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California State University chancellor Joseph Castro resigned Thursday amid mounting criticism of his handling of a subordinate accused of sexual harassment and bullying at Fresno State when Castro was president there.

The announcement came at the end of a long Board of Trustees meeting.

“I have been honored to serve the California State University for more than eight years, including as its eighth chancellor, and the decision to resign is the most difficult of my professional life," Castro said in a statement. “While I disagree with many aspects of recent media reports and the ensuing commentary, it has become clear to me that resigning at this time is necessary so that the CSU can maintain its focus squarely on its educational mission and the impactful work yet to be done.”

Castro came under fire in recent days for recommending a $260,000 payout and retirement package for Frank Lamas, a vice president who had been the subject of “credible” sexual harassment and bullying complaints at Fresno State, where Castro was president from 2013 to 2020. Castro also wrote a letter of recommendation in which he “glowingly praised” Lamas’s accomplishments, the Los Angeles Times reported. (This paragraph was revised to clarify that Castro recommended the $260,000 payout, which was then authorized by the then CSU chancellor, Timothy P. White.) 

CSU’s Board of Trustees is developing a succession plan. Until then, Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Steve Relyea will serve as interim chancellor.