Monday Meeting To Decide Fate Of College

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Payson Mayor Barbara Brewer asked for an injunction against the Gila Community College Governing Board Friday to block a March 28 meeting to discuss a proposal from Eastern Arizona College that would settle lawsuits between the two schools.

The injunction comes after GCC governing board vice chairman Bob Ashford called an executive session to address EAC's proposal and approve an agreement in which EAC would provide educational services to GCC.

Problem is, two board members, board chairman Ron Christensen and board member Larry Stephenson, both of Payson, are unable attend and weigh in on the discussion

Ashford has the legal right to call the meeting, but GCC president Barbara Ganz and other college and county officials object to the March 28 date because of Christensen and Stephenson's absence.

"Before a vote is taken, all five members need to be present so that all the voters of Gila County are represented," Ganz said. "This is a decision of incredible magnitude that will dictate the future of higher education in Gila County for the next 10 years."

According to County Manager John Nelson, the EAC board recently voted to approve the contract instituting EAC's relationship with GCC, and now the GCC governing board must make a reciprocal and final approval.

Brewer contacted Gila County Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill this morning via e-mail to ask for the injunction until all members are available to discuss the matter.

"I think it's a railroad (by Ashford)," Brewer said.

"This meeting should not occur until the full board can be present," Director of Community Programs Sarah Nelson agreed.

Gila County liaison Lionel Martinez said Ashford's decision to call the meeting March 28 was, "politically disrespectful to the people of northern Gila County."

Christensen and Stephenson would be able to attend an April 1 meeting.

Ashford did not return the Roundup's phone calls.

Martinez, a founding dean and past president at Rio Salado College, also pointed out that to satisfy a quorum, only two votes would be necessary to strike a deal between EAC and GCC.

"That's not right, it's a decision for all five," he said.

Ganz, Martinez and Sarah Nelson also questioned whether Gila County officials have had the time to properly review EAC's proposal.

"Send the document to all parties for review and thorough analysis," Sarah Nelson said. "Allow the county attorney to review the document and advise. Discussing and voting on this document without appropriate legal review is foolhardy and just plain wrong."

Ganz agreed, indicating neither Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores nor GCC's lawyers at the Phoenix law firm of Jones, Skelton and Hochuli had reviewed the proposed contract.

Assistant Gila County Manager Steve Besich, a member of a three-person team appointed to negotiate with EAC, said he could not comment about proposed board meeting dates.

Besich did say he had not received the EAC proposal until Thursday and was in the process of reviewing it.

John Nelson, also a member of the negotiating team with Ganz and Besich, said he had read through the contract twice.

"I need to read it about five more times to really understand it," he said.

Randy Warner, a lawyer at Jones, Skelton and Hochuli, said he could not comment on the settlement but said, "there is a proposal on the table."

The board meeting, slated for 9:30 a.m. will be held at the Gila Pueblo campus in Globe.

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