Following reports of mishandled sexual harassment complaints at Fresno State centering on Frank Lamas, the former Vice President of Student Affairs, Asm. Jim Patterson (R–Fresno) is calling for an audit into the California State University system.
Patterson said Monday that he will make an official request for an independent state audit and hopes the CSU Chancellor’s Office publicly supports it.
“Transparency, honesty, accountability will help us change the system, improve it, and perhaps even make it appropriate and much more easier to hold high level executives of the system accountable,” Patterson said.
Last week, Gannett first reported that then-Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro was personally aware of at least seven of the 12 complaints levied against Lamas.
A formal Title IX complaint in 2019 led to the first investigation into Lamas, even though the complaints started during his first week on the job in 2014.
After the investigation found Lamas responsible for sexually harassing a woman, among other inappropriate conduct, Castro agreed to a settlement with Lamas which saw the vice president retire.
As part of the settlement, Lamas received $260,000 and full retirement benefits, as well as a letter of recommendation from Castro.
Castro reportedly met with then-CSU Chancellor Timothy White to move forward with the settlement.
“The fact that this arrangement was approved at the very highest level within the CSU system tells me significant changes need to be made to protect CSU students and employees from this kind of high-level harassment,” Patterson said.
Patterson was not ready to call on Castro to step down or be suspended until the results of the audit are in.
Instead, Patterson felt that Castro – and other university presidents – have been caught up in the system that is fearful of litigation.
“For goodness sake this has to be a system that looks out for the students and the employees rather than looking out for hiding, doing it in secret, paying off an individual, giving them a letter of recommendation,” Patterson said.
“This just is an embarrassment to the university system, and I think it is much more than what happened at Fresno State. I think that this has to do with a system-wide practice that starts at the very top and is protective of the system, and I think oftentimes the presidents of these universities are caught up in this very kind of system where they may want to do something different but are commanded from the very top to do it in this particular way.”