Sonoma State President Judy Sakaki’s husband pens rambling email defending himself, blasts wife’s accuser
In a rambling email to “friends and family,” Patrick McCallum — the husband of embattled Sonoma State University President Judy Sakaki — said a former administrator who exposed sexual harassment claims against him did so to cover for her own poor job performance.
The email is McCallum’s first detailed public response since the allegations were reported by The Press Democrat last week, though he did issue a terse apology to anyone he may have offended.
Since then, he has repeatedly stated that his attorneys would not allow him to respond.
In the 1,200-word email, which is laden with typographical errors, McCallum said, “The lawyers have lifted that restriction and I can tell you my view of what took place.”
On Sunday, McCallum contacted The Press Democrat through an intermediary and in a call to the newspaper’s editor to ask that the email not be published, saying that it had been written late at night and was intended only for family and close friends.
Minutes after this story published online, McCallum sent a seven-paragraph statement saying he was “deeply sorry for the damage and hurt that I have caused.” He said he had not properly dealt with the trauma of almost losing his life in the 2017 Tubbs fire, which destroyed the home he shared with Sakaki. He also said that a hearing impairment may have led him to move in closer to people, which may have made them uncomfortable.
McCallum’s original email was obtained by The Press Democrat independently. It offers unfiltered insights by McCallum about the escalating Sonoma State controversy and provides a glimpse into the tumultuous relationship involving Sakaki and her former provost-turned-whistleblower.
The email strongly criticizes former provost Lisa Vollendorf, who in January received a $600,000 settlement from the California State University system to resolve a claim that Sakaki retaliated against her after she reported sexual harassment complaints involving McCallum.
McCallum said just weeks after Vollendorf was hired in 2017 he and Sakaki started hearing numerous complaints about Vollendorf.
“Judy would say a few months after hiring Lisa Vollendorf as her provost she made the worst hire of her career and as we will find out she did,” McCallum wrote. He added that within a year’s time, eight different faculty and students complained to him about Vollendorf.
McCallum said Sakaki made several unsuccessful attempts to address the conflicts between Vollendorf and the campus community, including recommending a “coach” who had been a former CSU provost. The coach’s advice he said, was ignored.
“Judy has tried everything and now knows Lisa has to go and is ready to fire her when she gets a call from the system chancellor there have been a filed compliant (sic) against me and to hold off from firing lisa,” McCallum wrote.
“Later Lisa would admit to Judy she was the one who filed the complaint as ‘I had to protect myself from you.’”
Vollendorf, who has not responded to Press Democrat calls or emails this week, could not be reached Sunday for comment. Her 2021 claim paints a far different picture of the conflict.
Vollendorf’s claim states that after Sakaki was informed about sexual harassment reports against McCallum, the university president began “a campaign of retaliation.” Among her complaints: Sakaki limited the scope of Vollendorf’s job duties and required her to undergo “inappropriate and unprofessional therapeutic ‘coaching’ by an untrained therapist.”
The January 2022 $600,000 payout to Vollendorf, who left Sonoma State in 2020, came from CSU insurance, according to a university spokesperson. About a year earlier, Vollendorf reported to CSU officials that several female SSU employees had raised sexual harassment concerns involving McCallum, a semi-retired high-profile education lobbyist who has been married to Sakaki since 2016, the same year she assumed the helm at Sonoma State.
Two of the women who complained spoke to The Press Democrat last week. One said McCallum had acted “creepy” and made her feel uncomfortable. Another said she took steps not to be alone with McCallum at social events.
Vollendorf’s report, and the ensuing CSU investigation, triggered retaliation from Sakaki, according to the claim Vollendorf filed in July 2021 with the CSU Chancelor’s Office. The former provost’s claim also states that Sakaki violated an agreement the two women reached to arrange Vollendorf’s transfer to the CSU Chancellor’s Office.
Sakaki has denied accusations of retaliation. In a statement last week, she said she was “surprised and saddened” when she heard of the allegations against her husband.