Officials' pay increase sparks debate

Orange Coast College students and faculty this week questioned pay and mileage allowance increases for six top administrators across the college district amid widespread class and budgets cuts.

The Coast Community College District board of trustees, however, have defended the raises, saying the administrators were hired at lower salaries and need to be brought up to more competitive levels.

The college district — comprised of Golden West College in Huntington Beach, Coastline Community College in Fountain Valley and OCC in Costa Mesa — gave out more than $80,000 in pay increases and/or mileage allowances for its administrators. OCC's campus newspaper, the Coast Report, broke the story last week.

The trustees in November approved nearly 9% raises each for two college presidents and two district vice chancellors, and added monthly mileage allotment to each of their contracts and two others.

"I just can't believe they're getting a raise when we're in a recession," said OCC criminal justice major Debi Haywood, 55, a Huntington Beach resident. "We're all struggling to get to school. Everyone's mad ... I think we ought to just protest."

Board Vice President Mary Hornbuckle said the district serves 60,000 students and only has three college presidents and three district vice chancellors to meet student and faculty needs.

The presidents and vice chancellors have taken on more work. As other managers have been laid off, they're left to working 12- to 14-hour days, said Trustee David Grant, a former OCC president.

"It seems really unfair, but in order to maintain the quality of the staff we have and the quality of administrators we have, we have to pay them a comparable salary of what they would get elsewhere," Hornbuckle said.

OCC President Dennis Harkins received a $16,000 pay increase and now earns $198,000, according to his contract, which was obtained through a public records request.

Coastline President Loretta Adrian, Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administrative Services Andy Dunn and Vice Chancellor of Human Resources Deborah Hirsh each received a $15,000 boost to $190,000, according to the contracts. Dunn and Hirsh work for the district, whose offices are across the street from OCC.

Golden West College President Wes Bryan earns $217,928, but received no pay increase.

Bryan, college district Vice Chancellor of Educational Services and Technology Andreea Serban and the other four administrators each received $3,480 annually for mileage reimbursement.

They weren't formerly receiving a mileage allowance, according to agenda documents.

Each administrator negotiated a raise after the board eliminated automatic increases in the salary schedules for executive-level management in December 2009, according to agenda documents.

The raises were brought to the board by Chancellor Andrew Jones, who said he wanted to bring staff salaries to a level consistent with other local districts.

Board President Jim Moreno said the board didn't bring the salaries up to how much the former administrators were making, but to a fair level.

"We paid every single one of them considerably less than what their predecessors made in the district," Trustee Jerry Patterson said, referring to Harkins, Adrian, Dunn and Hirsh, who were recently hired.

Harkins' predecessor at OCC, President Bob Dees, was earning $205,704 when he retired, and former Coastline President Ding-Jo Currie was making $207,416, according to public records.

Former Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services C.M. Brahmbhatt was paid $217,928, while former Vice Chancellor Joseph Quarles of human resources was making $205,704.

Cody Joe Torre, 21, who serves in OCC's student senate, said he is bothered by the rationale that the district gave the raises to be competitive instead of based on competence, success and efficiency. He said he sees it as the district moving to a revenue-driven, corporate-style of management.

"It's really telling and it's really troubling, because it's not just happening in this district," he said.

OCC freshman Frida Salgado, 18, said she couldn't believe that the administrators received salary increases while the classes she needs were cut. She had to sit on the floor of other classes and put her name on wait lists.

"That's just not fair," she said. "It's really corrupt for them to raise their salaries yet they cut classes."

Trustee Lorraine Prinsky said she doesn't feel comfortable defending the cuts now, but at the time, things were looking more optimistic with the state budget.

"I think if I were to do it again, knowing what I know now, I would not have supported it," she said. "But then, it seemed like a fair thing to do."

The news has also affected faculty, said OCC math instructor Eduardo Arismendi-Pardi, adding the issue isn't the administrators' performance, but rather is more about the timing.

"[Faculty] are very unhappy and the morale is very low," he said.

Another OCC math instructor, Tab Livingston, said the decision chaps the hide of faculty as they are turning away students and summer classes have been axed.

"To me, it is a real breach of the trust of the taxpayers," he said.

Dean Mancina, president of the Coast Federation of Educators, the teachers union representing all three college district campuses,

said he understands the board's rationale, but not its timing.

The union has been in negotiations to take a 3% cut in current salaries, health benefits or both. Additionally, full-time faculty have received no significant cost-of-living increase since 2009, and many departments have no full-time staff members.

"We really need to have sound educational priorities in this district," Mancina said.

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

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