Thursday, April 14, 2022

Your tax dollars at work

Former Sonoma State University administrator received $600K settlement over retaliation for reporting alleged sexual harassment

The California State University system paid $600,000 in January to a former top Sonoma State University administrator to resolve a dispute related to staff complaints of sexual harassment involving SSU President Judy Sakaki’s husband, records obtained by The Press Democrat reveal.

The seven-page settlement and the claim that triggered it show former provost Lisa Vollendorf accused Sakaki of retaliation for reporting sexual harassment complaints by several female Sonoma State employees against Patrick McCallum. He is Sakaki’s husband and a prominent education lobbyist.

Vollendorf in 2018 reported allegations to the California State University executive vice chancellor, “which painted a cohesive picture of harassment” by McCallum, according to Vollendorf’s July 26, 2021, claim.

That claim and the ensuing settlement — signed Jan. 13 by Vollendorf, CSU’s attorney, Sakaki and McCallum — were provided to The Press Democrat on Wednesday morning by the CSU Chancellor’s Office based in Long Beach after a public records request.

The documents do not describe specific behavior or detailed allegations related to McCallum.

But on Wednesday afternoon, university spokesperson Julia Gonzalez said the nature of complaints brought to administrators, “even if they were substantiated, would not likely constitute sexual harassment.”

“(They) involved complaints of touching and conversations that made some individuals uncomfortable,” she said.

Sakaki, in a statement late Wednesday, said she was “surprised and saddened” when she heard of the allegations against her husband.

“Although he denies engaging in any inappropriate behavior, it was important for him and me to learn about these concerns,” her statement read. “There have been no complaints since we were informed of the concerns.”


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