, if the staff wished. “It’s entirely up to you,” he wrote in an email message to the staff. Each staff member was asked to immediately make a commitment to participate in the print edition, and by 5 p.m. Friday, 17 had signed up. Show time! More than half the staffers cleared their schedules to attend a planning meeting on Saturday, and work began in earnest. The
first major story, “Campus community shocked, saddened by criminal probe,” was published by mid-afternoon. Working late into the night, Courier staffers dug into the archives to assemble the second major piece. Meanwhile, an email was received that alerted editors to another breaking development: “President takes over Facilities Services Department” was published mid-afternoon on Sunday, the first time since 1915 that the Courier has published anything on Sunday. On Monday the staff put their shoulders to the wheel, and if you have been following our web edition, you know the results. (By the way, you can get all the breaking news alerts by registering for an account; click on the tab in the top right-hand corner of the front page labeled “Login / Register”). The news has been breaking so fast, we have been sprinting to bring it to you as it happens. As I write this, I and incoming
2012-13 Editor in Chief Nicholas Saul have just returned from an hour-long on-camera interview with college President Mark Rocha. The bulletin and a photograph have already been published online. The rest of the story appears elsewhere in this paper. For those of us in the Journalism class and on the paper, this has been a learning experience in so many facets of reporting, writing, editing and publishing that no amount of classroom instruction could ever equal. It has also become a memory all of us will take with us throughout the rest of our lives. It has been a privilege to serve the PCC community in this unprecedented time, and we hope to see the Courier continue to provide important news in a timely manner in print and online for many years to come. Neil Protacio 2011-2012 Editor in Chief
For breaking news, video and pictures, visit Courier online at pccCourier.com
June 13, 2012
A dark chapter dawns
EditorinChief Neil Protacio
Assist. News Editor Paul Ochoa Online Editor Galen PattersonSmith Assist. Online Editor Ander Arostegui Arts & Entertainment Editor Jessi Alva Assist. Arts & Entertainment Editor Mary Nurrenbern Opinion Editor F.E. Cornejo Assist. Opinion Editor Philip McCormick Sports Editor Nicholas Saul Assist. Sports Editor Brenda Renteria Features Editors: Cicely Chisholm, Christine Michaels Photo Editor Gabriela Castillo Assist. Photo Editor Teresa Mendoza
pring 2012 has been the most volatile semester in the recent history of PCC. The semester that began with protests has ended with more protests and the criminal investigation of two administrators. It is shameful and despicable that this is what PCC has become and will always be remembered for. The Board of Trustees and the administration have repeatedly made attempts to hide their mistakes from the PCC community in the interest of their own agenda. If anything, this semester has proven that PCC has been run no different-
ly than any of the “big banks,” which accepted government bail-outs and then betrayed employees, taxpayers and customers. Did the administration and the Board really not know what Vice President of Administrative Services Rick Van Pelt and Facilities Supervisor Al Hutchings were up to? If they did know, they should have done something about it. If they did not, it means no one was minding the store. Or is corruption just business as usual at PCC, and Van Pelt and Hutchings are taking the fall? Either way it is a slap in the face to the people who had put their faith in PCC.
Chief Photographer Daniel Nerio Online Photo Editor Louis Cheung Scene Editors Buren Smith, Max Perez Social Media Editor Justin Clay Multimedia Editor Natalie Sehn Weber Staff Writers: Antero Barrantes III, Brandon Drexel, Dustin Earl, Tiffany Herrera, Amar Kasopovic, Edwin Lee, Michael McGrath, Raymond Pecson, Luis Rodriguez, Karla Sosa, Colin Sum Staff Photographers: Kevin Balmadrid, Katherine Bussey, Megan Carrillo, Nikki Debbaudt, Minela Dela Cruz, Steven Fuel, Antonio Gandara, Ya Ling Hsu, Ronald Johnson, Anthony Richetts, Steven Valdez, Blair Wells Faculty Adviser Warren Swil Photography Adviser Tim Berger Advertising Coordinator Anthony Richetts The Courier is published weekly by the Pasadena City College Journalism Department and is a freespeech forum. Editorial opinions and com ments are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the institution and its administra tion, student government or that of the Pasadena Area Community College District. The Courier is written and produced as a learning experience for student writ ers, photographers and editors in the Journalism Department. Phone: (626) 5857130 Fax: (626) 5857971 Advertising: (626) 5857979 pccCourierAds@yahoo.com Office: 1570 E. Colorado Blvd., CC208 Pasadena, CA 911063215 Email: pccCourier@yahoo.com The first copy of the Courier is free. Additional copies are $1 each © Copyright 2012 Courier. All rights reserved.
