SANBORN – James P. Klyczek retired Wednesday afternoon as president of Niagara County Community College, less than three hours before the college Board of Trustees was expected to fire him.
Klyczek has been under fire for insulting remarks he reportedly made regarding a woman who reported being sexually assaulted on campus last summer.
A federal grand jury also is investigating the circumstances surrounding the awarding of contracts in 2011 for the NCCC Culinary Institute in Niagara Falls. Emails by Klyczek, leaked to The Buffalo News and other media outlets, seemed to show Klyczek attempting to manipulate the bidding process for a legal services contract.
Board Chairman Vincent R. Ginestre said Klyczek called him about 2 p.m. Wednesday to let him know he had decided to step down.
At 2:41 p.m., Ginestre received an email from Klyczek, which read, "This is to notify you of my retirement from Niagara County Community College, effective at 2:45 p.m. April 26, 2017. I have completed the required retirement paperwork with Vicki Orzetti in the Human Resources Office."
Ginestre said the board would have been voting at 5:30 p.m. on Klyczek's removal.
Instead, it met to name Luba Chliwniak, vice president for academic affairs, as "officer in charge" for up to 90 days. According to the college's by-laws, the academic vice president is the designated replacement, but Ginestre promised "a comprehensive search for a permanent selection."
A new interim president
An interim president will be chosen first. The board may take some actions on the search at its next meeting on May 9.
Chliwniak, whose regular salary is $134,000 a year, will be paid an extra $10,500 for 90 days of service as officer in charge.
Klyczek came to NCCC in 2001 and became acting president in April 2002. He was formally chosen president in November 2002 with a salary of $120,000. By this year, his annual base pay had risen to $200,907.
According to his contract, if Klyczek had been fired, he would have been paid his full salary for the final year of his contract. By quitting, he does not receive that.
He is expected to receive a benefit package, but details were not available Wednesday.
"The board is going to take control of the college and we're going to work diligently to bring it back to where it needs to be," Trustee Bonnie R. Sloma said.
She was among a group of board members who thought Klyczek should have been ousted as soon as word broke of the federal investigation.
But the group was unable to round up six votes on the 10-member board to oust him.
Then, WKBW-TV reported recordings of Klyczek calling the sexual assault victim "stupid" and "dumber than a doorknob."
After the surreptitiously recorded tapes were disclosed, several trustees said Klyczek certainly would have been fired at the meeting on Wednesday.
"What is she, stupid?" Klyczek said of the victim on the tape obtained by Channel 7. "I mean, no, seriously. This just aggravated me. Make us the guilty party because you're too stupid to follow your instinct that this guy sits down next to you and there's nobody else around, you agree to take him on a tour. That is as dumb as can be."
The victim reportedly wanted her daughter to attend NCCC.
"Her daughter should be worried, because if she's got her mother's genes, she's dumber than a doorknob," Klyczek said, according to Channel 7.
"The board wants to clearly state that Dr. Klyczek's reported words and actions have been inappropriate, insensitive and inconsistent with the values of our college," Ginestre said.
"We need to assert accountability and restore integrity to our college," Trustee Vincent M. Sandonato said.
"I'm just really thankful that we can put this in the past," Sloma said. "There's been a lot of damage done to the college. Now, our attention can be on the college and restoring it back to where it needs to be, instead of on all our previous president's issues."
Ginestre's view of NCCC's status is more optimistic.
"The college is academically strong, fiscally sound and safe, but we're going to make it even safer," Ginestre said.
The state's university system issued a statement saying it "strongly supports" the board's decision to oust Klyczek if he hadn't quit.
"The University categorically rejects the reported statements attributed to Dr. Klyczek about victims and survivors of crime and violence. The reported statements were inappropriate, unfair to the victims, and do not represent the values of The State University of New York. SUNY will be conducting a review of the facts of this case to determine if there were violations of law or policy," the statement said.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the state wants to ascertain whether there were adequate notifications of the sexual assaults to members of the college community, as required by New York's 2015 "Enough is Enough" law on campus sex crimes.
Death in jail
DeJuan L. Hunt II, 25, of Niagara Falls, was charged with both sexual assaults. He died in the Niagara County Jail on Aug. 29, nine days after a fight with corrections officers.
The death was ruled a homicide by the Erie County Medical Examiner's Office, and is being investigated by the Niagara County District Attorney's Office.
County Legislature Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, the husband of NCCC Trustee Gina Virtuoso, said he will introduce a resolution at Tuesday's Legislature meeting calling for the hiring of Niagara County sheriff's deputies to handle security at the college.
Sloma said she hopes for a fresh start with an outsider taking over for Klyczek.
"Honestly, there isn't anyone there that I would put in charge. For a short period of time, I think (Chliwniak) will be fine, but in the long term, I think we need a really good search and a new president who can evaluate the current team and decide who he wants," Sloma said.
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