Investigation into ex-4CD trustee president found sexual harassment allegation valid


Inquirer Files

Tim Farley received the Edwin Crawford Award in October 2017 which recognizes excellence in the state government relations with higher education.

Danny Yoeono, Assistant editor

A preliminary investigation corroborated allegations that a former Contra Costa Community College District governing board president, Tim Farley, had sexually harassed someone at a conference three years ago.

“It is reasonable to believe that approximately three years ago Mr. Farley did engage in unlawful sexual harassment” and that he violated multiple district and board policies in the process read the conclusion of the investigation summary.

The initial investigation summary was compiled by the district Chief of Human Resources and Vice Chancellor Dio Shipp and delivered on Feb. 20 to Chancellor Dr. Fred Wood, the district’s lawyer Todd Goluba and the governing board vice president John Marquez.

Farley seems to have been aware he was under investigation for sexual harassment when he submitted his letter of resignation on Feb. 26, though his letter cited his reason for resigning from his position as president of the district governing board as “personal family issues.”

An anonymous letter, dated Jan. 24, was sent by mail to the Wood and Shipp and received Feb. 2.

The letter brought to light rumors of sexual harassment by Tim Farley that occurred “at a conference in Monterey,” and said Farley “acted in a sexually aggressive way toward a women at the conference in front of many witnesses.”

The letter also alleged an unnamed member of the board had seen the incident but had not yet come forward to report or address it.

That sparked an internal preliminary investigation that was led by Shipp as head of district human resources.

The summary goes into detail of the sexual harassment incident.

The incident apparently happened at a vendor sponsored dinner that occurred during the 2015 Community College League of California Annual Trustees Conference in Monterey, California.

The sponsor of the dinner was believed to have been the law firm of Garcia Hernandez Sawhney & Bermudez. Mary Hernandez, a partner of the firm, was sitting next to Farley.

Hernandez said in an email, “Because I never filed a complaint and was unaware of any investigation, I don’t have anything to confirm or deny in your story.”

It is said there were thirty people at this dinner that took place at a restaurant not far from where the conference was taking place.

There, Farley “arrived at the dinner early and seemed to have been drinking wine heavenly.(sic)”

A portion of the investigation summary reads as follows: “…There was a conversation between trustee Farley and possibly (Ventura Community College District governing board member Dr. Larry Kennedy) which were of a sexual nature (e.g. women’s breast)(sic). During the coarse of this discussion, or right after, Trustee Farley started leaning over into Hernandez with his arms wrapped around her, or at a minimum, or her chair and tried kissing her on the mouth.”

“When Ms. Hernandez pushed him back, he then tried putting his head in her lap and continued to heavily stare at her breasts. Ms Hernandez began to laugh nervously and trustee Gordon tried to get trustee Farley’s attention from Ms. Hernandez by pulling him away from Ms. Hernandez and begin to talk loudly to him about his wife and kids. Trustee Farley then turned around to everyone at the table and said loudly, ‘I love my wife but she’s not here!'”

“Then he proceeded to turn back around to attempt to hug Ms. Hernandez. Ms. Hernandez’ significant other was present at the dinner, but was not sitting at this table and did witness Trustee Farley’s behavior, and was very upset at him.”

The conclusion of the investigation summary talked about the difficulty of getting a complete account of the incident because no complaint of sexual harassment was brought to the district human resources at the time.

In an email memo, district lawyer Goluba mentioned that the rules the district follows for sexual harassment reporting may not apply to the anonymous letter allegations because the incident happened three years ago. However, there is sexual harassment policy that fall under other district and board policies that do apply and warranted action.

That memo also laid out options for governing board member Marquez to pursue. Options like talking to the board, excluding Farley, forming an ad-hoc committee and hiring an outside investigator to “make factual findings and whether there was a violation of district policy.”

Marquez said in an email sent to Shipp, Wood and Goluba, in response to the investigation summary, “While I’m saddened bout the incident, I believe a thorough investigation by an outside investigator is warranted. And I’ll recommend it…this incident will not go away without a clear finding.”

The governing board was supposed to take up the issue of Farley in closed session at the Feb. 28 general meeting, but Farley resigned two days before and no trustee except Marquez was made aware of the findings from the preliminary investigation.

“(Farley) would have been aware that I, as chancellor, made the determination to do the preliminary investigation,” Wood told the Inquirer. “He was aware that we done the investigation and that we would be discussing it with the board.”

Now governing board president Marquez said in an interview that he no longer felt indebted to pursue an outside investigation once Farley resigned.

Governing board member Greg Enholm, who was at the dinner, told the Inquirer that the dinner in question was very long ago and doesn’t remember anything other other than that he did go to the dinner.

Farley was repeatedly contacted but did not respond for comment.

But a Feb. 21 email from Goluba to Marquez, Shipp and Wood, Goluba mentioned “I understand Tim doesn’t have a memory of that evening.”

Student governing board member Jessica Cisneros, after seeing portions of the preliminary investigation summary, said “I am disgusted by it and I am glad that he is no longer working for the district.”

Gordon did not respond to our request to comment.

The Inquirer received a copy of the preliminary investigation summary and email correspondence around it as apart of public records request from executive vice chancellor of administrator services Gene Huff at the district office. Upon being questioned, Huff said the summary and the surrounding documents were sent “inadvertently.”