College board won’t hand over its authority
Later in the meeting, they tabled a recommendation to hire consultant Tom Henry who would have served as a special monitor from the chancellor’s office.
According to the recommendation, Henry would be paid $200 per hour for his services.
Henry reportedly took control of the Compton College Board of Trustees after that college lost its accreditation, and he currently has assumed the authority of that college’s board of trustees.
According to the recommendation from LCC President, Dr. Homer Cissell, “It is in the best interests of the district to ensure that as the college continues to move forward in resolving the issue that have been brought to the surface by both the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior College and the California Community Colleges System Offices. Engaging the services of Mr. Henry will go a long way in demonstrating to all internal as well as external agencies and individuals that Lassen Community College is dedicated to exhibiting ‘best practices’ in education, governance, collegiality, fiscal and educational accountability and college community relationships. Mr. Henry will provide a sufficient level of guidance to ensure that the college continues to mark significant progress in these and other important areas.”
The chancellor’s memo regarding the special monitor included seven points. They are:
•Monitor will be employed by Lassen (Community College) to assist in solving problems associated with Title 5 compliance, Accreditation Standards and other related issues.
•Monitor will remain for at least two years.
•50 percent of the cost of the monitor will be borne by the Lassen Community College District. Payment can be made as a credit towards amounts due under reimbursement agreement.
•Monitor will be present approximately two days per week.
•Monitor will have full access to all records and staff will be expected to cooperate fully with monitor.
•Monitor will attempt to resolve issues through appropriate discussions, but the monitor will have the authority to intervene and prevent the board from taking action, if necessary.
•Monitor will report to chancellor as necessary.
The LCC board’s biggest issue with the chancellor’s proposal was granting the monitor the authority to “intervene and prevent the board from taking action if necessary.”
Hill, an attorney from Westwood, said the chancellor’s office lacked any legal authority to take such an action. In fact, he said he doubted if such an action would be legal, even if the college trustees agreed to it.
The proposal clearly violated the separation of powers enumerated in the U.S. Constitution, Hill said, because the people elect the board of trustees to represent them, and the trustees, therefore, are ultimately responsible to the people. If a hired administrator takes control of the board and has the authority to block its actions, Hill said that person answers to no one — certainly not to the voters in Lassen County.
“I have a fundamental legal problem with that,” Hill said. “I also have a fundamental moral problem with that.”
Board President Chris Click and nearly all the trustees said they thought the issue should be discussed with legal counsel before the board voted on such a proposal.
Dow also noted the chancellor’s memo requires the college to pay only half of the monitor’s salary, but that agreement apparently disappeared by the time the recommendation to hire Henry materialized. According to the recommendation to hire Henry, the board would bear the full expense of his salary. The chancellor’s office would deduct Henry’s salary from the amount the college owes the state for over-reporting its apportionment.
The board directed Cissell to continue his negotiations with the chancellor’s office and seek to resolve the sticking points on authority and salary.
Drummund attended the March 27 Lassen Community College Board of Trustees meeting and offered to appoint a “special monitor” who could be “a kind of third voice at your table” to help the college resolve its problems.
Back in March, the chancellor told the trustees and a standing-room-only crowd, the college’s “two governing pillars” — accreditation and minimum qualifications — were “in jeopardy.”
LCC is on probation by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges and faces financial more than $1 million in apportionment sanctions from the chancellor’s office.
“I’m here to sound the alarm bell,” Drummund said in March. “I’m worried. I want you to be as worried as I am.”
Since March Cissell and the chancellor’s office have been working on a memorandum of understanding between the two entities. Cissell asked the trustees for direction and presented the seven key points from the chancellor’s office in a memo to the trustees for their consideration.
Alan Frey, a representative from the California Teacher’s Association who frequently attends the LCC board meetings, asked for a copy of the memo with the chancellor’s points that had been distributed to the board.
Cissell said he could not and would not comment on the memo until he received direction from the trustees. The president told Frey if he stopped by his office he would give him a copy of the memo.
Frey claimed the board was violating the California’s Open Meeting Law, commonly known as the Brown Act, by not providing material to the public that had been distributed to board members and was now being discussed in an open session.
“I don’t have a copy,” Cissell fired back. “What are you going to do now?”
Trustee Sophia Wages defused the confrontation when she shared her copy of the memo with Frey. A few minutes later copies of the memo given to Frey were distributed to the public at the meeting.
“I think 2007 is a very critical year for this college,” Drummund told the trustees in March. “This is the year you’re going to see things moving in the right direction in regards to accreditation or you’re going to see things moving in the wrong direction, and you’ll know that by this summer. You need to put every bit of energy you can on this and be extremely focused on it because there’s no coming back. It’s very, very serious business.”
The chancellor also encouraged the board to continue supporting Larry Perryman, LCC’s dean of administrative services, and Cissell and to “stay on course.”
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