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2009 July 27 - 12:00 am

LEGAL CORNER: Calif. College Officials Charged with Misusing Funds

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The former chancellor at the City College of San Francisco has been charged with making illegal campaign contributions and steering public funds to a secret account used in part to buy liquor and pay parking tickets, prosecutors said.

District Attorney Kamala Harris' office said it filed eight felony counts against former Chancellor Philip Day Jr., including conspiracy, grand theft, misappropriation of public funds and using college funds to support a political campaign.

Two associate vice chancellors currently employed by City College — Stephen Herman, 61, and James Blomquist, 62 — also face charges. All three men have entered not guilty pleas in San Francisco Superior Court.

Day, 63, was chancellor of the 110,000-student college from 1998 to 2008. He recently resigned as head of the National Association of Student Aid Administrators in Washington. Herman and Blomquist have been placed on paid leave of absences by the college.

Prosecutors allege that Day and Herman directed vendors who owed money to City College to make contributions totaling $70,000 to campaign committees for San Francisco community college bond measures in 2001 and 2005. They're also accused of diverting $28,000 to a committee promoting a statewide community college bond measure in 2006.

In addition, the men are accused of steering $45,000 in City College funds to a slush fund at the college's foundation that paid for alcohol at parties Day hosted, parking tickets run up by wealthy donors and a private club membership for the former chancellor.

Prosecutors say Blomquist asked a vendor to pay $10,000 owed to City College to the 2005 San Francisco bond campaign committee.

Michael Sweet, an attorney for Herman, said his client is innocent and has been cooperating with the investigation for the past two years.

Jim Collins, an attorney for Blomquist, said he has not seen the complaint, but “I don't believe that Mr. Blomquist did anything intentionally wrong.”

Day and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

If convicted of all counts, Day and Herman face up to nine years in state prison and more than $300,000 in fines, Harris said. Blomquist faces up to three years in prison and $30,000 in fines, she said.

“We will not tolerate people abusing their positions of power and trust for personal benefit,” Harris said. “In this age of diminished public resources, there can be no tolerance for that kind of behavior and activity.”

All three men are being ordered to surrender to authorities.. Bail was set for $75,000 for Day, $65,000 for Herman, and $10,000 for Blomquist, according to the district attorney's office.

Harris' office began the investigation after the San Francisco Chronicle published a story in April 2007 about questionable fundraising practices by Day and other City College administrators.

In a statement, City College said two investigations were conducted at the request of the Board of Trustees after allegations of misdirected funds surfaced two years ago. In August last year, the school adopted new policies to prevent illegal campaign activities by its employees.

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