Friday, December 11, 2009

A new board majority? Fuentes gets hopping mad

I DID NOT ATTEND Monday’s board meeting, but, today, I did view most of it—as streaming video, which is available at the SOCCCD website.

Beyond what I’ve already reported (see December board meeting), I found three curious factoids.

Curious factoid #1.
Trustees Fuentes, Lang, and Williams actually voted against Trustee Wagner (for board president)

Item 2.6 was the much-anticipated Annual Organizational Meeting, including the “election of officers.”

The board needed to elect a President. Trustee Nancy Padberg nominated Trustee (and then-current board president) Don Wagner. Trustee Marcia Milchiker seconded that nomination.

Ah, but, then, trustee John Williams nominated trustee Nancy Padberg; the nomination was seconded by Trustee Dave Lang. This seemed to produce some confusion. Eventually, Trustee Padberg was persuaded to reject her nomination (for the time being), so that the vote on Wagner could go forward. If, after that vote, the matter remained undecided, Padberg could be nominated again. (A cynic might suggest that Williams and Lang were more interested in avoiding a Wagnerian presidency than in securing a Padbergian presidency. A fool might suggest that John Williams wanted Nancy to be the board president. A knucklehead might suggest that the Brown Act is revered at the SOCCCD.)

So the trustees voted on WAGNER. Here’s how they voted:

For Wagner:
Wagner, Milchiker, Padberg, Bill Jay

Against Wagner:
Williams, Lang, Tom Fuentes

That’s right. For some time now, Williams, Lang, Fuentes, and Wagner have constituted a Board Majority. On several important issues—especially the crucial issue of whether Raghu P. Mathur should remain as Chancellor—these four have been allies. (One important exception is trustee Williams’ pro-union sympathies; another is Lang's lack of enthusiasm for religious invocations.)

But for this night—or this moment—there was a new Board Majority, with Don joining the heretofore feeble trio of Milchiker, Jay, and Padberg—three people who appear to share a very, very low regard of Raghu Mathur. So does Wagner.

Was this vote really about the Mathur issue? No doubt you’ve heard stories about Wagner's fury in response to Mathur's recent antics.

After the presidential vote, Wagner nominated Padberg for VP. Milchiker seconded. The vote was unanimous. Wagner then nominated Milchiker for Clerk. The vote was unanimous.

At that point, the chancellor paused the proceedings in order to present Wagner with a plaque, recognizing his service as President of the board.

The presentation occurred quickly and, I think, awkwardly.

Curious factoid #2.
Padberg, citing budget concerns, rejected trustee requests for conference travel to the “other coast,” but she denies that Washington, D.C., is located on that coast.

This one is, well, a curiosity. I don’t know what to make of it.

Item 5.13—Trustees’ Requests for Attending Conferences—was pulled from the consent calendar by Nancy Padberg. Padberg has long been the board’s watchdog with regard to trustee expenses, and she plainly regards trustee Williams’ travel expenses, which are outstandingly high, with great skepticism. She has often noted trustee Williams’ fondness of conference travel to Orlando, Florida where, I’m told, he has family.

On Monday night, the board was presented with three trustee conference requests: for a conference in Sacramento, a conference in Washington, D.C., and a conference in Orlando, Florida.

During Monday’s meeting, Nancy did not object to the first two. “As usual,” she said, “I will certainly support the first two [conferences].” But, she said, “I do not see that we need to send somebody across the country to the other coast in these tight budget times, so I would not support the Orlando trip.”

Fuentes then made the obvious point. He noted that there are two other trips, and “one of those is on the other coast. Is there an objection to everything that…”

Tom didn’t get to finish his sentence. Said Nancy: “No, I don’t consider Washington, D.C. on a coast.”

Tom thought about that. Then he said, “I have to take you there. It’s a short swim to Maryland.”


According to Nancy, Washington, D.C., is not on the east coast.

In the end, all trustees voted to support the first two trips. Only Nancy voted against approving the Orlando trip, the trip to the "other coast."

I guess I could not hear what was said or mumbled or signaled next. Perhaps trustee Williams indicated, using puppets, that he was not planning to attend the Orlando conference, for Wagner jokingly noted: “Trustee Williams is not going, but he could if he wanted to, so there.”

Curious factoid #3.
Trustee Fuentes got hopping mad.

Item 6.1 was the adoption of a resolution “regarding District policy on invocations at District and College events.” (See 50:50.) Essentially, the resolution reaffirmed the policy of offering religious invocations, although it also (1) noted the requirement that videos be fully viewed before they are shown and it (2) proscribed officials’ making sectarian religious comments.

No doubt, the resolution is connected to the recently filed lawsuit against the district concerning its practice of prayer and sectarian religious commentary.

In the discussion of this item, several trustees seemed open to the possibility of modifying the resolution at a later date, after consulting with counsel, who were not present. Wagner made clear that it would be unwise to modify the resolution without counsel's OK.

Dave Lang suggested several changes. Eventually, the board voted on the original resolution.

Plainly, some trustees, including Board President Wagner, participated in the vote on the—perhaps mistaken—understanding that, afterward, modifications could still be suggested and run past counsel.

The resolution was approved unanimously.

At that point, Wagner turned to Lang, who formally advanced his earlier suggested changes. Milchiker supported him.

But trustee Fuentes would not have it. (See 50:15 of the video.) As per parliamentary procedure, he said, it would be inappropriate to amend a resolution that had just passed.

Wagner was obviously surprised, but he evidently found Fuentes’ point to be compelling, and so, when Lang and others proceeded to counter Fuentes, Wagner said, “You got snookered, Dave.”

Trustee Fuentes took great umbrage at that. (See 1:00:15.) “There was no snookering to be done,” he said, angrily.

I have observed Tom Fuentes since 2000, and I have never seen him display such anger before. I wonder if his anger was really about something else—something beyond trustees' (or Don's?) failure to understand parliamentary procedure.

Fuentes noted that the resolution passed unanimously, “and that is the action of this body.”

Said Wagner, “trustee Fuentes, you are correct, and we have voted.”

• AD 70 Watch: Irvine Councilman Steven Choi Is In (OC/Red County)

8 comments:

  1. Michigan is the third coast.

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  2. Could it be that Mathur is finally toast?

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  3. Don's voice shure is whiny.

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  4. I think it's possible that Mathur may have broken the First Commandment of SOCCCD Chancellors: Thou shalt not lie to more than three people.

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  5. Next to the Bible, Fuentes prizes Robert's Rules of Order - he voted against Don because Don has such a poor grasp of them.

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  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  7. I totally support that! Continue that way!

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