The Pasadena City College Board of Trustees voted Wednesday morning to terminate a school official who had been linked to a bribery case.
Dr. Richard van Pelt, who lives in Altadena but serves on the successor agency to Sierra Madre's Redevelopment Agency, had been put on administrative leave on June 7 after Pasadena City College received notice from the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office that search warrants were being served at his home and office on campus as part of an investigation.
During a special meeting scheduled today for 7 a.m. at the Community Education Center, the Board of Trustees entered closed session and voted unanimously with one abstention from Area 3 Trustee Berlinda Brown to relieve van Pelt of his role as vice president of administrative services.
“This action will be final, effective immediately upon delivery of the Board’s written decision to Dr. van Pelt,” wrote Board President and Area 1 Trustee Geoffrey Baum in a release. “The Board’s action is independent of the ongoing criminal investigation of the Los Angeles County District Attorney.”
According to Dave Demerjian of the Public Integrity Division of the District Attorney’s Office, van Pelt was allegedly accepting bribes from contractors in exchange for construction contracts on campus.
“The allegation was a solicitation of contracts for the college,” Demerjian said. “In March this year, the D.A. had received a complaint from an individual which prompted the investigation.”
In an interview with the Courier, PCC’s news publication, College President Dr. Mark Rocha would move forward with replacements regardless on whether van Pelt was found guilty.
“The investigation if a whole separate matter,” Rocha said in the interview. “Our main focus is moving forward.”
Van Pelt played a critical role in the college administration, overseeing the college’s business affairs, including the college’s $100-million-plus annual expenditures. He was in charge of preparing the annual budget, planning and approving all maintenance and construction projects, managing payroll, and supervising the Campus Police Department and bookstore.
Van Pelt also oversaw plans to demolish the Armen Sarafian Hall, also known as the U Building, and replace it with a new $70-million structure in 2010. The U Building, as of right now, is still standing and houses classrooms and laboratories for the natural sciences division.
Currently, Vice President of Educational Services Robert Miller has taken over as the acting vice president of administrative services.
Baum also wrote that Rocha recommended the termination of Dr. Alfred Hutchings, a supervisor of Facilities Services who was also put on administrative leave in relation to the bribery case.
“As a classified employee of the District, Dr. Hutchings has the right to pursue administrative remedies before the Board’s final decision is reported publicly,” Baum wrote.
The Board of Trustees will be having another meeting today in Pasadena City College at 7 p.m.
The meeting was originally scheduled to take place at the Altadena Library on Mariposa Street as part of the “Community Listening Tour,” however because of space limitations, the meeting was moved back to PCC.
“The room at the Altadena Library was too small,” said Director of Public Relations Juan Gutierrez. “It just wasn’t going to cut it.”
Members of the community are still invited to attend today’s meeting in the Creveling Lounge.