Suffolk County Community College trustee Dafny Irizarry stepped aside as board chairwoman Thursday after a year of tumult and put forward the name of Theresa Sanders, who was elected unanimously to succeed her.
Irizarry, who has served as chairwoman for four years, did not seek re-election but vowed to remain an active board member. Irizarry made indirect reference to her clashes over the past year with college president Shaun McKay, who college and county sources say sought her ouster.
"Thanks for passing the blow torch," Sanders joked after taking over the chair at a meeting at the school's culinary institute in Riverhead.DataSearch college endowments See alsoCompare NY's college transfer rates
Sanders, a board member of five years and president and CEO of the Urban League of Long Island since 1997, stressed that the trustees' job "is to make sure this institution is affordable and available to our students."
The transition comes nearly a year after McKay aides sought to oust board member Anne Shybunko-Moore, who at times was critical of McKay, and initiated an ethics probe into alleged breaches of confidentiality.
Details of the ethics inquiry have never been disclosed, but Irizarry has been excluded from meetings where the ethics breach has been discussed.
She and her lawyer Vincent Messina and SCCC's ethics lawyer Steven Leventhal appeared jointly before the board in executive session last month. Leventhal met again in executive session with the board Thursday, with Irizarry not present. Sanders said later that the ethics probe is still "an open issue," but declined further comment.
In remarks Thursday, Irizarry said, "I would be disingenuous if I claimed . . . serving as chair has been free of conflict and unhealthy behaviors" by those who "engaged in character attacks, undermining behaviors, anonymous letter writing and even a campaign to oust me."
She said she has "remained transparent and honest," adding, "I faced the challenges presented rather than going on vacation" -- a reference to McKay's absence last summer after the controversies erupted.
Irizarry, a high school language teacher, declined further comment, as did McKay.The trustees also approved a resolution to put two county executive aides on an advisory committee for the college's STARTUP-NY application to the state to create tax free zones for high tech firms that locate on campus.
The measure will enable the college to use of 62 county acres next to the Selden campus, as well as 10,000 square feet at the Wyandanch Rising project and 7.86 acres at the Brentwood campus for the state program.