Merced College officials on Tuesday denied allegations that acting President Susan Walsh tried to have a member of the board of trustees arrested in April.
Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke on Monday told the Sun-Star that Walsh had tried to use the campus police department as a “political tool.” The sheriff’s office oversees campus police.
Walsh, through college spokesman Robin Shepard, refused a Sun-Star request for an interview. Shepard told the Sun-Star that Walsh denies the allegations raised by the sheriff and would have no further comment on the matter.
He also said that Walsh would not discuss the allegations with reporters because she “has no reason to at this point.”
As far as those allegations, the president denies them.
Robin Shepard, Merced College spokesman
Walsh was named acting president in January and becomes interim president in July, according to records. She replaced Ron Taylor, who was placed on leave in January without explanation by the board of trustees.
After taking on the role, Warnke said that Walsh tried to have campus police arrest a trustee who was thought to have recorded audio during a closed-session meeting. Warnke said there was no indication anything illegal had happened.
Cindy Lashbrook, the Merced College trustee for Area 1, said that allegation refers to a closed-door meeting in which she had placed her cellphone on the table. “One board member asked me if I was taping a meeting,” she told the Sun-Star on Tuesday.
Lashbrook said she did not know a report had reached the campus police until she saw Warnke’s comments in the Sun-Star but said, “I’m not surprised.”
On another occasion, according to the sheriff, Walsh wanted the college police to check for fingerprints on an anonymous letter that was “disparaging.” The department refused the request.
Campus Police Chief Vince Gallagher consulted the District Attorney’s Office and it was determined there was no probable cause to arrest the school board trustee, Warnke told the Sun-Star on Tuesday.
“I’m flabbergasted that they would deny that it occurred,” Warnke said. “Sergeant Gallagher came to the administrative staff immediately with the information about these two requests.”
Harold Nutt, Merced County chief deputy district attorney, confirmed speaking with Gallagher about the alleged incident.
“As I recall, it was a case of one faction pointing the finger at the other faction,” Nutt told the Sun-Star. “In those kinds of cases, what we typically advise is that they not make an arrest and just send us the report so we can review it and determine whether it’s appropriate.”
The college pays $174,000 to have a sergeant on campus to run the department of four sworn officers charged with maintaining security at the 267-acre campus, which had nearly 4,200 full-time students enrolled as of last fall.
The college and sheriff’s office are in the midst of a contract dispute over the campus police. The college pays $174,000 to have a sergeant on campus to run the department of four sworn officers charged with maintaining security at the 267-acre campus, which had nearly 4,200 full-time students enrolled as of last fall.
Shepard said the college wants to have say over who the sergeant is, which has been the policy for the past 16 years. Warnke has made changes to the agreement that would give him sole decision-making over the sergeant.
Shepard addressed the Merced County Board of Supervisors during its Tuesday meeting. “Frankly, we’re surprised about Sheriff Warnke’s inflammatory remarks about Dr. Walsh, and we believe his public attack is both unnecessary and regrettable,” he told the board.
He said the college is looking into contracting with another law enforcement agency.
Digital Content Editor Rob Parsons contributed to this report.