2011 JACC General Excellence Award Winner
News Editor Nicholas Zebrowski
The turbulence of this semester was not a random uprising, but rather the inevitable eruption caused by numerous bad decisions by several key people over a long time. At the end of the PCC mission and values statement it reads: “We recognize that we draw upon the college’s rich tradition of excellence and innovation in upholding the highest standard of quality for the services we provide to our students and community.” It is clear that, intentionally or not, the current Board and administration are incapable of living up to the promise of the statement by serving students and the community.
It appears that the administration and the board have lost all of the their credibility, if not their moral compass. The administration’s declaration that PCC “is moving forward and continuing all normal business,” is out of touch and frightening. How can we move forward and pretend as if all is well at PCC? To continue normal business is not acceptable. That is what brought PCC to this low point to begin with. The PCC community should not allow it. May this be the beginning of the end for the disease that has been killing PCC. We hope so.
Best of the Web
These comments have been recently posted to stories published online The following comments are related to “VIDEO: Rocha announces investigation” Off with their heads! - Queen of Hearts PCC's hiring practices are less than adequate. Van Pelt was hired over the objections of the hiring panel. His former boss, Rod Fleeman was under investigation at North Orange Community College District for improprieties, Hutchings has a long history of employment indiscretions involving trust and honesty and the new police chief was hired over more qualified applicants with no honesty issues in their backgrounds. PCC gets what it gets from poor personnel policies. - Anonymous This does not surprise anyone on PCC campus. It's a shame it took this long. - Anonymous Maybe monkeys could be trained to do a better job of operating this school? Either President Rocha is a well-intentioned guy who fell into a hard term (like President Hoover). Or perhaps he is part of it, containing this threat and playing dumb with fabulous results? If chivalry is dead and integrity followed with it, we may as well revert to our more primitive instincts (like greed) and become cannibals. As long as we're only living to please ourselves, why not have a seemingly endless food source just inches away from us at all times? If we don't eat each other alive, somebody else will. - Cannibalism is on the rise! Maybe Van Pelt inherited a magical ring and all the other administrators are trying in vain to protect him, and [the] is using the … money to take a trip to New Zealand where
they will throw the ring into a volcano? - Anonymous “But there will be no justice, there will be no government of the people, by the people, and for the people, as long as the government and its officials permit bribery in any form: John Jay Hooker” - Anonymous The following comments are related to “Campus community shocked saddened by criminal probe Why does this story not include any comments from members of the Board of Trustees? Are the reporters asking them? Or are they hiding under their desks? "No comment" is no answer. There is not a reason in the world they should have been silent so long. At the very least, the Board president by now should have put out his own statement about the situation. Pipe up pipsqueaks! - District 1 voter PCC has been a rudderless ship for a long time. There was the last President, Pauline what’s-her-name, salarygate and now this. I attempted to register for an Extended Learning Course a couple of years ago and was treated so rudely by the Extended Learning Staff that I gave up. It's pretty clear now that the only thing anyone is interested in at PCC is lining their pockets with taxpayer money and collecting a paycheck. .... and where is the board during all of this? Why all of the secrecy? Trustee Mann is demanding respect at the trustee meetings yet shows none to her constituents. - Anonymous What a sorry state of affairs. If those in charge knew what was going
ONLINE POLL RESULTS Online, we asked: How do you think Board and administration officials are handling the bribery crisis?
Top three results as of 5 p.m. Tuesday: Awfully: 53% The best we can expect from them: 23% Very well: 13%
vote at pccCourier.com
on, why didn't they do something about it? If they did NOT know, they were derelict in their duty. - Willfully blind I remember in 1995 when Van Pelt was hir[ed] he came from Ambassador College with a purpose on his [mind]: to clean the Facilities [Department] of all the people that President [James] Kossler won’t (sic) to eliminate. So now, the whole campus has to pay [for] the consequences of stupidity. I don't know why you need a Ph. D. to do so much damage. - Anonymous Rocha should resign. He guaranteed (sic) for van Pelt and it's time to pay. - Anonymous The following comments are relating to “Interim replacement appointed for van Pelt” And it just keep getting worse. Van Pelt knew nothing about maintenance and this guy [Vice President of Educational Services Robert Miller] knows even less! Meanwhile students suffer due [to] total incompetence from the Board! - Anonymous The following comments are related to “NOTEBOOK: Eyewitness to history “An employee of the Campus Police Department had escorted them to Facilities, as they were walking into the building the DA agents told her that other DA officials had earlier been on campus.” "After the "news conference," a reporter from ABC Eyewitness News requested an interview. It was agreed." Q: Did an editor review this article? - Anonymous
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June 13, 2012
June 13, 2012
Steven Fuel/Courier Employees of the Facilities Services Department replace a fire hydrant near the Jameson Amphitheater and the Boone Scuplture Garden on Tuesday.
