JCCC Trustee Hodge Supported Perilla

Less than a month after the allegations of sexual harassment against JCCC President Charles Carlsen came to light Trustee Benjamin Hodge offered his support to Board of Trustee Chairperson Elaine Perilla.

Documents cited in the student newspaper investigation, named Elaine Perilla as having been made aware of the alleged harassment but instead of reporting it, she did nothing.

As a result, the JCCC Faculty Association requested Perilla recuse herself from involvement in the investigation as a trustee.

Hodge went public with his support of Perilla:

“There may be a misconception among some that our role is to find the guilt or innocence of various people,” he said. “I don’t see that as our role.”

He said he would not ask Perilla to recuse herself and would respect her decision.

As Hodge predicted, Perilla refused to recuse herself. And months later, Hodge happened to find himself as Perilla’s co-chair on the search committee tasked with finding JCCC’s permanent president.

Read The Kansas City Star article below

Faculty weigh in on Carlsen exit inquiry – Many want it fair, complete, public

The Kansas City Star – Saturday, May 13, 2006
MELODEE HALL BLOBAUM

More than 200 Johnson County Community College faculty members are asking trustees to ensure that an investigation into the departure of President Charles Carlsen is complete, impartial and public.

In an electronic election completed late Thursday, 208 of the 228 full-time faculty members who voted supported the statement.

“There’s a pretty strong consensus that this investigation needs to be dealt with properly,” said Vincent Clark, Faculty Association president.

The school has 338 full-time faculty members, he said. The 67 percent voting turnout was greater than even for contract approval, he said.

Kansas City lawyer Betsy Badger is conducting an independent review of allegations that Carlsen sexually harassed a female employee in 2003. The allegations were made public in the April 13 issue of the campus newspaper.

Carlsen denied the allegation to the newspaper.

The faculty statement calls for the board to:

Conduct a complete investigation, examining all questions arising from Carlsen’s retirement, including actions taken by trustees and college officials.

Eliminate any appearance of a conflict of interest. Specifically, the statement calls on board Chairwoman Elaine Perilla to recuse herself from involvement in the investigation. Clark said that would include presiding over or participating in meetings in which the review is discussed, and voting on the report.

Issue a complete public report, with the only exceptions being confidential personnel information and other matters protected by law.

The resolution authorizing the review specified that the findings and recommendations would not be disclosed publicly. However, a statement issued later by Perilla and board Vice Chairman Lynn Mitchelson said that if the review found that the policies were sound, they would have a duty to release publicly the reasoning for that conclusion.

Also, their statement said, any recommended policy changes would have to be voted upon in an open meeting.

Trustee Benjamin Hodge said he valued the faculty members’ input but cautioned them to remember the review was voluntary.

“There may be a misconception among some that our role is to find the guilt or innocence of various people,” he said. “I don’t see that as our role.”

He said he would not ask Perilla to recuse herself and would respect her decision.

Trustees Virginia Krebs and Shirley Brown-VanArsdale said they had not seen the faculty statement.

Mitchelson, Perilla and Trustee Jon Stewart could not be reached for comment.

However, David Westbrook, a public relations consultant and spokesman for the board, said the agreement with Badger allowed her great independence in conducting the review.

He said the call for a public report echoed Perilla and Mitchelson’s earlier statement.

“I think we can look forward to a very thorough and helpful review,” Westbrook said.

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