After severing administrative ties, years of feuding over money and a lawsuit, Gila Community College and Eastern Arizona College could be reunited.
But, a day after Gila Community College issued a press release Thursday, saying the litigation with Eastern Arizona College had been resolved, another notice, on the same GCC letterhead, denied the statement.
The first press release was sent by GCC secretary Nancy Moulder; the second came from Bob Ashford, the Vice Chairman of the Gila Provisional Community College Board of Governors.
"More negotiating sessions are needed to complete the agreement" Gila County Manager John Nelson said. "But it has not been settled."
The county, accusing the school of spending allocated tax dollars on educational programs and services outside Gila County, sued Eastern Arizona College two years ago after the voters of Gila County voted to establish a provisional college district.
Gila County -- which had a 34-year relationship with Eastern Arizona College --elieves EAC owes it about $1 million.
Nelson said, however, that progress was being made on an agreement between Gila Community College and Eastern Arizona College to resolve the litigation.
When contacted by the Roundup, Gila Community College President Barbara Ganz said she did not authorize the first press release that claimed the suit had been settled. When asked who might have authorized it, Ganz replied, "I have no response to that."
Moulder was not available for comment.
In Ashford's statement, he said only "a ‘memorandum of discussion' was signed by both parties with the intent to proceed with resolving the litigation and exploring the possibility of establishing an agreement that would allow for Gila College and Eastern Arizona College to enter into a 10-year agreement for educational services."
Ashford also took a jab at whomever issued the first, by saying "Information released to the media by others who are not elected governing board members is considered an effort to undermine the efforts of the board and our state representatives and Eastern Arizona College."
What is known about the nebulous situation is that the legal action has been put on the back burner while out-of-court negotiations go on.
In the preliminary agreement, signed by Gila County Provisional Community College District Governing Board Chairman Ron Christensen and Nelson, the key points both sides must agree on are:
- Dismissal of all lawsuits, with prejudice.
- Ten-year agreement of operation between the two college districts with a review at five years when either party has the option of terminating the contract.
- Graham County Community College (Eastern Arizona) will allocate $1 million over five years in support of Gila Community College educational programs.
- Ownership of all property within Gila County will be transferred to Gila Community College district.
- Graham County (EAC) will provide education services for Gila including courses, accounting, student services and maintenance that are mutually agreed upon.
Also according to the memorandum, the GCC governing board has 10 days to mull over the terms and agree to a contract.
According to Ashford, the newly elected board -- which also includes Michael Pastor, of Globe, Bernadette Kniffin of San Carlos and Larry Stephenson of Payson -- plans to resolve the litigation and re-establish a working relationship the two community colleges.
For the past two years, Gila Community College has been operating under an agreement with the Pima community college district.