Max Perez/Courier A worker on Facilities Services Department crew uses his leaf blower to clean up a main path through the campus on Tuesday.
Steven Fuel/Courier A worker power washes the pavement in Quad on Tuesday morning.
The Crew Facilities Services workers keep campus clean, tidy ... and safe
Steven Fuel/Courier Service workers use personal transport vehicles to move quickly around the campus. Justin Clay/Courier After hours on Monday, the door to the Facilities Services Department displays a sign alerting that the office is closed.
Justin Clay/Courier Facilities Service workers operate a power washing machine in the Quad on Tuesday.
June 13, 2012
What’s your view on the bribery probe?
“I’m glad there is [an investigation]. With the budget cuts, there shouldn’t be room for criminal activity.” Albert Popovian, business
“They are taking favors to put money in their pockets but some people deserve [to get] the job.”
“If this turns out to be true, it’s horrible. We should make regular checks on the administration.” Nathalie Torres, computer engineering
“It’s very comical that [van Pelt] used to be a business teacher.” Jordan Perreira, business
Chantha Touch, political science
“This kind of thing happens in high schools too. It’s nothing that shocks me.”
“It’s a great thing that they are investigating it and are trying to find out what really happened.”
Albert Lopez, undecided
Maria Cano, English
“It doesn’t help PCC move forward and if its proven true, I’m very disappointed.”
“It’s disappointing, a superior taking bribes. We as students look up to them.”
Peter Torres, business
Christian Noble, computer science
“At least it’s good that they caught [them]. It’s crucial that they’re investigating the funds that are accounted for.”
“We don’t need anymore controversial things, especially when there’s so much going on already.” Diva Ward, technical theater
Art Lemus, journalism
“The state is going corrupt. It puts less faith into people at PCC and PCC is a good school.” Juan Quezeda, environmental management protection
“I know Hutchings personally. He was my political science professor. I don’t think the alleged corruption should pertain to him. If there’s evidence, it is what it is.”
“I was really shocked. I don’t know what to expect if [Hutchings] really did it or not. He didn’t seem like the type of person to do this.”
“He took advantage of the situation. He wasn’t looking out for the students and took advantage of bad economic times.”
Hannah Gonzales, undecided
Michael Lang, psychology
“It is a crime.” Marissa Fonseca, child development
Javier Gutierrez, communications Reporting by: Philip McCormick, Luis Rodriguez and Colin Sum, Photos by: Daniel Nerio and Louis Cheung
New study finds that U Building is safe PHILIP MCCORMICK Assist. Opinion Editor
A new report on the safety of the U Building’s questions the initial evaluations that the school had done in previous years, which became the basis of determining to abandon the building. According to someone who has seen the report because he is on the panel of the Faculty Association, which has ordered it from a consultant, it is authoritative. “The person who made this [new] report,” said Theater Arts Instructor William R. (Rod) Foster, “is one of the worlds leading authorities on earthquake structures and statistical testing.” Vice President of Administrative Services Richard van Pelt had said in November 2010 that the first reports, compiled by Dasse Design and later Amarre Studios, that the U Building was the least structurally sound building on campus.
Max Perez/Courier Rod Foster, Theater Arts instructor and Faculty Association negotiater, talks to staff in front of the R Building before heading into the Visual Arts and Media Studies Division office, on Tuesday.
“The prudent thing to do,” said van Pelt in 2010. “Is not accept any level of risk.” The person who made the new report had something very dif-
ferent to say, though. He said that if that data from the initial report was correct, then there had already been three earthquakes big enough to
demolish the U Building, said Foster. “We [the Faculty Association] are not fighting the replacement of the U Building,” said Foster
“What we are afraid of, is that the college is about to be driven off of a financial cliff because there isn’t money to even tear down the U Building, let alone replace it.” The replacement project has been estimated to cost a total of $70 million. The first reports had said that steel joints, which unite the columns and beams of the building, were slightly smaller than what is standard under current building codes, according to van Pelt. The building was supposed to be emptied in January of 2011, but there are still classes being held in the U Building to this day. Foster said that he had seen and forwarded the initial reports compiled on the U Building to the people leading the new evaluation and that they would have those reports within days.
