Three Resign Over Eac Decision

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It's been five days since the Gila Community College Board of Governors decided to join forces once again with Eastern Arizona College, and spurned leaders are taking the hint.

GCC President Barbara Ganz; director of community programs and noncredit classes, Sarah Nelson and GCC governing board chairman Ron Christensen tendered their resignations at the regular board meeting Thursday.

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Chairman Ron Christensen receives a hug from Gila County Supervisor Tommie Cline Martin after his resignation from the Gila Community College Governing Board Thursday.

"I deeply regret that it has come to this," Nelson said in a phone interview. "I cannot stand in front of people and pretend that everything is OK because everything is not OK."

During Ganz's resignation statement, the president referred to clauses in the agreement that made her position powerless.

"Because of the wording approved in the agreement with Eastern Arizona College," Ganz said, "no longer will the district be able to employ someone to oversee certain functions and responsibilities."

Ganz and other Pima Community College and GCC employees are out of jobs, according to the contract, when EAC steps in. Although employees are welcome to apply for their old jobs, EAC is under no obligation to take them back.

Christensen's resignation was brief, and in it, he underscored his stance: his refusal to accept responsibility for giving EAC a blank check.

"I was elected and took an oath of office that I would follow the constitution, and uphold the Constitution of the United States and the laws of Arizona and in my opinion this contract violates both of those," Christensen said.

Meanwhile, the three southern Gila County representatives -- Vice Chairman Bob Ashford, Mike Pastor and Bernadette Kniffin who attended via interactive television from Globe -- were quiet throughout the meeting -- responding with torpid grunts only when prodded by Christensen.

And then, when Ganz gave her resignation, the threesome in Globe perked up.

After Ganz read her statement, Pastor, who sat with his hand under his shirt, scratching his chest during a good portion of the meeting, chimed in.

"I second that motion," he said.

And then, the aye votes, spoken loud, came quickly -- even from Ashford who remained silent and let Pastor do most of the talking.

Except when the time came to discuss money.

Ashford, dressed in a tie, didn't ask for a budget, or a curriculum or even a list of assets.

He was after $43,000 to replace damaged exercise equipment on the Globe campus.

A different twist

When GCC and EAC severed ties in 2002, EAC took some of GCC's property -- the exercise equipment in question being part of it -- and locked it up. A year later, GCC filed a lawsuit against EAC claiming rights to this property and other money owed back to the school.

The decision made by the board of governors last Friday settles this lawsuit.

Meanwhile, this exercise equipment has been locked in a room on the Globe campus for the past three years.

"There's a lot of damage because the roof has been leaking," Ashford said.

He said a fitness instructor conducted an evaluation of the equipment, but he didn't know the specifics, and hadn't actually seen the damage himself.

"We never saw a list of an inventory," Stephenson countered. "If there is wellness equipment that will be returned to this district from EAC, then there may be a need to spend less money here."

Ashford was undeterred.

"We don't know how much we'll be able to use," Ashford said. "If there is any left over (after the new equipment is purchased) we will distribute it to Payson, wherever."

Ashford's motion was tabled by the board pending further review.

Where do we go from here?

As the governing board struggles to move forward, the county supervisors will take another stab at ratifying the board's decision to sign on with EAC.

Last week the supervisors unanimously ratified the board of governors' decision. But, a typo -- giving the meeting time as 10 p.m., not 10 a.m. -- on the posted public notice, made the supervisor's meeting invalid.

The supervisors will vote again April 19 at the county courthouse in Globe. According to Marian Scheppard, chief deputy clerk, this meeting is not open for public comment, but she said, the supervisors have the right to revisit the issue if there's a problem.

John Nelson, deputy county manager, said that although supervisors have the opportunity to change their vote, it's not likely.

And even if the balance of votes did shift within the group, the outcome will be the same. When EAC filed its lawsuit, GCC had not yet become a provisional community college district. In the absence of the district, Gila County had jurisdiction over GCC, and was therefore named in the lawsuit.

EAC could petition in Maricopa County Superior Court to have Gila County removed from the lawsuit, nullifying a dissenting county vote.

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