SBCC Academic Senate Disputes Allegation of Brown Act Violation over No Confidence Vote

Senate President Raeanne Napoleon Sought Secondary Legal Counsel to Confirm if Senate Violated Brown Act to Confirm Vote

Raeanne Napoleon | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

The Santa Barbara City College Academic Senate once again approved the resolution for a vote of no confidence against several members of the college’s Board of Trustees, dismissing claims from trustees that the senate had broken the Brown Act to pass the resolution. 

This resolution comes after years of faculty frustration with the board as outlined in the writ of particulars, a list of grievances regarding trustees’ behavior spanning more than four years. The trustees named in the vote of no confidence are Marsha Croninger, Veronica Gallardo, Peter Haslund, Robert Miller, and Kate Parker. 

After the vote was brought to the board on August 26, several trustees, including Marsha Croninger and Kate Parker, and the college’s legal counsel, Craig Price, accused the senate of violating the Brown Act by moving a discussion item to an actionable item.

Academic Senate President Raeanne Napoleon defended the move by citing the senate’s bylaws and Robert’s Rules of Order, which state that a time-sensitive item may be moved if there is a two-thirds vote among the senate to do so. 

Napoleon sought out a third-party legal perspective following the meeting to confirm if the senate had violated the Brown Act.

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Mark Manion, a lawyer at local law firm Price, Postel & Parma, wrote that he felt this was a rigid interpretation of the Brown Act.

“Courts have held that so long as notice provides the essential nature of the matter, technical errors will not prevent an agency from acting,” Manion wrote. 

Manion said the descriptions of the items in the agenda provided fair notice to any person of what the senate was considering. He also explained that the senate was not precluded from taking action on an item from the discussion portion of the agenda, but a simple fix would be to make the item actionable at a following meeting. 

At its September 8 meeting, the senate unanimously approved the resolution as part of its consent agenda — reaffirming the decision from August 10.

The board will have the opportunity to acknowledge these faculty grievances at its next meeting on September 23. 

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