December 13, 2011 Leave a comment
Sandoval Cleared Of Sexual Harrasment Charges
Former acting president and VP of Student Services resigned in 2009 under pressure by Chopra
By: Albert Fulcher, Editor-in-chief
Published: Monday, December 12th, 2011 at 10:48 pm
Former acting superintendent Dr. Greg Sandoval has presented documentation that he said proves that he was not guilty of sexual harassment in a case that preceded the departure of three administrators.
Allegations of sexual harassment have followed Sandoval since 2008. After seeing sexual harassment referenced in a special edition of The Sun, Sandoval said it is time to set the record straight and prove through documentation that the accusations are not true.
Martha Jimenez, a student services assistant, accused Sandoval, former director of Financial Aid Arthur Lopez and Director of Outreach Fernando Poveda of sexually harassing her.
“For the record here, I hope that this will satisfy The Sun and everyone else that I did not have this relationship,” said Sandoval. “I want it for the record that this investigation and the statement that Jimenez wrote show that I did not do anything to her.”
In a lawsuit against SWC, Jimenez claimed that Sandoval used a picture of her in an evening gown as a screensaver.
“None of the allegations of me having inappropriate desktop pictures of her on my computer are true,” said Sandoval. “I remember when she was scheduled to see me the college had just had a gala. Nevada Smith (former director of Community and Media Relations) had sent out that the college had taken lots of pictures. I was looking through the pictures and I saw a picture of Jimenez with her boyfriend. So when she came in to see me regarding Poveda, I said, ‘Did you see the pictures this morning? They came out and everyone looked so nice’.”
He said he showed Jimenez a picture of her and her boyfriend for a few seconds and that was it.
Sandoval said he did not even know how to change a desktop picture. He said Computer Systems Operations Manager Paul Norris and “some of the computer guys” came out to see him and offered to vouch for his character.
“They were laughing at the matter because they said I did not know how to do that, to put things up on your desktop,” said Sandoval.
Norris said he had a good relationship with Sandoval during his time working with him and that at that time Sandoval did not know enough about computers to set up a desktop background.
“I told Sandoval, ‘You are a good guy and a smart guy, but not that smart’,” said Norris. “His desktop background was the standard background placed on all of the college’s computers. His computer faced the door as you walk into his office and I told him it would be stupid of him to do this. I would be willing to testify in court for that.”
Sandoval resigned shortly before he was made aware of the harassment allegations. Former superintendent Raj K. Chopra terminated Poveda during a controversial reorganization and dismantling of the Outreach office in April 2009.
Sandoval said his resignation had nothing to do with Jimenez, but her allegations made him decide to rescind his resignation and fight back. After a January 2008 governing board meeting with discussions on three vice presidents, Sandoval said Chopra specifically asked him to resign, along with Dr. Ron Dyste, former vice president of Academic Affairs.
“I was puzzled why he wanted me to leave,” he said. “Dr. Chopra made life unbearable for me, so eventually I decided to submit my resignation,” he said. “It was obvious that the board was supporting him.”
Sandoval said he and Dyste had problems working with Chopra’s governing philosophy and his way of doing business in a college environment. He said he believes that is the truth behind Chopra’s request for his resignation. It was not until after submitting his resignation that he found out about the sexual harassment allegations.
“When that happened I wanted to rescind my resignation and stay and deal with that issue,” said Sandoval. “But Dr. Chopra would not allow me to rescind my resignation. The board had already approved it by that time.”
Governing board members accepted his resignation in June 2008. At the governing board meeting in September, 30 community members and faculty stood in support of rescinding Sandoval’s resignation. He reported then that he had spoken with Chopra on two separate conversations about extending his job until January and Chopra said he was in favor of doing so. But at the governing board meeting, when questioned, Chopra refused to comment saying he would not speak about personal conversations.
“My initial intention was to leave because Chopra had asked me to because things were not working out between us,” said Sandoval. “Once the story broke out about Ms. Jimenez filing a complaint against three administrators, I felt I needed to defend myself and I wanted to defend myself, but was not given that opportunity.”
Sandoval said he did not receive the documents clearing him of all charges until after he had resigned and litigation was in process with Jimenez and the district. He said he first saw the documents when the district attorney contacted him while preparing his defense.
“When I found the two documents I was stunned that the document of August 30 from (former Vice President of Human Resources Fusako) Yokotobi had cleared me,” said Sandoval. “And in the document from Ms. Jimenez from January 10, 2008 there was reference from her that I had done no wrong to her. When I saw these documents, I said that if I would have had these documents, I could have shown them to the whole world that I did no wrong and should have been allowed to stay at the college.”
Sandoval said he knew of no reason why Jimenez included him in her lawsuit. He said he could only speculate that people he did not know influenced her and that she was motivated by financial gain.
An August 30, 2007 SWC memorandum from Yokotobi to Poveda stated “the District retained attorney Tim Garfield to investigate the allegations of possible inappropriate behavior and/or administrative favoritism…the investigator interviewed 11 individuals and reviewed numerous emails and other documents in order to investigate two major allegations.”
In the allegation that Sandoval had a personal relationship with Jimenez and as a result showed favoritism the findings stated that the evidence did not support that he had an improper relationship with Jimenez.
“Although Mr. Sandoval and Ms. Jimenez have a friendly relationship as a result of both working in the One Stop Center in fairly close proximity for several years, the investigator found no evidence that the relationship was a close or intimate one. The investigator found no evidence that the decisions in which Mr. Sandoval was involved resulted from inappropriate favoritism toward Ms. Jimenez.”
In a letter to Chopra and the governing board, Jimenez rebutted the Administrative Determination of her complaint of working with Poveda and the Outreach staff calling it “pure hell” and the hostile work environment was “degrading” due to her admittedly intimate relationship with Lopez. In the letter she said she brought this environment to the attention of Sandoval and Yokotobi.
“I simply followed my chain of command,” wrote Jimenez. “The department of Outreach could of addressed Mr. Sandoval if they had any concerns, but they chose not to. Mr. Sandoval was always professional in his role as a vice president. He demonstrated sympathy and concern as to how Outreach was treating me. I feel Poveda and the rest of Outreach have brought false allegations that gave rise to an investigation.”
SWC governing board minutes for June 11, 2008 the board rejected Jimenez’s claim in closed session, but Sandoval said there was a settlement.
“There were three of us involved and what they required was a mediation conference,” said Sandoval. “There was a settlement reached, but from my understanding it had nothing to do with me. I had the documentation showing that I had done no wrong. I just know that in August or September 2009 all parties signed an agreement.”
Sandoval said he served as acting superintendent for six months from February 2007 to July 31 2007 and then went back to his position as vice president of student services.
Sandoval said even through all of this he was able to stick with his personal goals and earned his doctorate in May. He currently works as vice president of Student Services at Moreno Valley College.
“It is a nice community, the college is very diverse,” said Sandoval. “It is a small college with about eight to nine thousand students. I am its first vice president because it just got accredited, so I am helping putting the infrastructure in place, getting people trained and being very proactive in serving students.”