Michael Cash resigned as campus police chief during closed session of a special board meeting, ending a tumultuous career with the college. He will remain on paid administrative leave until Dec. 31 when the resignation officially takes effect. He has been on administrative leave since February.
Governing Board President Tim Nader and college president Dr. Kindred Murillo said they could not comment on the resignation because it was a confidential personnel matter.
Cash had a controversial five-year run at SWC. Since his hiring in July 2012 he has been accused of misfiring police weapons, covering up sexual assaults, misuse of police funds and inaccurate crime log reporting.
Cash was placed on paid administrative leave in 2013 after firing his gun in police headquarters and narrowly missing three civilian employees in the next room. Witnesses reported he fell to the ground with symptoms of a seizure, but Cash later denied the gunfire was caused by a medical condition. An internal investigation by SWCPD Sgt. Robert Sanchez concluded the shooting was not accidental, but an outside investigator stated otherwise. He was reinstated after five weeks by former president Melinda Nish, who hired him.
Cash was placed on paid administrative leave again for undisclosed reasons in early 2017, according to college human resources employees who would not give an exact date. He has received full pay during his leave and will continue to until Dec. 31, according to college officials. Cash’s salary was $116,000 in 2015 and $103,000 in 2016. Human Resources staff would not reveal his 2017 salary.
A former SWCPD student worker filed a lawsuit against the college, accusing former employee Kevin McKean, Emergency Management Officer Joseph Martorano and Cpl. Ricardo Suarez with chronic sexual harassment and assault at police headquarters. Jane Doe (a pseudonym) also said McKean and Martorano tried to rape her. She said in her court brief that she informed Cash, but he did nothing.
Acting Campus Police Chief Dave Nighswonger said he did not know the details of Cash’s departure, but said the department “needed personnel changes” when he was hired.
“We had challenges the first week after I got here with the sexual assault allegation,” he said, “but I’m pleased with how we’ve gone forward. We’re making improvements.”
One of those improvements involved updated and accurate crime logs. Nighswonger said he is preparing the college’s annual security report as required by the Jeanne Clery Act, a federal statute. Colleges that fail to complete accurate campus crime reports are not eligible for federal financial aid. The SWCPD chief is responsible for the college’s annual report.
An extensive 18-month investigation of campus crime records by The Sun showed that Cash had a history of keeping chronically inaccurate police records, filing incomplete and late reports, and under-reporting crime on campus, particularly sexual assaults. Nish and Cash dismissed the investigation and insisted college crime records were adequate. Cash then filed an Employment Development Department (EDD) complaint against The Sun faculty advisor Dr. Max Branscomb, charging racial discrimination. It was investigated and dismissed.
Nighswonger said an inspection by the Department of Education found last year’s annual security report insufficient. It was produced by Cash.
“They found us deficient and we had to hire an audit team,” said Nighswonger. “They found 122 errors.”
Campus leaders told The Sun that Cash hired friends who retired from the San Diego Police Department as lieutenants even thought the college had no openings, no budget and no job descriptions for the hirees. These unbudgeted, unauthorized hires cost the district close to $1 million, according to a campus leadership source with direct information. The officers and other unauthorized hires were immediately terminated by Interim President Bob Deegan when he was made aware of the situation, according to the source.
Cash had a checkered career in law enforcement prior to landing at SWC.
In 1987 he was suspended for excessive force and police brutality while serving in the San Diego Police Department. He worked for the NFL coordinating security at the Super Bowl, but left suddenly under unknown circumstances. In 2007 the San Diego Chargers fired Cash from his position as Head of Security following player curfew violations prior to a game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Calls to Cash were not returned. He was last seen on campus in uniform during the fall 2016 semester. Nightswonger became the acting chief in February. College officials said there is not yet a timeline in place to advertise for a new chief.