The Gila Community College board is finally getting its whatnot together.
More or less.
For instance, the board last week almost scheduled — or maybe canceled — its December meeting.
Not only that: The board adopted some actual policies, after operating nearly two years without any.
So first of all — the December meeting.
State law requires the board to meet at least 10 times a year.
So, if you meet every month — you can skip December.
Well, in theory.
In fact, when board president Larry Stephenson suggested canceling the scheduled Dec. 20 meeting, the board, the senior dean and the district’s legal counsel all realized they’re actually not sure how many times the board has met so far this year.
Stephenson allowed as how they’d canceled at least two meetings for lack of a quorum. So did they need the December meeting after all? If fact, did they need two December meetings?
Senior Dean Stephen Cullen said “we did have two meetings canceled for lack of a quorum. Which would leave us one short —unless you count the three meetings we had in June.”
Huh? Three meetings in June?
“We had a public hearing (on the budget), then adopted the budget, then the regular meeting,” explained Cullen. “But I would like to be sure we have 10 meetings on the books.”
Naturally enough, everyone turned to Brian Chambers, the county counsel charged with giving the board legal advice.
He struggled for an answer. “Well, if there were three meetings, then that would be three meetings.”
“But does that count?” asked Stephenson. “What’s a meeting?”
Chambers groped for an answer. “If it’s called to order. And it’s a meeting. Then that’s a meeting.”
So were those meetings?
We’ll get back to you on that, Cullen assured the board.
But, hey: The board made progress on another front.
The board adopted a brand new policy banning conflicts of interest by board members. The board has been operating essentially without policies since a meeting nearly two years ago when a split board revoked all existing policies — including a policy that set term limits on serving as chairman. The same split board then promptly re-elected Bob Ashford as chairman, although it was his fifth term in a row — in violation of the old, vanished policy.
The conflict of interest discussion got a little confusing as well.
Chambers explained that under the new policy, board members would sign a statement saying that they had no financial conflicts of interest so far as they knew.
Then down the road, maybe something comes up. Maybe the board is voting on a contract that would go to a board member’s wife. In that case, the board member would sign a form that would disclose a specific conflict of interest — and presumably refrain from voting on that issue.
“So we need two forms?” asked Stephenson.
“No. You sign one form,” said Chambers.
“But you have the general form and the specific form.”
“You have a conflict of interest form,” said Chambers.
“But you have general conflicts of interest and specific conflicts of interest.”
“You just have a conflict of interest that you disclose on the form,” said Chambers.
“Which form: The general form or the specific form?” persisted Stephenson.
Chambers shook his head. “I’m not following you.”
So it turns out, the district can have a single form, which every one signs in a general sort of way. But then if something comes up, they get a new blank copy of that form and fill it out again — this time disclosing the specific conflict.
Everybody got that?
The board also adopted two other sets of policies — one regarding assorted financial procedures and a second regarding various expenditure categories. Both of those policies grew out of a recent state audit that identified various problems in the district’s bookkeeping procedures and in the amount of information that goes to the board before it makes a decision.
Mind you, the board hasn’t brought back all its policies. But heck, it’s a start. They can always meet in December — maybe a couple of times — and adopt some more. And if that provokes a conflict of interest — at least they know which form to sign. It’s just one: Right?