Gordon Investigated for Misconduct, Harassment and Mismanagement


Cindy Pantoja/ The Advocate

District Governing Board Member Vicki Gordon engaged in several acts of misconduct, failed to adhere to Board policy, and made improper communications to fellow Board members and District employees, according to an independent investigation by the district that concluded in July 2020.

By Emma Hall, Advocate Staff

District Investigation: Board Member Gordon Harassed Other Board Members, Engaged in ‘Several Acts of Misconduct’

District Governing Board Member Vicki Gordon engaged in several acts of misconduct, failed to adhere to Board policy, and made improper communications to fellow Board members and District employees, according to an independent investigation by the district.

Gordon has been the subject of several HR complaints and a district investigation this summer regarding ethical misconduct. The district investigation concluded in July and released its findings in a July 8 letter to Gordon.

The letter is written by 4CD Governing Board President Rebecca Barrett, but reflects the findings of an independent attorney investigator.

The investigation found multiple instances of unethical behavior, with supporting evidence.

Gordon denies wrongdoing, claiming retaliation by political opponents; but she does admit to caustic exchanges with fellow board members, including phone calls while intoxicated.

For this story, The Advocate reviewed public and internal district documents, and conducted interviews with several sources to corroborate claims.

The district investigation found that Gordon engaged in several acts of misconduct and made improper communications to persuade, harass, influence, and/or annoy fellow Board members and district employees.

“In conclusion, the alleged issues have been comprehensively covered and the allegations were investigated,” the July 8 letter states. “It has been determined by the preponderance of evidence standard that three of the four allegations were sustained… Moreover, you took steps to intentionally interfere with the negotiation process, and engaged in a financial conflict of interest.”

Gordon released an “open letter” in August to address the investigation. The letter states the investigation is a smear campaign and refers to the investigation’s findings as “accusations.”

Gordon declined additional comment for this story, instead referring Advocate staff to the open letter for her perspective.

In her letter, Gordon claims the district investigation is retaliation for speaking out against pension padding within the district.

Pension Padding – a $1.2 million ‘error,’ but is it related?

“Pension padding” refers to a 2017 investigation by the district and CalPERS. The investigation reviewed 100 district retirees who, from 2010 to 2015, received pension overpayments from unused vacation time converted to sick leave.

By converting unused vacation time to sick leave, it bumped up district employee’s years of service, which also increased pension amounts.

CalPERS agency spokeswoman Amy Morgan told The East Bay Times that these operations are not allowed within CalPERS.

“The sick leave/vacation pay pension issue wasn’t resolved and arose again in 2017 after a cost of the errors was then $1.2 million, affecting management as well as faculty and Local 1 members,” she wrote. “The solutions all carried a significant cost and required negotiation with affected bargaining units. This was a painful chapter that left hard feelings.”

Fellow Board Members endorse Gordon’s opponent

In her letter, Gordon accused sitting 4CD Governing Board President Rebecca Barrett of being politically motivated.

“I believe that political opponents, including the current Board chair Rebecca Barrett, have gone to such lengths to seek to smear me,” wrote Gordon.

Barrett, as well as 4CD Vice President Andy Li, have endorsed Gordon’s election opponent, Judy Walters. Barrett explained that while the decision to endorse an opponent of someone on the board is unusual, she believes her endorsement will help the board’s future behavior change.

“This wasn’t a decision I took lightly and quite frankly it’s incredibly uncomfortable,” said Barrett. “But at some point you have to do what you think is right.”

Barrett says that she endorsed Walters after Gordon’s investigations. She also expressed frustration that the investigation’s findings are referred to as “accusations.”

“I sat down with the investigator personally for several hours,” said Barrett. “(The investigator) interviewed every board member, I had access to any senior staff member that they needed to interview, they had access to emails, documents, and these were their findings.”

“It baffles me that they’re still being referred to as allegations,” she said. “They were findings of fact.”

Barrett said she found the pension padding to be a red herring, because that incident was before her election.

Health Care Premium Increase

The district investigation found that Gordon called several district employees to pull a Management Council Memorandum of Understanding from a meeting agenda for her own personal gain. According to the investigation, this MOU would have increased the amount of money Gordon would pay in healthcare premiums.

A poll was sent out to district managers, supervisors, and confidential employees asking about a revote on the MOU, which included a 12-percent increase in mental and dental premiums. The majority voted not to remove the MOU.

Additionally, concern was voiced by Joseph Gonga, dean of Physical, Biological, and Health Sciences and Engineering Technology at Diablo Valley College. Gonga said that the poll was only received by 86 out of 140 managers.

Regarding this allegation, Gordon wrote in her open letter that she was representing the desires of district employees.

Gordon claims high-paid, unrepresented management staff sought a salary increase to cover a rise in the employee share of health care premium costs. Some district employees complained they could not offset the cost, she wrote.

Gordon also stated she received calls from management group employees with concerns about the change, who feared coming forward due to retaliation.

According to an email exchange provided by the district investigation, several people were upset about the quickness of the vote and felt they didn’t have enough information.

Phone calls under the influence and inappropriate contact

The district investigation found that Gordon called board members Barrett and Li before their official swearing in, trying to gain voting support for her Board presidency. Gordon also admitted that she engaged in phone calls while intoxicated, where she threatened and harassed other Board members.

Gordon was also upset when Li was chosen as board representative for the chancellor selection committee in 2019, prompting an email exchange obtained by The Advocate.

In one email, Gordon writes that Li’s selection was “not an honor bestowed upon (him).”

“There is so much you don’t understand yet,” wrote Gordon. “You have not taken all of the Board President’s workshop. You have gone to a few sessions, but you have not completed the workshop. I really believed you were a better person. I am so sorry to find out how wrong I was.”

Gordon also wrote to Li that she didn’t want to serve on the committee, claiming she had other plans for January.

The exchange occurred while Gordon was president of the 4CD board.

Regarding the email exchange, Gordon told SFGate she’s “apologized [to Li] until the cows come home.”

Gordon is a sitting trustee on the 4CD board after signing a resolution agreement back in July. The resolution requires that Gordon seek alcohol abuse treatment, refrain from communicating with Board members after 6 p.m., and the immediate resignation of her role as board secretary.

Gordon’s term expires on Dec. 4.