Palomar employee accused of grade selling

by Staff

The Palomar Community College District governing board met Tuesday night to determine the most appropriate disciplinary action for a Palomar College employee convicted of tax evasion. He was simultaneously accused of grade selling and other violations.

Michael King, a counselor at Palomar College, has been sentenced to 10 months in prison for tax evasion. Prosecutors allege that $142,000 of his income, which was not reported by King, was derived from bribery and the sale of grades, college transcripts and high school diplomas. The documents were sold primarily to illegal immigrants.

San Diego State University has not been named among the local institutions where such activity has been discovered. In fact, none of the county’s universities has reported any similar situations.

“We have known for the past year that King was under federal investigation,” said Palomar College President George Boggs. “But the legal system kept us in the dark as to the nature of the investigation until the conviction was final.”

Following King’s conviction, Judge Rudi Brewster announced that King will be allowed to remain free until the end of the spring semester. He has been ordered to surrender to federal officials on June 2.

“Because the judge has allowed King to finish out the school year with us, and because he denies the allegations regarding the immigration and school violations, we are faced with a potentially problematic situation regarding his employment status,” Boggs said.

King has been on administrative leave since his conviction. During Tuesday’s meeting, the board authorized the district superintendent to issue a notice of dismissal to King. The notice was presented immediately following the meeting. King has 30 days in which to appeal the notice.

According to Mike Norton of the public information office at Palomar College, this is the first time in the school’s 50-year history that a tenured member of the faculty has been issued such a notice.

Similar problems have recently arisen at San Diego City College and Mesa College. Boggs said he would be contacting those schools to discuss the best way to try to identify the students who had been involved in the illegal acquisition of grades, transcripts or diplomas.

According to officials in the San Diego Community College District, the students involved in the incidents in their district have been identified through a strict internal audit system. Those students have been reprimanded and have had their purchases invalidated.

“President Boggs has been in contact with us, and we are glad to advise him as to our procedures for identifying those students, but we are unwilling to publicly reveal those procedures,” said Barry Garron, public affairs manager of the community college district.

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