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Santa Fe Community College Board settles with ex-president for $500,000

Ana "Cha" Guzman
Ana "Cha" Guzman
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The Santa Fe Community College Board has agreed to pay former SFCC president Ana “Cha” Guzman a half million dollars to end the dispute over Guzman’s firing by the board.

The board issued this statement about 9 p.m. Tuesday:

“All parties care deeply about the College and believe that a mediated settlement is the best way to end this dispute rather than continuing with protracted litigation.

“The College has agreed to pay Dr. Guzman $500,000 in exchange for a release to settle all claims. All parties look forward to putting this dispute behind them. The settlement agreement will be available on March 12.”

In early December, the college board voted 3-2 to dismiss Guzman, about 15 months after she took over the job as SFCC president, hired from a Texas college. She subsequently sued, seeking damages and saying she was not fired for just cause.

In wake of the firing, former board member Andrea Bermúdez — who voted against the dismissal — resigned in protest, saying she didn’t feel her voice on the board was being heard.

Guzman’s lawsuit maintained that she was fired after she wrote a letter to State Auditor Hector Balderas raising concerns about financial mismanagement at the school, including concerns over $1.8 million spent on temporary positions, $342,000 of total charges on one employee’s “procurement” card within a two-year period, $140,000 spent on unscheduled compensation for two dozen employees, and management of $35 million from a bond issue.

But emails released under public records requests showed Guzman was alleged to have referred to the college as a “white women’s country club” and was the target of claims of discrimination. Board members also thought she had been dishonest with the governing board and was seen as alienating important community collaborators, the emails showed.

Guzman’s lawsuit claimed that the three governing board members who voted to fire her concocted a list of alleged wrongdoings that they knew, or should have known, were false.

Guzmán was earning an annual salary of about $196,000. The contract was to extend through the 2016-17 school year.

Randy Grissom, who had been a vice president at the school, has been hired as interim president through July 2015.

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