With no policies to follow, Gila Community College could soon have its first six-term president.
Before the board repealed all its policies in December, GCC President Bob Ashford would not have qualified to run, having already served over his term limit.
However, at a Dec. 9 board meeting, Ashford introduced a motion to repeal all school polices prior to 2003, including the policy that limited tenure to four, one-year terms along with nearly 40 other policies covering everything from public information requests, college organization and harassment.
One board member is calling the move unethical and illegal. On Dec. 22, board member Tom Loeffler filed an open meeting law violation complaint with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.
Loeffler claims when the December agenda was written, it gave no mention of repealing all policies and he was blindsided by the board’s decision (Loeffler was unable to attend the meeting).
“I believe this action by Robert Ashford is in violation of the Open Meeting Law,” Loeffler wrote to the AG.
Ashford did not return a request for comment as of press time.
Specifically, Loeffler wrote that two sections of the Open Meeting Law were violated, including a provision that requires agendas to contain specific language so the public knows what the board is discussing.
“In this case the public, much less the governing board, had no prior information that Ashford’s intent was to abolish all the published board policies,” Loeffler wrote.
Unless the AG’s office determines the board’s action was unlawful, Ashford is clear to run again for board president.
“Our election meeting, as required by statute, will take place January 27, 2011. If we do not have a decision by then, the whole issue of a legitimate election will be in question,” Loeffler wrote.
Besides the wording, Loeffler said it is strange the item was placed on the agenda at all. At prior meetings in October and November, the board tabled all discussion on changing or removing the policies. At the time, Ashford said he wanted all board members present for discussion. The board agreed and tabled the motion, intending to discuss it in work-session.
Ashford put the item on the agenda again and it passed. With all policies gone, the path is clear for Ashford to run again. At the same meeting, Ashford said he would like to schedule a study session to come up with new policies.
However, the board will vote on appointment of a new chair before any workshops can he held.
“If we let this go, he (Ashford) can do anything he wants,” Loeffler said.
He worries that with Ashford as president, he will block GCC’s effort to become independent from Eastern Arizona College (EAC). However, in an e-mail, Ashford said he fully supports all efforts to move Gila Community College to a fully-organized status.
Currently, GCC is a “provisional” college, meaning it contracts with EAC for accreditation.
GCC is currently working with Fifth District Sen. Sylvia Allen to introduce a bill that would secure its independence.
The legislation would establish a new process by which a provisional college could become a full-fledged, accredited community college.
Allen has promised to find a way for GCC to gain independence without raising taxes. Allen is expected to introduce the legislation in late January or early February.