Pima College settled sexual harassment claim

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Pima Community College settled a sexual harassment lawsuit against its former Chancellor, Roy Flores.

KOLD News 13 got word of that Wednesday.

We also learned this week that an education watchdog group will conduct a fact-finding investigation on such allegations and other alleged issues at the college.

The Higher Learning Commission also is looking into allegations of retaliation against employees, and claims the governing board and some senior administrators did not handle allegations properly.

This investigation is significant because this is the group that accredits colleges, and the HLC is  looking to see if PCC is worthy of continued accreditation.

The HLC will send investigators to the college early next year.

PCC Governing Board Chairman Scott Stewart says there were eight sexual harassment complaints made this year by current and former employees, but all allegedly occurred years ago.

He says the statute of limitations ran out on seven of them, but the college settled with an eighth alleged victim.

Stewart referred further questions about this case to the board's lawyer.

We are waiting for details from the attorney.

We asked Stewart why all the allegations were not investigated.

"There were anonymous letters indicating non-specific inappropriate conduct, the kind of thing that's impossible to investigate. We referred those to our board attorney, and he agreed that there was nothing that could be done without something specific and people going on the record," Stewart told us.

The former chancellor, Flores, has denied wrongdoing.

He cited health reasons when he retired earlier this year.

We are attempting to contact him.

Stewart says he agrees there are what he calls weaknesses at the college, including how contracts have been awarded, but he says they are being addressed.

Stewart says he welcomes an independent outside investigation, and expects the college to be cleared.

However, he says he is very concerned about the college's reputation.

Stewart says he's worried about the impact on its reputation among students, parents and taxpayers, and especially now that it is searching for a new chancellor.

"I'm worried about that it will take longer to get someone on board, that ... the environment that we're in right now will potentially chase away good candidates who want to continue making improvements in education. That's my number one concern," Stewart says.

The HLC has the power to require monitoring of the college if it finds anything inappropriate.

Stewart says the problems at the college do not, "rise to the level where you withdraw accreditation. I don't think they even come close to that."

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