City College chancellor steps down; Christmas ruined for thousands



How can the people of San Francisco make it through the holiday season without crying uncontrollably over the just-announced departure of San Francisco City College Chancellor Phil Day? In a statement, Day apologized profusely for destroying your Christmas.

"I am truly sorry that I must deliver this message on the eve of our traditional holiday break but I did not want you to find out about this by reading the papers or having it via news reports."

Thank you for being so kind, Chancellor. Clearly the media frenzy resulting from your official announcement to step down is making it difficult for San Franciscans to concentrate on their celebrations -- including the public and private critics of your administration, many of whom worked hard to help us understand just how much of a mess the school's costly bond projects are in.

His statement was released yesterday, but the Chron hasn't even reported it yet and we weren't exactly rushing to scoop it. But hey, he just wanted to deliver the bombshell before 60 Minutes seized upon it. We haven't actually had an easy time selling City College stories to readers. We just reported them because we think community colleges are important.

But enough with teasing the chancellor over being melodramatic. Let's review the wonderful gifts Day will be leaving behind before heading to Washington to become president of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators:

-A 2005 investigation by the district attorney into a Chinatown land deal involving the school and a group of businessmen that included power player Pius Lee. The school inexplicably paid $8.7 million for two slivers of land that the county determined for tax purposes was worth only $1.7 million. The DA's office began questioning school administrators mere weeks before a November 2005 bond election in which City College asked voters for $246.3 million for ongoing capital works projects. We didn't learn of the investigation until August of this year and three of the school's trustees stated they weren't aware of it.

-Another investigation of the school this year by the district attorney into reports first revealed by the Chronicle's Lance Williams that the school had used a $10,000 lease payment from a business tenant to help bankroll a campaign committee formed for the purpose of promoting the 2005 bond election. Day claimed it was an accident and blamed it on a "relatively new" assistant vice chancellor.

-A half-billion dollar bond program that first began in 1997 and is today more than $225 million over budget. Due to the colossal cost overruns, school administrators led by Day returned to the board of trustees five times asking to "reallocate" $130 million in funds away from projects promised to voters. At least two projects likely won't see the light of day unless the school returns to the ballot a fourth time.

-Active resistance to attempts by skeptical trustees to conduct a thorough management audit of the bond expenditures to determine why project costs had grown so much. Our stories on the projects led state legislator Fiono Ma to call for a state audit. Ma agreed to wait until the school finished its own audit before deciding if a closer look was necessary. We profiled another school district in the Bay Area that had received such audits for years, but taxpayers here have never seen one. Of course, by the time the public actually sees a real audit of Day's bond spending, he'll be long gone. He's leaving in March, so the probe's results will fall into someone else's lap.

Be sure to send your new number from the East Coast, chancellor. We'll have some follow-up questions.

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