June 13, 2012
Reporter’s notebook: A hectic 24 hours CHRISTINE MICHAELS Staff Writer
At the chaotic Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday evening, a photographer took a picture of Vice President of Administrative Services Richard van Pelt checking the NHL scores on his desktop screen. Asked if he thought van Pelt’s behavior was appropriate, Director of Public Relations Juan Gutierrez deferred to the college lawyer. “You will have to talk to [General Counsel] Gail Cooper regarding that issue,” said Gutierrez. He seemed nervous
and taken aback by the question. I was confused about why he would ask me to talk to Ms. Cooper about a almost comical issue. On June 6, the Board was conducting its meeting in the Creveling Lounge from 7 p.m. until about 8 p.m. At 6:30, about 10 protesters were seen getting ready for the meeting. A few were waiting for the mouths they had painted to dry on their necks. On the other side of the CC Building, cadets and officers were seen patrolling the area. A few minutes later a reporter ran into the Courier newsroom saying the public comment peri-
od was getting loud. Back in the Creveling Lounge, protesters at the back of the room were now holding posters, while a student talked to the board. A red light on President Geoffrey Baum’s desk was lit and Baum attempted to call up the next speaker. The crowd vehemently interrupted with chants of “LET HIM SPEAK!” Board members sat with poker faces, not uttering a word. A student came up and screamed that the board had no respect for students. Baum responded: “I respect you.” The room erupted, “No!” There were whispers amongst
Board members and many left the room. Vice President of Instruction Robert Bell stayed in his seat, along with a few other members of the Board. In the outer lounge, I asked PR Director Gutierrez if he felt Baum’s response to public comment was appropriate. Gutierrez looked nervous. “I can’t speak for him,” he said. What happened next was a surprise. In the hallway right outside the Courier newsroom Chief of Police Stanton Perez and Board members were walking out of the conference room and into the Emergency Operations Center, which is
adjacent to the newsroom. Earlier, Baum had told Courier Editor-in-Chief Neil Protacio, that one reporter and one photographer would be allowed into the EOC, where the Board meeting was reconvening. Could this be a potential violation of the state’s open meetings law, the Brown Act, which requires business of the Board be conducted in public? A debate arose as to the legality of holding a meeting without a public audience. For more visit Courier online, at pccCourier.com
‘On leave’ employees remain in limbo Continued from page 1
Daniel Nerio / Courier In an on-camera interview, President Mark Rocha answers questions Tuesday regarding the bribery probe.
Campus shocked over recent events Continued from page 1
a great deal of work to [do to] restore a sense of trust in the school.” Director of Institutional Effectiveness Crystal Kollross said she worked well with van Pelt, but reserved her judgment about the criminal allegations. “I’ve had an excellent relationship with [van Pelt],” she said. “I can’t make any judgments so we’re going to let due process take its course.” Former Vice President of Instruction Jackie Jacobs, who retired at the end of 2011, said she had no personal knowledge about the whether the bribery allegations against van Pelt or Hutchings were true. “I certainly hope not,” she told the Courier on Monday. “I am only aware of what has been in the news media.” Jacobs added that the college needs to keep its focus on “Student Success.” “It is my prayer that the investigation will be fair and clearly bring an end to this matter. The community deserves the best leadership possible and will continue to expect nothing less.” Student Trustee Alex Soto was saddened.
“Given recent events it’s difficult not to have a sense of disappointment and not to wonder how this college will operate moving forward,” Soto said. “Hopefully the campus community can work diligently to make sure that these matters are completely resolved so we can continue to move forward and a sense of integrity can be reestablished on this campus.” Supervisor of Facilities Services Sarah Flores struck a compassionate note. “I am concerned for them both [van Pelt and Hutchings] and their families as well,” she said. Facilities worker of 12 years Kathy Sowels expressed shock at the investigation. “[Van Pelt] liked to do everything by the book,” said Sowels. “He is a very sharp, smart man.” Sowels was surprised Hutchings had been put on administrative leave. “The custodians were being treated more fair[ly] when he came,” she said. According to Sowels, college President Mark Rocha’s Thursday meeting with Facility Services staff members was to point the way forward. “[He told us] we are starting from a clear, plain white wall,” she said.
