The former chancellor of City College of San Francisco and two associate vice chancellors pleaded not guilty today in San Francisco Superior Court to charges of misusing public funds and making illegal campaign contributions.
Former chancellor Philip Day Jr., who headed City College between 1998 and 2008, faces eight felony counts and one misdemeanor in connection with the alleged misuse of nearly $150,000 in school money.
Prosecutors say Day diverted money toward political campaigns for local and state education bond measures to benefit community colleges in 2001, 2005 and 2006, and used $45,000 for a secret fund that paid for expenses such as parking tickets, alcohol at functions, and a membership at an exclusive business club in San Francisco.
The charges against Day include conspiracy, misappropriation of public funds, concealing an account of public money, grand theft, use of college funds to support a political campaign, and making a political contribution in the name of another.
Day, 63, resigned from his post as head of a Washington, D.C. education lobbying group last week after the charges were filed, saying he didn’t want it to be a distraction from the group’s work.
Also charged were associate vice chancellors Stephen Herman and James Blomquist, who were placed on paid leave from the school last week. Herman faces seven felonies and a misdemeanor, and Blomquist one felony and one misdemeanor.
All three men surrendered to authorities Monday and remain out of custody after posting bail.
At this morning’s arraignment, attorneys for Day and Herman asked Judge Paul Alvarado to lower bail for the two men, who posted $75,000 and $65,000 cash bonds, respectively. Blomquist posted $10,000.
Day’s attorney Christina Arguedas argued Day “has never been accused of doing anything wrong in his life.”
“He has a stellar reputation and is respected and admired both in San Francisco and throughout the country,” Arguedas said.
“He’s not a person who is of means,” she added.
Arguedas said the men were not warned ahead of time of the charges, which she called “technical election law violations.”
Even the allegation of use of money for the business club membership “was never for personal gain,” she said.
“The point is, there are no dollars going into his pocket as a result of this case,” Arguedas said.
Herman’s attorney Michael Sweet agreed, and added that his client has cooperated with the two-year investigation in the case.
Sweet said Herman has a bedridden spouse in San Francisco who needs daily personal care.
“Simply put, Mr. Herman can’t leave town,” Sweet said. “He’s no flight risk. If he did, his spouse would die.”
Prosecutor Evan Ackiron disputed the claim that the charges were not serious and merely technical.
“That is categorically not true,” Ackiron said. He added that his office had already requested bail be set at half the normal amount, taking into account the defendants’ personal situations.
Alvarado reduced bail for Day and Herman to $10,000 each, based on the representations of their attorneys, he said.
The men are scheduled to return to court Sept. 1 for a status hearing in the case.
After today’s hearing, Arguedas told reporters, “Not one thin dime went into his (Day’s) pocket.”
“The idea that anyone would call these errors criminal is highly inappropriate,” she said.