Martha Garcia has been selected as president of Mt. San Antonio College

Martha Garcia, president/superintendent of College of the Desert since August 2021, has been selected as the new president of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, according to a release from the College.

Director of Public Affairs Jill Dolan told Uken Report Garcia’s salary will not be made public until Wednesday after the contract is finalized.

She will assume her new position July 1. The Mt. SAC Board of Trustees announced today, Friday, April 7, that it had reached an agreement with Dr. Garcia with plans to appoint her during its regular meeting on April 12.

Her departure comes under a black cloud of controversy.

She has been accused of lying about a Feasibility Study and Needs Assessment regarding the Palm Springs Campus.

Garcia, in mid-December of 2021, told the media that a feasibility study and needs assessment had not been performed by the previous administration as required by law, Kinnamon said at the time. Two days later, Dr. Garcia reversed her statement saying that she had discovered the feasibility study on the college’s website.  She further blasted staff in those comments for not providing the information to her after several requests.

If that had occurred as she stated, it would be right for her to condemn staff for their lack of action, Trustee Joel Kinnamon has said.

Uken Report has obtained emails that provide some proof of the above.

In December, College of the Desert Board of Trustees voted unanimously to seek a comprehensive forensic audit to help address concerns that have risen regarding how Desert Community College District is spending — and has spent —money.

The audit will investigate each and every construction contract granted in the past five to eight years in the District. A forensic audit is an examination of an organization’s financial records to look for evidence which can be used in a court of law or legal proceeding.

Concerns center on the cost of developing campuses and facilities in Cathedral City, Coachella, Mecca/Thermal, Palm Desert and Palm Springs.

But her trials at COD don’t end there.

At the Jan. 20 Board of Trustees meeting, Trustee Joel Kinnamon said, “What I am surprised about is the level of potentially illegal political activity that was used against me when I ran for this board. I have recently been presented with copies of emails between former Trustee Aurora Wilson, President Martha Garcia, and the former Board Attorney, which if true, are potential violations of Board Policy 2716 “Political Activity” and the California Political Reform Act.”

In particular, Kinnamon said that on the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022, former Trustee Aurora Wilson received an email from her political campaign consultant, (Tizoc) DeAztlan, asking if Wilson had a chance to look at the new Bond video produced for her political campaign in which candidate Wilson narrated.

One month before Trustee Joel Kinnamon, an outspoken critic of Garcia, was elected to the Board of Trustees, the Board of voted 3-2 to extend Garcia’s contract — and give her a lofty pay hike.

The increase boosted Garcia’s annual base salary to more than $397,000 per year, about a 12% increase to her current salary. Her term was extended one year through June 2025, and her severance pay will increase from 12 to 18 months of salary. By her taking another job, COD avoids a hefty payout.

Garcia was selected from a group of 12 semifinalists who interviewed for the position.

One of the largest community colleges in California, Mt. San Antonio College, serves nearly 20 local communities and has educated more than 1.2-million people since opening in 1946.  The college, which is located in Walnut about 25 miles from downtown Los Angeles, is a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI).

“It is with great pleasure that we welcome Garcia to Mt. SAC as its 10th president, its first female president in 50 years, and its first president of color,” Gary Chow, Mt. SAC Board of Trustees president said in a prepared statement. “Dr. Garcia has demonstrated she is committed to the transformative power of higher education, and the Board is confident she will provide excellent, inclusive, and student-focused leadership at Mt. SAC.”

As president, Garcia will serve as the chief executive officer for the largest single-district college in the state.

“I am ecstatic at the opportunity to lead Mt. SAC and I am grateful the Board has entrusted me to serve as the next president,” Garcia said in a prepared  statement. “I am looking forward to working with the college’s teams and especially to serving students. That’s why I do what I do.”

Uken Report could not immediately reach Garcia for comment.

Prior to joining College of the Desert, she served as superintendent/president of Imperial Valley College.

Garcia’s selection follows input and feedback from Mt. SAC students, faculty, staff and the community.  She will replace Bill Scroggins, who is retiring in June after leading Mt. SAC for 12 years.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.