What has transpired with the Contra Costa Community College District Governing Board since the summer should be worrisome to all, but especially the casual observer casting a ballot this fall.
And right in the middle of the drama has been incumbent Trustee Vicki Gordon, whose Ward 2 covers parts of Alamo and extends northwest including Walnut Creek, Lamorinda and Hercules.
It all seemed to unravel in the wake of internal investigations into anonymous complaints of separate ethics violations made against Gordon and Ward 5 Trustee Greg Enholm. As reported by Bay City News Service, the board acknowledged the findings but both incumbents denied most specific allegations and criticized the complaint process as being unfair and politicized.
Also this summer, Gordon and Enholm were part of a board majority that voted down renewing contracts for three high-level district administrators, including Interim Chancellor Eugene Huff who appeared poised to return to his executive vice chancellor role once a permanent chancellor was hired.
Those unexpected moves seemed to flabbergast employee groups who have contemplated no-confidence declarations in recent weeks. We have also been struck by the ensuing news coverage by the CCCCD student news organizations and the stunning expose by the national publication "Inside Higher Ed" on Sept. 18.
Oh, and all the while, this board is poised to confirm the contract of the district's next chancellor on Wednesday -- 20 days before an Election Day with multiple board positions up for election and vote-by-mail ballots already in hand.
The CCCCD Governing Board is clearly in need of new leadership, and Ward 2 voters should usher in that change by voting for challenger Judy Walters, the former president of Diablo Valley College.
A Martinez resident with a Ph.D. in philosophy, Walters has decades of experience in education and community college leadership up and down California, including leading DVC in 2007-10 and recently as interim president at Yuba College.
Her background and knowledge will contribute to her achieving key campaign goals of fiscal sustainability, supporting student success, upholding social justice issues, and returning an atmosphere of professionalism and mutual respect to the board. We sincerely believed Walters when she told us, "I understand the critical issues facing the Contra Costa community colleges and will act with integrity to protect them and ensure our community colleges remain accessible and provide quality education for local students."
We acknowledge Gordon for her eight years of service to Ward 2, but the turmoil in the district office needs to be resolved and the developments of recent months indicate to us that Gordon shouldn't -- maybe even can't -- be part of those solutions.
We dismiss Gordon's public retort about the internal investigation that upheld assertions of her reportedly trying to "skirt around the Brown Act and whip votes in a private setting" by contacting board members in one case and in another reportedly harassing multiple colleagues and district staff over the phone while or after drinking wine.
This is apparently another unfortunate case of intoxicated decision-making for an agency whose Governing Board has been riddled by it in the recent past. CCCCD Trustee John T. Nejedly, the San Ramon Valley's representative at the time, died from a drug overdose under largely unexplained circumstances while at a community college convention in New Orleans in 2016. Then, less than two years later, Board President Timothy J. Farley resigned citing family reasons, only for it to come to light that he was under investigation for allegations of sexual misconduct while drunk at a community college districts conference.
How could that happen again?! It is inexcusable to conduct official business or represent the district while intoxicated and betray the trust of the stakeholders.
We're also concerned that this board majority has inexplicably gutted the district's upper administration of well-respected employee leaders under the guise that the new chancellor might want to bring in their own people. This is not a president's or governor's cabinet or a Fortune 500 company; it's a local public agency -- and a highly functioning administration at that.
Why, then, are they trying to ram through a permanent chancellor contract one week into the vote-by-mail cycle for the CCCCD election? Finalist Bryan Reece is qualified on paper, but his public interview process with CCCCD did leave some question marks, including the true circumstances of his termination as Norco College president last year.
It is vitally important that the district seat its next permanent chancellor as soon as feasible, but that cannot be literally during the election. Perception alone should warrant a pause, yet the current board will consider inking a $315,000-a-year contract with Reece during its meeting Wednesday (Oct. 14). The next chancellor's tenure should not begin under this sort of cloud, for everybody's sake.
We also note that Gordon didn't bother to respond to our endorsement email interview request.
The other challenger on the Ward 2 ballot -- former DVC student John Michaelson -- is interested in spurring important conversations around student needs, but he lacks leadership experience and a comprehensive campaign platform, complete with actionable goals.
The future of the district's reputation and leadership structure are at stake. Vote Judy Walters for CCCCD Ward 2.