Black ECC Executive Files Discrimination Complaint Against School

With the first state audit of Erie Community College in 20 years due to be released shortly at a time when the institution is facing serious financial challenges, new legal concerns are emerging for President Jack Quinn and his administration in the form of a discrimination complaint filed with the state by the black former associate vice president for legal affairs, Marsha Jackson, who says she was discriminated against “on the basis of my race and color” and denied the opportunity to apply for a higher position.

Jackson, who has a Ph. D. from SUNY Buffalo in higher education administration retired from ECC in October where she was earning $98,000 a year with over 32 years in the higher education administration field.  She was first hired at ECC in December of 2000.

In her complaint filed with the State Division for Human Rights, Jackson said she was denied the opportunity to obtain the position of executive vice president of student affairs which was later filled by a lesser qualified person by appointment of Quinn, an appointment that was approved by the Board of Directors.

Jackson states in her complaint that “I and other African-Americans have complained about Mr. Quinn’s discriminatory hiring practices to the Board of Trustees, which is also aware of Mr. Quinn dispensing with customary search committees when hiring high-level Caucasians and is also aware of the contents of the ECC August, 2011 Diversity Plan, which it adopted on Aug. 31, 2011.  I therefore allege that ECC, through its Board of Trustees, has condoned, approved and ratified the discriminatory practices alleged herein.”

Steve Boyd, the chairman of the board, declined to comment on the complaint filed by Jackson.

That’s not the only legal problem facing the college.  Last March, we reported that Eileen Flaherty, the former human resources commissioner at ECC, filed a federal human rights lawsuit that singles out Kristin Klein Wheaton–the executive vice president for legal affairs and Quinn’s top aide– for age discrimination and retaliation before she was terminated by the administration without warning while on medical leave.

We have also learned this week that Wheaton and 20 or so other senior executive staff members were being considered for 2 percent raises by the board after the settlement of two major union contracts over the last several weeks although Boyd said the board has not moved forward with raises for the senior staff at this time.

In the face of surging health care costs and the growing fiscal crisis at ECC, buyouts have been offered to the senior staff, administrators union, and the Faculty Federation, offers which ended on Wednesday (Dec. 16).

Boyd said by text that 37 members of the Faculty Federation accepted the buyout offer.  The cost to ECC was $1,349,128 vs. a total yearly salary cost of $2,727,498.  Twelve members of the administrators union took buyouts, totaling $442,388 vs. the one-year salary total of $1,045,546.  The school had budgeted $200,000 for senior staff buyouts, but only one member took it, at a cost of $40,000 vs. a yearly salary of $107,000.

Erie County has only slightly increased its annual subsidy to ECC, leaving its contribution far below the 26.7 percent called for in the funding formula under state law for community colleges.  The school, under Quinn, has depleted the reserve fund and hiked tuition to keep the institution above water, but without a significant increase in county and state assistance, future tuition hikes and other emergency measures seem certain.   The findings of a recent state audit are expected to be released sometime next month.

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