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Golden handshake raises questions

Palomar College President Robert Deegan announced his retirement on Oct. 15 during a public forum on campus. The timing however is problematic.

Coincidentally, the Governing Board approved for the college to offer a Supplementary Early Retirement Plan, also referred to as a “golden handshake,” during a Sept. 9 meeting.

Deegan would retire in June, just in time to join other staffers who accept the “handshake” to receive up to 75 percent of their annual salary as an incentive.

Deegan said his retirement is not related to the incentive but retiring in time to get the extra money in June gives school officials less time to find his replacement.

This timing seems awfully convenient.

In 2013, Deegan earned a base pay of roughly $269,000. That means, when he officially leaves Palomar at the end of next semester, he may potentially receive nearly $202,000 as an incentive bonus although Vice President of Human Resources John Tortarolo said via email he will receive “significantly lower percentage than the other eligible faculty and staff.” He would not elaborate.

Deegan is pushing for Palomar officials to skip the interim president possibility and find a permanent replacement before he leaves in June.

But that timeline is too tight and could leave Palomar with a less-than-ideal candidate.

The Telescope staff is not the only ones to notice this.

During an Oct. 28 Governing Board Meeting, Palomar officials noted how rushed of a timeline it was to create a selection committee to choose the next president by the end of next semester.

The issue of who is on the committee is part of the timing problem. Some at the meeting didn’t want those who may take the golden handshake to serve on the hiring committee. While Deegan and others felt that not allowing them to serve before they leave is discriminatory.

The Telescope isn’t sure who is right on that one, but feels it is one more symptom of a mess caused by this retirement program. The unpredictability of the process and Deegan’s impending departure is creating havoc at Palomar College during a time when school officials should be focusing on important things such as accreditation, which will be coming next March.

Accreditation affects students. If we lose it, their classes won’t transfer. Students’ welfare should be everyone’s priority

The Golden Handshake certainly raises a lot of questions; all we want is answers.

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  • opinion telescope logo: Telescope Staff/The Telescope | All Rights Reserved
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