SBCC Board of Trustees Brushes Off Vote of No Confidence

Some Trustees Claim Academic Senate's Vote Was Invalid Under Brown Act

From left to right: Marsha Croninger, Robert Miller, and Kate Parker. | Credit: Paul Wellman (file) and Courtesy

The Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees clashed with Academic Senate President Raeanne Napoleon at last Thursday’s board meeting over a vote of no confidence that passed through the senate over the summer.

Trustees Kate Parker, Robert Miller, Marsha Croninger, Veronica Gallardo, and Peter Haslund were specified as the members named in the vote of no confidence.

The reaction from the board to this vote was not to address the issues brought forward by the senate, such as the delayed implementation of a vaccine mandate, dissatisfaction with how several equity issues on campus were handled by the board, and an overall lack of support for staff and faculty. Instead, the reaction was an onslaught of criticisms directed at Napoleon and the senate.

Miller, Parker, and Croninger led the criticisms, with some claiming the vote was invalid because it had violated the Brown Act, a California law intended to provide public access to meetings of local government agencies, and violated “due process,” according to Croninger. 

“Having violated the Brown Act in the way that you did means that those votes are ineffective,” Croninger asserted. 

The violation, according to trustees Parker and Croninger, was the act of moving a discussion item, the vote of no confidence, to an action item in the same meeting. Parker said the public must have proper notice if the senate is taking action on an item.

“I can see there is a disconnect between the Brown Act rules and the action that the Academic Senate took,” Parker said. 

Napoleon defended the senate’s action, saying the item was moved in accordance with the senate’s bylaws and Robert’s Rules of Order, which states a time-sensitive item may be moved to action if there is a two-thirds majority vote to do so. 

“That is not in the Brown Act,” Parker said, later asking what Brown Act training the senate receives, prompting Napoleon to list several annual meetings and retreats where senators or senate leadership receive training or hold discussions regarding the Brown Act. 

Another point of contention, brought forward by Trustee Miller, was Napoleon’s comment to the Independent in a recent article, where she said she wants a board that serves the campus community and not the “greater community.”

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Miller, who is a retired attorney, posed many questions similar to how a lawyer would question a witness on the stand. 

“Are you aware that the greater community comprises the seven separate communities that elect the board?” he asked, later asking, “Do you agree that each trustee has an obligation to work for the constituents that elected them as well as working for the campus community?”

“Not if those constituents don’t understand the mission and the purpose of our college, no,” Napoleon answered. 

Napoleon voiced her disappointment at the board’s reaction and said the vote of no confidence is simply a “political move” meant to express dissatisfaction with the board’s leadership. 

“You were all focusing on technicalities and one statement I made in the press and not the substantive content for which we have presented you,” she said.

Napoleon said she plans to bring the vote back to the senate to rectify the board’s complaints regarding the Brown Act. 

“We’ll revote. We’ll make this legally valid, whatever that means,” Napoleon said. 

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