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President of Trade Tech asked to resign over foundation scandal

April 25, 2012 |  5:26 pm

Trade tech
The faculty governing body at Los Angeles Trade Technical College issued a no-confidence vote Wednesday  on President Roland "Chip" Chapdelaine and called on him to resign over a financial scandal at the college's foundation.

Chapdelaine announced earlier this month that he would retire in June 2013, when his contract ends. But faculty leaders said they want him out by the end of the current year.

The no-confidence vote by the Academic Senate was the first in the school's history. The final vote was 17 to 1, with 6 abstaining.

The Trade Tech foundation, a semi-autonomous nonprofit that raises money for scholarships and college programs at Trade Tech, is the subject of a college district audit and a Los Angeles County district attorney's investigation over lavish spending and bonuses paid to the foundation executive director, as well as allegations that signatures on some checks written to her were forged.

The executive director, Rhea Chung, is on administrative leave. She was Chapdelaine's former executive assistant.

Chapdelaine claimed to have no knowledge of many of the payments to Chung, including a $1,500 monthly car allowance (the same amount he and other district executives receive), a $22,000 "performance bonus" not allowed by district policy and $2,000 monthly pay on top of her salary for foundation work to run a youth orchestra.

In addition to the bonuses, Chung spent tens of thousands of dollars in foundation funds on golf outings and restaurant meals, which she said were all necessary to meet with potential donors.

Faculty said they questioned whether the almost daily restaurant meals -- some at places such at Pizza Hut and Papa John's -- and weekly golf outings, most of them at a "mediocre L.A. city course at Griffith Park” involved foundation business.

Faculty said Chapdelaine had ignored warnings about potential improprieties and was responsible under the state education code for making sure the foundation's finances were handled appropriately.

"The buck stops with Chip," said John McDowell, head of the labor center at Trade Tech and faculty co-chair of the college council. McDowell said he thought Chapdelaine had done some good things for the school but that the foundation scandal had left a cloud over the school that would not lift until it gets new leadership.

Others said they were angered that so much foundation money went into Chung's pocket or to the youth orchestra rather than to helping needy students.

"I have students that still don't have a textbook, and they look at this and they look at me and say,  'What are you guys doing?' " said Rose Maina, a professor of behavioral science at the college.

Chapdelaine said he had not seen the resolution and could not comment on it.


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Photo: Students at Los Angeles Trade Technical College stretch before taking their final in pole-climbing skills. Credit: Irfan Khan / LA Times