Former Vista President Presses Employment Termination Lawsuit, By: J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

Friday February 10, 2006

Allegations last quoted in a Berkeley Daily Planet story have now surfaced in an employment termination lawsuit filed against the Peralta Community College District by a former president of Vista College (now Berkeley City College). 

Reporter Matthew Artz, who left the Daily Planet last year, has been subpoenaed to give a deposition concerning a 2004 Daily Planet article he wrote reporting on charges by former Vista President John Garmon that he was ousted from his job by a “black conspiracy.” 

Garmon’s lawsuit charges that the Peralta District violated his civil and employment procedural rights when it failed to rehire him as Vista president, as well as when it turned him down for the job of Peralta District Chancellor. The Chancellor’s job later went to Elihu Harris. 

In addition to the Peralta District itself, Garmon’s lawsuit also names Berkeley City Councilmember Darryl Moore as a defendant. 

In the article, Artz said that that Garmon, who is white, charged in a June, 2004 letter to Peralta Trustees that the five African-American members of the seven-member board and Chancellor Harris, who is also African-American, based their decision not to renew Garmon’s contract “on racial grounds and voted as a black majority for race-based reasons.” 

Artz quoted Berkeley Councilmember Darryl Moore, then a Peralta Trustee, as saying in response, “The vote had nothing to do with John’s race and everything to do with his performance.” Moore criticized Garmon for failure to properly fundraise for Vista’s new downtown Berkeley campus and for failure to build ties to the community for Vista’s 30th anniversary celebration. 

In a 2004 declaration in support of his lawsuit, Garmon said that he was one of four Peralta College presidents given a one-year contract in June, 2003. 

“I am the sole president who did not get a contract renewal,” Garmon declared. “I am the only Caucasian president. The other three presidents are two African-Americans and one Latino.” 

Garmon added that “before my termination from my contract as president . . . I applied for the Chancellor’s position having stated my position that the Peralta Community College District has a pattern of hiring only African-Americans to not only the president of the Board of Directors but to board members as well. At the time I applied for the chancellor’s position, I applied because the selection process seemed inherently unfair. I had noted a pattern of selecting African-American candidates for positions, including the chancellor’s position, without a search . . .” 

The Peralta District has denied the allegations in Garmon’s complaint.›