A dean with Coastline Community College has submitted his resignation amid allegations that he sexually harassed and physically intimidated his employees.
The Coast Community College District Board of Trustees on Wednesday night accepted without comment George P. Melican's resignation, which allows him to remain on leave and receive his $72,600-a-year salary through June 30.
Faculty and employees said that 10 people signed a complaint in February against Melican, who was the top administrator at Coastline's Huntington Beach satellite campus. They criticized the district for abruptly dropping an investigation of the allegations when Melican offered to resign.
Bob Davis, president of the Coast Community College District's union for clerical and support staff, said employees complained that Melican intimidated them verbally and physically. "He created a very highly sexually charged atmosphere over the last year and a half," Davis said.
Alfred P. Fernandez, chancellor of the Costa Mesa-based community college district, confirmed that the 10 employees filed a complaint and that their allegations were investigated. But he declined to reveal the names of individuals involved. He defended the district's actions in resolving the matter.
"The district, in my opinion, has acted expeditiously to immediately address the issue," said Fernandez, who oversees the 70,000-student district, which includes three main campuses, four satellite facilities and the KOCE public television station.
"What they requested initially in their charges of sexual harassment was to have happen what exactly has happened," Fernandez said. "The remedy they asked for, in effect, has occurred. There is no purpose in going on with an investigation once the person in the middle of an investigation has decided to resign."
Efforts to reach Melican on Wednesday and Thursday were unsuccessful. But speaking through Ada Steenhoek, a member of the Cerritos Community College Board of Trustees and an acquaintance of Melican since he held the No. 2 administrative job there from 1987 to early 1990, he said the reason he is leaving Coastline is to pursue job opportunities on the East Coast.
In a brief letter to Coast Community College Chancellor Fernandez, Melican tendered his resignation on Feb. 24, about two weeks into the investigation of sexual harassment and intimidation charges.
The resignation read: "Dear Dr. Fernandez, I hereby resign effective June 30, 1992, with the understanding that I will be on paid status (and) on leave through June 30, 1992. Sincerely, George P. Melican."
Melican had been the top administrator of the Huntington Beach campus since April, 1990. He has been on a combination of vacation and administrative leave since Feb. 25, district spokeswoman Ann Garten said. His contract would have expired in June, 1993.
Union representatives also said this week that the decision to continue to pay Melican was an insult to the nine women and one man who came forward to sign the formal complaint against Melican.
"We really consider this a slap in the face to these employees," said Helen Evers, a counselor and grievance officer at Coastline's Huntington Beach campus. Evers said she accompanied the alleged victims at meetings held to investigate the accusations against Melican.
Most of the people who signed the complaint against Melican attended Wednesday's board meeting to express their objections to the way the district handled the case. But they left after Evers, their designated representative, was chastised by trustees and district officials for mentioning during the public hearing that Melican was the object of sexual harassment charges.
Davis, who heads the district chapter of the United Federation of Classified Employees, which represents 270 clerical, maintenance and support staff, said employees feel that Melican's resignation should not have halted the probe.
"Considering the magnitude of the charges and all the problems that were caused, we think it's inappropriate to leave somebody on the payroll through June," he added.
District Vice Chancellor John D. Renley declined to discuss the issues surrounding Melican's resignation.
But speaking generally, he said it can be less costly in the long run to pay an employee who is the subject of allegations of sexual harassment for a reasonable severance period. Administrative hearings are required to break an employee's contract, and that process typically takes several months to complete. During that time, the district would incur legal and administrative fees and still have to continue full payment of the employee's salary.
"I don't think that any (school) district should be spending their money on legal matters," Renley said. "They ought to be spending it on the students. . . . So you have to make judgments in cases like this."
The allegations of sexual harassment and both physical and verbal intimidation were filed first by eight women and one man on Feb. 11, said Evers and Davis. Another woman joined the formal complaint a short time later.
The employees, who include faculty as well as clerical and support staff, alleged that Melican often used suggestive language. They said the 49-year-old Melican also tried to date many of the employees and threatened them when they refused. The threats included possible transfer or termination.
"He had a habit of making daily life miserable for people who didn't do what he wanted," one employee who signed the complaint said in an interview Thursday. She asked not to be identified out of fear of retribution from college and district officials.
Employees also complained of verbal and physical abuse.
"There were people who said he had put his elbow into their clavicle and twisted it, and he would do the same thing to a woman's head," said one employee familiar with the complaints. "There were sadistic things involved, and we were very concerned."
Others complained that Melican screamed, yelled and pointed his finger in people's faces.
Davis, the employee union president, said an overriding concern of employees is that this type of management style is condoned by top district officials and the Board of Trustees.
"We need leaders, not hard-line managers," Davis said.
Fernandez and several trustees interviewed Thursday insisted that in the case of the 10 employees, they did follow procedures called for in the district's tough policy against sexual harassment, which was adopted by trustees last year.
"We don't tolerate sexual harassment in any of its forms, and we've sent a message out loud and clear in the district that we will address these issues immediately," Fernandez said. "But in this case, the resignation came before the investigation could be completed, so the situation becomes moot. And because of legal ramifications, that basically ends it as far as our district is concerned."