No arrests have been made, but both men are currently on administrative leave. "The allegation was a solicitation of contracts for the college," Demerjian told the Courier on Thursday. The DA received a complaint from an individual in March which prompted the investigation. “ I find it pretty shocking. I’m really disappointed that the DA office is investigating potential corruption at PCC. It’s disturbing,” said Pat Rees, adjunct faculty. “All people are innocent until proven guilty, said Jim Gonzales, ceramics instructor. “If they are guilty of the allegations I say they should be buried in a deep hole because of the damage it’s done to our college and the relationships we have with people outside the college. I have a funny feeling the investigation isn’t over yet. It’s going to be interesting what comes up.” “I am really biased and my opinion is really biased. When I met [van Pelt and Hutchings] together, I had a gut feeling about them so when this happened I wasn’t surprised,” said Gonzales.
said that initially he did not know whom the search warrants targeted. “They notified me that they were looking into a matter here on campus,” Rocha said. “I immediately turned it over to our General Counsel Gail Cooper.” After finding out that van Pelt and Hutchings were the targets, Rocha said he refused to disclose that information to the two men for fear of getting in the way of the investigation. “We were cooperating fully with the District Attorney so we were under [their guidance] in their criminal investigation,” Rocha said. “So you normally follow that guidance, and it’s fairly obvious that when the DA is investigating a possible crime that you would not inform the
suspects.” Rocha also said that he did not know about Hutchings’ and van Pelt’s businesses outside of the school. He was also unaware of Hutchings’ controversial professional background. Hutchings resigned from the L.A.P.D after being convicted of theft, and he was also removed as chief of the Maywood Police Department after two weeks on the job. However, Hutchings did manage to land a position at PCC. Rocha did find out that van Pelt was part of the committee that recommended hiring Hutchings. “It’s sad that their actions affect many more people than just the two of them,” Rocha concluded. “The college has a long past and will have a long future.”
Public hears very little from Board members on probe Continued from page 1
said yes and walked away. “[The Board members] were all quite shocked to hear of the investigation and the allegations,” Wah said via email. “I was personally saddened to hear that search warrants were being served. My experience with both Dr. Van Pelt and Mr. Hutchings has been positive and professional.” Less than 15 minutes later, Wah sent another email explaining all responses were to be handled by the Director of Public Relations Juan Gutierrez. “I just happened to see your email before I saw Juan’s email,” she said. Gutierrez had sent a staff-wide email explaining that no response should go directly to any media request before it was
submitted to him first. “All inquiries from the press, including the Courier, should be routed to me . . . it is especially important at this time given the very serious nature of the District Attorney’s ongoing investigation,” he said. Trustee Thomson, who is also an attorney, responded an hour before deadline, by phone. Thomson said he was at the Quarter Finals for the French Open during the press conference last week. He received an email on his blackberry on June 5 about the search warrants. “I am just extremely disappointed any employees would do something like this if the allegations are true. If they are true, this would definitely be a 180degree turn for the college,” said Thomson.
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June 13, 2012
NOTEBOOK: Eyewitnesses to history PHILIP MCCORMICK Staff Writer
It was stunning. At about 10 a.m. two officials wearing sweatshirts emblazoned with “Los Angeles County DA” on their backs, got out of a car that had just pulled into Parking Lot 1 and walked into the Facility Services building. As any curious reporter would, I followed and asked them why they were here. They said they couldn’t talk about it because it involved an ongoing investigation. An employee of the Campus Police Department had escorted them to Facilities, as they were walking into the building the DA
agents told her that other DA officials had earlier been on campus. College General Counsel Gail Cooper was inside the Facilities office. Cooper told me that she would not answer any questions from the media and that there would be a news conference at 2 p.m.The DA investigators were by now grabbing paperwork and placing documents into boxes. Later it was learned that they also had taken computer hard drives from the offices of Vice President of Administrative Affairs Rick van Pelt and Facilities Supervisor Al Hutchings. Later that morning, I was one of five Courier reporters assigned to cover the official news conference. When it start-
ed, it emerged that an official statement would be read by President Mark Rocha who was accompanied by Board of Trustees President Geoffrey Baum. No questions would be taken.After the “news conference,” a reporter from ABC Eyewitness News requested an interview. It was agreed. ABC 7 Reporter Miriam Hernandez asked what I had seen earlier on campus. As the interview ended, Lancer Radio also requested a live interview from me, Courier Editor-in-Chief Neil Protacio and Chief Photographer Daniel Nerio. We told the radio listeners what we had seen. We had just been eyewitnesses to PCC history in the making.
