An embattled senior executive at Pima Community College has left the school with more than a year remaining on the contract for her $189,000-a-year job.
Suzanne Miles, whose ethics and competence were questioned in a recent accreditor's report on problems at the school, retired virtually overnight, announcing late Thursday that she'd be gone as of today.
"This has been something I have been thinking about for a long time," Miles said in a news release issued around 7:30 p.m.
Miles didn't respond to questions from the Arizona Daily Star about why she was leaving with so much time remaining on her two-year contract, and whether recent criticism of her job performance played any role in her decision.
The contract for her current post doesn't expire until June 30, 2014.
The Star emailed questions to Miles four hours before her public announcement, after receiving a tip that she would step down.
Miles' sudden departure after 27 years marks a 180-degree turn of fortune for the woman who, last year, came within one vote of being named to PCC's top job.
For most of the past decade, Miles served as second-in-command to former PCC chancellor Roy Flores, who left the college last year accused of sexually harassing eight women over his nine years on the job. He denied wrongdoing.
A recent accreditor's investigation of the school confirmed that harassment occurred and said it was "highly unlikely" that Miles knew nothing about Flores' misconduct given their close work relationship.
The accreditor also said Miles had been less-than-candid in responding to its questions about the college's problems. It said Flores and members of his inner circle committed "serious breaches" of ethical standards.
A few months before the harassment allegations came to light, Flores proposed that Miles be appointed as his permanent successor when he retired as chancellor.
The proposal drew protests from PCC faculty and citizens groups, and the college's Governing Board voted 3-2 to conduct a national search instead of giving the top job to Miles.
Lee Lambert, president of Shoreline Community College in Washington state, recently was hired as PCC's new chancellor and is expected to start work July 1.
The recent accreditor's probe of PCC resulted in the college being put on two years' probation for widespread failings in governance and administration.
Miles, who'd been serving as interim chancellor since Flores' departure, resigned that job a few days after the accreditor's decision, saying her continued presence in the role "could be viewed as an obstacle to moving forward."
Since then, she's been president of PCC's community campus. Under Flores, she served as provost and executive vice chancellor.
The PCC news release announcing Miles' retirement made no mention of the controversies surrounding her service.
It focused instead on the array of positions she's held at the college, and on a list of achievements it said she had made as interim chancellor.
It credited Miles with advancing "several initiatives to increase transparency and accountability" such as setting up an anonymous hotline for employees to report harassment and other wrongdoing.
Darla Zirbes, vice president of instruction at community campus, will take over there until a new campus president is hired.
Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at email@example.com or at 573-4138.