Revoltin' Development

New Glendale CC president rankles faculty with plan to remake blighted neighborhood

But another grant application to HUD--made available to the faculty only last week--shows GCC shouldering much of the project's financial burden. HUD recently awarded the grant to another bidder, not GCC.

Still, documents show Martinez Pollack had intended that GCC contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to the project. In June, two months after the meeting with the faculty senate, Martinez Pollack signed off on a $400,000 grant application to HUD in which she pledged about $800,000 in matching funds from GCC over the next three years to get the Rectangle Project off the ground.

More than half of that money would have been used to pay teachers who would be pulled from the classroom, along with their students, to work in the community--a prospect which faculty leaders find particularly alarming.

"It's not her job to come in here and dictate curricula, which is essentially what she is trying to do," says one teacher.

Martinez Pollack also estimated that she would have spent about 10 percent of her time--valued at $40,000 over three years--running the project.

When asked during an interview to comment about the matching funds, and whether pledging them contradicted her earlier statements to the faculty senate, Martinez Pollack said:

"I don't remember an $800,000 match. I mean, you could get in touch with somebody else to get the details on that."

The match, though, is spelled out repeatedly in the 72-page HUD grant proposal, as well as on the application form at the very front--a form Martinez Pollack signed and dated on June 17.

The $241,000 balance of the matching funds would come from the other agencies who have signed on to the project, one of which is the nonprofit Glendale Community Housing Development Organization, on which Robert Pollack serves as an unpaid board member.

Glendale CHDO head Mike Fitz, whose letter of endorsement appeared in Martinez Pollack's grant application, did not respond to a request for an interview. For their part, the Pollacks say the arrangement is strictly aboveboard.

"My understanding of a conflict of interest is that someone will benefit financially," Martinez Pollack said. "Robert serves on the CHDO board as an unpaid volunteer, so how can there be a conflict?"

Robert Pollack's serving in a position in Tucson funded through a grant from HUD--the same agency to which his wife has applied for a $400,000 grant--while also serving on the board of one of the nonprofits that would help administer that grant money has not gone unnoticed among the project's critics on the GCC faculty.

"Frankly, we don't know what it means," says one faculty member. "It could be nothing. But it does seem like a rather strange coincidence."

Maricopa Community College Chancellor Paul Elsner, who supports Martinez Pollack's plans to boost GCC's community profile, said he didn't know anything about the HUD grant.

As for Robert Pollack's position on the CHDO board and whether that would be a conflict of interest for his wife, Elsner said he "didn't see how it could be an issue."

Even before news of the HUD grant began to sweep the GCC campus, some on the faculty senate were calling for a halt to the Rectangle Project.

In a September 13 letter to her fellow senators, GCC faculty senator Gay Garesche wrote that Martinez Pollack's responses to Samuels' questions during the April meeting had left her "with the impression that she had not been involved in that [the Overtown] project."

Garesche also wrote that Martinez Pollack's projects in Miami had cost her school a "significant" amount of money, and that the experience should not be repeated at GCC, which is experiencing a funding crunch because of declining enrollment.

"It is my intention to propose at the next Senate meeting that no further college resources be used for the project and that faculty be encouraged to participate in the project on a volunteer basis on their own time," Garesche wrote.

At its September 25 meeting, the faculty senate tabled Garesche's motion, but it did vote to give Martinez Pollack a series of written questions about Overtown and about her plans for GCC.

The faculty has also invited Martinez Pollack to answer follow-up questions at a special meeting to be held October 16. Martinez Pollack has not said whether she will attend that meeting.

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