Chico State to pay former employee to work elsewhere


Jason Halley/University Photographer

Susan Elrod (left) and Lori Hoffman (right) present diplomas to graduates during the Commencement ceremony for Colleges of Humanities And Fine Arts and Business at University Stadium on Sunday, May 17, 2015 in Chico, Calif.

Lorraine Hoffman, Chico State’s former vice president for business and finance, remains on the university’s payroll, even though she left campus last June after a tumultuous tenure.

Hoffman, who also served as the chief financial officer at the university for eight years, signed an agreement with the California State University’s Board of Trustees July 1, 2016, which secured her employment within the public university system until Sept. 30, 2017, when “she will voluntarily resign or retire,” according to a copy of the agreement.

“Chico State now desires to transition Hoffman to other duties,” states the memorandum of understanding between the trustees and Hoffman, which was obtained through a California Public Records Act request, along with other records, such as her compensation for 2016.

“The Parties” – a reference to Hoffman and the trustees – “wish to avoid any disputes related to Hoffman’s transition and to avoid the expense, inconvenience and uncertainty of future proceedings,” continues the five-page document.

In other words, their mutual agreement minimized the chance of a costly legal battle.

Hoffman’s last day on campus was June 30. A day later, she began a three-month vacation while receiving her accrued vacation pay, records show. Her vacation ended Sept. 30. She then embarked on four months of paid administrative leave, from Oct. 1 to Jan. 31. During that time, she received her regular employee benefits and monthly salary of $20,266.

On Wednesday, Hoffman will transition to a new role as “special assistant” to the executive vice chancellor and chief financial officer of the CSU in Long Beach, where she’ll be able to work remotely and on tasks related to her experience in finance, according to the memorandum.

Hoffman could not be reached for comment.

Even though she will not work directly for Chico State, Hoffman will be paid by the university from its general operating fund, says Sheryl Woodward, manager of Employment Services in the department of Human Resources. The agreement between the former administrator and the Board of Trustees says this, “Costs associated with pay and benefits during the entire period Oct. 1, 2016 through Sept. 30, 2017, shall be the responsibility of Chico State.”

Photo Credit: Jason Halley/University Photographer
Lorraine Hoffman, Vice President for Business and Finance

The general operating fund comes mostly from taxpayer dollars and student tuition, according the university’s government transparency site. A substantial chunk of it pays for university employees’ salaries and wages, many of which still work on campus.

In 2014, employees in the Facilities Management and Services department filed several complaints against Hoffman, accusing her of harassment and hostility towards them. One eventually resigned as a result. At the time, Hoffman vehemently denied the accusations.

On Dec. 10, 2015, the Academic Senate voted in favor of a resolution of no confidence in the leadership of Hoffman and two other university officials, Paul Zingg, Chico State’s former president, and Susan Elrod, former interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. The senate resolution essentially threw shade on the administrators, accusing them of neglecting the practice of shared governance, contributing to campus instability because of high administrator turnover and creating a hostile work environment where bullying occurred.

Weeks after Hoffman’s departure, James Hyatt assumed her previous post on a temporary basis. The university is currently conducting a national search for Hoffman’s permanent successor.

Hoffman’s new boss, Brad Wells, CSU’s associate vice chancellor for business and finance, could not be reached for comment. A scheduled phone call with him was picked up by Michael Uhlenkamp, a CSU spokesperson, who said the system doesn’t comment on employees’ duties.

When asked if the Chancellor’s Office had considered Hoffman’s controversial history before she was brought aboard, Uhlenkamp said they were aware of it. But, he added, he personally doesn’t know if that information was verified or factored into the decision to employ Hoffman.

“I don’t know that anything was substantiated,” Uhlenkamp said, referring to the bullying allegations. “But we do know that she has a long history of being successful in her position.”

Timothy Sistrunk completely disagrees with that assessment. History professor, Academic Senate secretary and chapter president of the California Faculty Association, Sistrunk called some of Hoffman’s financial decisions “draconian,” her managerial style “secretive” and her overall efforts on campus a disservice to the university’s mission.

Sistrunk also criticized the audacity of the Chancellor’s Office – which has recently dabbled with the idea of raising student tuition – to use Chico State’s funds to pay Hoffman.

“It isn’t clear what the students gain from her ongoing work with the Chancellor’s Office,” Sistrunk said. “If the chancellor wants her to work for them, they should pay for that. What does Chico State gain?”

Gabriel Sandoval can be reached at [email protected] or @gluissandoval on Twitter.