New law to protect democratically-elected trustees

Illustration by Nathaniel Y. Downes
Illustration by Nathaniel Y. Downes

By Dina Boyer

The Guardsman

The education code that enabled the California Communi­ty College Board of Governors to remove the democratically elect­ed special trustees has now been amended by Assembly Bill 2087.

According to the language in Assembly Bill 2087, the guide­lines are stricter when determin­ing when an elected trustee can be replaced with someone chosen by the California Community College Board of Governors. Elected trustee president John Rizzo said the College did not meet the current benchmarks in the education code, when they were displaced.

Assembly Bill 2087 now protects any democratically elect­ed trustee from being removed by the accreditation committee unless the college is experiencing a “severe fiscal mismanagement crisis,” or the trustees deliberately go against or do not support the actions of the Board of Governors.

“State officials were taking away the powers of locally elected leaders without having to answer for what they were doing,” Assem­bly member Tom Ammiano, D-California said.

Educational code 70901 enabled the California Communi­ty Colleges Board of Governors to provide assistance in the case of a severe financial crisis, but accord­ing to Ammiano, the laws author, that provision has been abused.

In July 2012 the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges removed demo­cratically elected trustee’s and replaced those persons with one from the Board of Governors. Ammiano feared that person may not have the best intentions of the district in heart. He is also hoping AB 2087 will “rein in the abuses,” and force officials to consult with the elected leaders before remov­ing other elected officials.

Rizzo said the elected trust­ees should be back now, but they have been informed that they will be phased back in in 2015. He said that if AB 2087 was enacted two years ago the democratically elected trustees would have never been removed.

Special Trustee Robert Agrel­la, who had his term lengthened until 2015, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Ammiano’s AB 2087 would still allow the Board of Governors to appoint a special trustee if the conditions warrant it, but it also would require a plan for return­ing control to the elected Board of Trustees and require meaningful consultation with those trustees. Rizzo stated next month there will be a meeting to discuss the plan for reinstating the Board of Trustees.

Tim Killikelly, President of the American Federation for Teachers Local 2121 union hopes that AB 2087 will be used as a precedent or “stepping stone” for other laws that will protect City College from being a victim of a corrupt politi­cal process again in the future.

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