Daniel Nerio/Courier Reporter Philip McCormick interviewed on June 7 by ABC 7 reporter Miriam Hernandez at The Cap & Gown Room.
Facilities workers fear speaking about corruption case PAUL OCHOA AND CHRISTINE
Teresa Mendoza/Courier The home of Richard and Carol van Pelt is seen on New York Drive in Altadena. The van Pelts have owned the property since 1990, according to the Los Angeles County Assessor.
Van Pelts paid $279,000 for their house RONALD JOHNSON Courier staff
It’s a leafy, 3-bedroom 3-bath house purchased for $279,000 in 1990 in a stony enclave of Altadena, just west of Lake Avenue. Early on June 9, a squad of apparently unmarked law enforcement cars descended on the home, according to an eyewitness.Los Angeles County Assessor records show the home is owned by “Richard P. and Carol J. Van Pelt.”No one was home at about 8:45 on Saturday morning, but a UPS parcel sitting at the front door. According to a next-door neighbor, it was left by the UPS driver the day before. Apparently, the package had remained on the front porch overnight, giving the impression that no one was home to take it in.The contemporarily styled house is just 22 years old. It was built in 1990. Leafy bushes flank the ornate double front doors.
Two second-floor windows protrude from the steeply sloped roof, and a two-car garage greets visitors as they pull into the driveway surfaced with paving stones.The lot is 7,425 square feet. In the 2010-11 tax year, the van Pelts paid $3,842 in property taxes. Its total market value in that year was assessed at $341,389. Much smaller homes flank it on the east and west. According to the neighbor, the house often appears to be unoccupied because the van Pelts apparently spend their time at home in the back part of the structure. The neighbor noted that the van Pelts park their vehicles in the garage. Rick van Pelt drives a red sports car; his wife drives a 4x4 SUV, she said.On Saturday, the neighbor said she had not seen them since the police raid on June 9. She added that when the van Pelts leave town, their vehicles remain in the garage and a driver picks them up at about 4 a.m.
Ronald Johnson/Courier A parcel delivered to the van Pelt home by UPS is on their front porch on Saturday morning.
There is a strong sense of fear lurking on campus; you can see it in the eyes of facilities workers. With the recent departure of Al Hutchings, director of Facilities Services, the Courier has swarmed the Facilities Services office and its workers trying to gather information. What they got, however, were the same generic answers and suspicious looks. When Editor-in-Chief Neil Protacio approached two facilities workers as they were getting into their cart in the quad, they seemed wary of the press. He asked them what was going on in facilities. One of workers told him in a sarcastic sounding tone that he was new and did not want to lose his job. He then referred to a memo sent out by Juan Gutierrez, director of public relations, which informed all facilities workers not to speak to the press, specifically the Courier and to direct all questions to him. Anyone going into the Facilities Services office won’t find anything out of the ordinary. However when an employee working the front desk was questioned about the changes in facilities, she said, “It’s just business as usual, just another ordinary day.” When the reporter attempted to schedule an interview with the person in charge, she was told that any questions or interviews with the supervisor in charge must be done through email. Other facilities workers emptying trash cans nearby wouldn’t
comment on anything. One said “Really can’t tell you anything. They sent us a memo to direct all questions to Gutierrez. I just try and comply.” The Facilities Services employees seem to be scared of the press. Some say they don’t want to lose their jobs. They do their best to avoid reporters and when they do say anything, they refer back to the memo sent out by Gutierrez. One facilities worker did decide to comment, but like the others was fearful of being fired. The worker was utterly shocked to hear about the criminal investigation of Vice President of Administrative Services Richard Van Pelt and Facilities Supervisor Alfred Hutchings. The worker said, “[Mr. Hutchings] treated the workers fair. Before he came, people were put on leave for no real reason.” The worker also said Van Pelt “liked to do everything by the book. He is a very sharp man.” But the worker did criticize other facilities supervisors, saying they were not fair to their workers while others allowed their team of workers to have extended breaks in the laundry and break room. “Some supervisors have their favorites.” The worker also said that some people who have no business being in carts can often be seen riding around on one on campus all day. Yet another facilities supervisor was accused of harassing workers, until Hutchings was hired. “The offending supervisor became really quiet for a while when Al got here.” That man was controlling and verbally aggressive, according to the worker.
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Published on Jun 13, 2012