The Gila Community College governing board faced an open revolt last week, triggered by its continued lack of any policies and procedures three months after the board threw them all out on a split vote.
Board member Tom Loeffler staged a protest at last week’s meeting insisting that the board has been acting illegally ever since early December, and called for an investigation.
The board threw out all its policies on Dec. 9 at a meeting with two board members absent, including Loeffler. That move allowed board president Robert Ashford to run for a sixth term — previously prohibited.
Last week, Loeffler asked Bryan Chambers, with the Gila County Attorney’s Office, to investigate whether the repeal of the rules and procedures violated state law.
Loeffler insisted Ashford and vice president Bernadette Kniffin breached half a dozen state statutes when they rescinded board policies without replacing them with new policies.
Loeffler said he recently contacted a Valley law firm for advice on the issue and lawyers there pointed out several state statutes that clearly state a board must have policies in place.
According to state statute, each community college district must adopt policies regarding classification procedures for tuition purposes, adopt a hazing prevention policy and adopt other policies at the first meeting of the year where they establish a regular meeting time.
With no such policies in place, the board is clearly in violation, Loeffler said.
Furthermore, actions taken at meetings held in violation of state statute are invalid and anyone calling such a meeting could be guilty of nonfeasance.
“If a complete policy or policies is rescinded, it must be replaced by another that covers that subject,” Loeffler said. “According to case law in this state, if another policy does not take its place or until one is approved, the rescinded one is still in effect.”
Therefore, he concluded the election of Ashford as president essentially does not count, Loeffler said.
Loeffler asked Chambers to begin an investigation into these violations. Loeffler even videotaped the meeting in case anyone argued he had not asked.
Loeffler felt so strongly about these violations that he refused to vote during the Thursday board meeting, which he characterized as an illegal meeting. That meant the board could take no action, because it lacked a quorum. Only Loeffler, Ashford and Larry Stephenson attended. Board members Kniffin and Armida Bittner were absent.
This meant the college’s plan to support a new technology consortium and approval of three contracts is on hold until the next meeting.
However, Loeffler also said the board can’t even legally set the next meeting, since it now lacks a policy on setting meeting times.
Ashford made no comment on Loeffler’s allegations during the meeting.
Stephenson argued the board could not hold a “regular meeting” since it lacks any policies. He said the board should call any future meetings “special meetings” until policies are in place.
“This meeting is listed as a regular meeting and it is probably rightfully a special meeting,” Chambers said.
Not having a regular meeting time is a deficiency, Chambers added.
Ashford said the board has stuck closely to its former policy that stated meetings happen on the third Thursday of each month.
Thursday’s meeting initially included a work session to discuss GCC’s policies and procedures.
However, Ashford cancelled that work session for undisclosed reasons.