LBCC president fired as feud with board members spills into public

After months of behind-the-scenes acrimony, the governing board at Long Beach City College fired its top executive on Wednesday, March 4.

The LBCC Board of Trustees voted 4-1 in closed session to fire Reagan Romali, who has served as the president-superintendent since 2017.

The announcement was made through the board’s legal counsel with no comments from any board member. The report noted three votes were taken with Trustee Sunny Zia opposing two of them, but it did not detail what was being voted on.

Romali said after the meeting that she was not informed why she was fired, just that she’d been terminated as a result of the board’s votes.

David Bristol, Romali’s attorney, said that she would be placed on a short administrative leave in accordance with her contract before her dismissal takes effect.

“Right now I’m sad,” Romali said. “I used to drive by this campus when I was in my 20s and dreamed that some day I would be the leader of it. I never dreamed that it would end.”

The decision to fire Romali came days after months of simmering tension between Romali and two members of the board—its president Vivian Malauulu and Uduak Joe-Ntuk. The board in November hired an investigator to look into Romali for possible misuse of public funds, mistreatment of staff and other matters.

The investigation into Romali was later expanded to include Zia, who sources said the board believed was complicit in Romali’s behavior.

Romali, meanwhile, said that the board members were retaliating against her for filing a 1,000-page whistleblower complaint in September alleging unethical and self-serving dealings by some members of the board.

Romali has been interviewing for jobs since last July, when she was named a finalist at Miami-Dade College. Romali is currently a finalist for the top job at North Hennepin Community College in Minnesota, which is expected to make its decision in the coming weeks.

LBCC educates about 25,000 students a year at its Liberal Arts and Pacific Coast campuses.

The decision to fire Romali was made before an unusually crowded boardroom where nearly three dozen faculty and staff waited patiently as the board deliberated for over two hours before reconvening to announce its decision.

In that time, the crowd painted Romali as someone who was “doing fabulous work” and supporting the needs of students and faculty alike. Many of them stayed behind after the meeting to say goodbye to Romali.

In between hugs and requests to stay in touch, some staff hurried out the door while voicing their disgust with the vote.

One woman approached Romali outside the boardroom as she stood with her lawyer and said, “You made a difference in my daughter’s life,” before walking off into the campus parking structure.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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