Tuesday, September 27, 2005

THE "BOARD OF SECRECY," by Chunk Wheeler

As you know, the district’s Board of Trustees (BOT) is the poster child, not only of the "eliminate locally elected boards" movement (check out the 1998 report of the Citizens’ Commission on Higher Education), but also of the "stamp out secretive government" movement. Arguably, the "secrecy" story begins in December of 1996, but I’ll skip ahead to the juicier stuff.

Back in April of 1997, during a closed session, the board acted to install Raghu P. Mathur (aka "Mr. Goo") as interim President of IVC, despite its having failed to include the item on the agenda—a clear violation of the Brown Act, the name of California’s anti-secrecy (in government) law.

Faculty and citizens were outraged; during the May Board meeting, we handed the Board a “demand” to “cure and correct.”

Naturally, the Board—or at least its “majority” of Frogue, Williams, Lorch, and Fortune—simply blew us off. Indeed, two months later, the Board violated the law anew: it held a closed meeting in which it reorganized the district, despite not having placed a reorganization, or anything like it, on the agenda. Further, administrative reorganizations are not among the actions that, according to the Brown Act, may be done in closed session.

We warned the BOT again; again, it blew us off.

In the following September, the Board did it yet again, this time in connection with Mathur's "permanent" appointment (and re an address by a visitor in closed session). To make a long story short, we sued the district for its multiple violations of the Brown Act (these suits came to be known as “Bauer I” and “Bauer II”), and all of that culminated in court decisions according to which the BOT was guilty of “persistent and defiant misconduct,” as one judge put it.

Naturally, the Board appealed—hell, they weren’t spending their own money—and, again, they lost.

It is worth noting that the most egregious Brown Act violator on the BOT was JOHN "BROWN BOY" WILLIAMS. In the course of the lawsuits, it came to light that the fellow had tried to broker a deal in order to secure the unopposed appointment of Mathur to the Presidency of IVC. Secretly, Williams approached Dave Lang with a proposition: if he (Lang) and his allies on the board (Hueter and Milchiker) were to not oppose Mathur’s appointment, then the Board Majority would reciprocate by refraining from firing the Board Minority’s “favorite” administrators, namely, Terry Burgess and Pam Deegan.

This is WAY illegal.

Amazingly, Lang did not reject the deal outright! He actually took the dang thing to Burgess and Deegan, but, to their credit, those two would have nothing to do with it, and so the Williams/Lang compromise came to nothing. Mathur was appointed on a 4 to 3 vote, and, soon, Burgess & Deegan went on to greener pastures.

HERE WE GO AGAIN:

It appears that the Board of Secrecy is back, only now it is led by Mr. Bean (Lang). On September 13, the Board scheduled a special closed session of the BOT. The agenda listed one item: an “Employee evaluation of Performance”—an evaluation of the Chancellor. (See graphic below.)

That was odd. As you know, very recently, the chancellor was given a raise (it was in part retroactive) and a new contract. He now pulls down a quarter million dollars a year (if you include the car allowance and benefits), making him the highest paid Chancellor in the system.


Now it is clear that, during this very long meeting, held in the “Catalina Room” of the Laguna Hills Marriott (in Dana Point), other matters were discussed than Mathur’s performance. I have it on good authority that the board also discussed some of the major issues cited by the accrediting agency in its reports of February: the “plague of despair,” the problem of delineating roles and responsibilities, and so on. But, again, none of that was on the agenda. Further, as far as I know, discussions of the kind occasioned by the Accrediting reports are not among the items that, by law, may be discussed in closed session.

I checked the district’s website under the heading “Governing Board.” There, one finds a list that includes

Board Meeting Schedule
Board Meeting Agendas
Archived Board Meeting Highlights

Nothing on the website indicates to Joe Public, or to me, that a special meeting occurred at all. I looked everywhere on the site: nothing.

Stay tuned. --CW [RB]

FOR MORE about the Board and the Brown Act, please go to "The Brown Act and Williams' Hypocrisy" in the BLOG's Archives (June 2000)

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