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Patrick Lanning: 9 months and $140,000 later …

Patrick Lanning

Patrick Lanning

Cheryl Roberts, President of Chemeketa Community College

Cheryl Roberts

BY MATTHEW SKOG

Nine months after being placed on administrative leave, Chemeketa’s former vice president has cost students and taxpayers more than $140,000.

Patrick Lanning, who also was president of the Yamhill campus, was placed on administrative leave in early February after being accused of sexual misconduct by a college employee.

Since then, Chemeketa officials said the college has spent more than $140,000 in salary, legal fees, and an out-of-court settlement with Lanning. Lanning received $84,524.56 in salary from the time that he was placed on administrative leave to his eventual firing on June 30.

From February through the end of October, the college spent $39,005 in legal fees associated with Lanning.

In July, Lanning threatened to sue the college for breach of contract, defamation, and failure to pay wages. Lanning and the college settled out of court for $38,391.

Of that settlement, the college’s insurance covered $20,000.

On top of these costs, an unquantifiable amount of staff time was spent dealing with the issue, according to college officials.

In total, the college to date has spent more than $140,000 related to the Lanning case. That amount of money would be sufficient to pay the salaries of three new, full-time instructors.

Andrew Bone, the college’s executive dean, said that while the cost was unfortunate, it was also justified.

“The issue of the cost is a difficult one,” Bone said. “We don’t like having to spend the public’s money on these kinds of things but believe that spend- ing the public’s money on further litigation was worse.”

Bone cited caution as one of the main factors in the college’s decision-making process.

“A useful analogy can be rock climbing,” he said. “When you rock-climb, you have to make some decisions: Do you want to be reckless and fast, or careful and slow?

“That’s why I compare it to rock-climbing. People can criticize someone for being slow. But it’s hard to argue, when they get there safely, that they took the wrong approach.

“It’s hard to argue against caution. Our legal strategy was cautious.”

Greg Harris, the college’s dean of marketing and public affairs, said that the financial costs incurred were only part of what the college has paid.

“The settlement was only part of the cost,” Harris said. “But that isn’t the only price the college paid. Chemeketa’s public image was impacted, as was morale.

“It’s been an unfortunate distraction from our reason for being here – to create a learning environment for students to succeed.”

Harris also said, “We feel like the college responded in a way that pro- tected the rights of everyone involved, protected the college from litigation, and kept the focus on the needs of our students.”

Cheryl Roberts, Chemeketa’s former president, was Lanning’s supervisor at the time of the incident. She said via email that she believed the college handled the incident in a way that was both fair to all parties involved and as fast as the process would allow.

“The college followed the process as outlined in college policy and the administrative handbook,” Roberts said. “The nature of the referral required interviews of several people, some of whom were not available to the investi- gator for a time.

“Then the information obtained needed to be fully considered in light of the college policies and the college’s past actions. Then meetings to afford due process to all employees were scheduled, as required under the college policies.

“It is my belief that the college did its best to keep the process moving and to reach resolution so we could focus on our mission.

“As a part of ensuring all parties’ rights were protected, we also dealt with numerous requests for information from the media which added to the cost in both staff time and attorney fees.”

Bone said he recognized that the situation had cost Chemeketa more than just money.

“I was saddened by the whole thing,” he said. “I was saddened by how it impacted so many people’s lives. I’m sorry for the cost to students, and the cost to our college’s reputation.

“It’s a very sad situation.”

Numerous attempts by the Courier to contact Lanning for comment were unsuccessful. Lanning’s lawyer also did not respond to a request for comment.

A lawsuit filed by the alleged victim against both Lanning and the college is pending.

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