Four college trustees face recall
According to a press release the group distributed at the meeting, “The citizens of this community can no longer ignore the plight of the college. We must hold accountable those members of the Board of Trustees who have ignored the problem and continue to support a failed administration.”
Lassen County Clerk Julie Bustamante said the group has not filed any paperwork with her office yet, but serving notice on the trustees is the first step in the process. She said she expects them to file the paperwork with her office soon.
“A majority of the trustees of Lassen Community College have for too long allowed our college to decline,” the press release reads. “While the quality of education at the school remains high, mismanagement of the college has either caused or contributed to conditions that place the institution’s survival in peril: declining enrollments, a huge financial deficit, costly state minimum conditions violations, accreditation probation, deteriorating infrastructure and poor public relations.”
Click was unavailable to comment for this story.
“In regard to the notice of recall,” Blevins said, “the references to declining enrollment, loss of jobs and academic probation are absolutely correct. What is open to debate, however, is poor management. If poor management is characterized by trying to save positions, services and salaries, then we are guilty as charged. Shared governance, tenure laws, faculty service areas, union contracts, etc. are all intended to either enhance or protect staff jobs. When the debate begins regarding layoffs or reduced services, it is a great tactic to blame others for ‘mismanagement.’
“Time and time again we are faced with difficult decisions on proper expenditures. When income does not equal outgo, you only have two options. Either you increase income or reduce expenditures. Both of these are hard to deal with, especially when some individuals would rather blame others than look at reality. Our reserve fund is approximately $2.5 million. When Dr. Cissell was hired it was about $400,000. Our income has decreased by about $1.2 million the last two years.
“Examples abound for this phenomenon from the repeatability of classes, the defamation of outreach, some athletic programs, Coppervale, minimal summer programs and the elimination of intersession. Yes, we are ultimately responsible, but we hire $100,000 plus or minus administrators to supposedly be accountable.
“Issues are bound to surface when finger-pointing becomes the focus. When blatant resistance to cooperation is occurring at the expense of our students, it is the mission of the board to take a firm stance against selfish agendas.
According to Blevins, 11 individuals signed recall notices. The recall proponents are Virginia Wilson, Nichol C. Wilson, Carole A. Hack, Diana Latimer, Rodney Latimer, Linda Vincent Adams, Jolynn Cook, Robert A. Paulson, Christi Choo, Robin Affanso and Shirley L. Christensen.
Diana Latimer was a candidate for the LCC board during the last election.
“I don’t know what to say at this point,” Holybee, a longtime board member, said on Wednesday morning. “I’m in shock. I’m serving my fourth term, and I’m going to stay on the board if I can. There are a bunch of good people on the board and there are a bunch of good people at the college.”
Deal said he’s staying, too.
“I intend to serve until the end of my term unless the public decides otherwise,” Deal said. “I have no agenda. I want to do what’s best for the college. I’m disappointed they (the proponents of the recall) don’t understand what the accreditation committee had to say, but I guess that’s a moot point. They have a right to their perception.”
But Deal said it’s much more than simply a perception. This recall movement could have a significant impact on the college’s struggle to retain its accreditation.
“I’m very concerned how the accreditation committee will take this recall,” Deal said. “I’m afraid they might see it as another level of dispute and turmoil, and that disturbs me. We’re doing whatever we can to meet their (the accreditation committee) guidelines. This continuing turmoil seems to underpin what they called the college’s dysfunctional culture of conflict between battling factions within the college.”
In a Jan. 31, 2007 letter, he Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges expressed its concern about the board’s ability to support the college president.
“ … the Commission wishes to express its concerns that the inability of the institution’s governing board to take appropriate actions to stabilize the institution and support it chief executive officer may have a continued, lasting and negative impact on Lassen College’s ability to come into compliance with the Standards for Accreditations and remain an accredited institution.”
In an earlier report, issued on Sept. 27, 2006, the commission wrote, “The (accreditation) team was gravely concerned with the general state of governance at the college and with a readily apparent power struggle that is ongoing between a group of faculty, staff and mid-level administrators and the board and president and other members of the college faculty and staff. This struggle has distracted the college and the board from considering important matters and instead has focused everyone’s attention on this struggle over whether the group or the president will ‘lead’ the college.”
Dr. Homer Cissell, LCC’s president, responded to the recall effort.
“I have had the honor to serve under three of the individuals (subject to the recall) for five years and one for one year. I have known them to be honest, committed to the college and individuals of the highest levels of integrity. Most citizens should be aware these individuals have had to make some very tough decisions in the best interest of the college district and its citizens. They came on the board with the purpose of making Lassen Community College the very best college it could be. They have corrected illegal hires, contravened abuses at the college and continue to make decisions that are good for the college and the community.
“I find it extremely disturbing that after all these years of district service, a few individuals who disagree with the board’s decisions would initiate such an act that could very possibly cost this district four very fine servants of the community. I find it unconscionable that the individuals who initiated this recall do so because they simply disagree with the stance of these individuals, and if this act is successful, it will cost the district between $50,000 and $60,000. At a time of limited resources, this will add even greater harm to this district.”
The recall proponents also alleged, “In response to last year’s Grand Jury Report, the California State Attorney General stated that the college ‘has been arguably poorly managed and is in fiscal disarray,’ yet the majority of the board find mismanagement acceptable because no criminal activity has been found.”
The Lassen County Grand Jury’s concern focused specifically on possible criminal acts by Cissell and the board.
According to a Sept. 11, 2006 press release from Lassen County District Attorney Bob Burns, “The 2005-2006 Lassen County Grand Jury referred to this office several matters related to the actions of Lassen Community College board members and President Dr. Homer Cissell that it believed were criminal or possibly criminal in nature. These matters were correctly referenced in the 2005-2006 Lassen County Grand Jury’s year-end report as having been referred to this office for review.”
Burns referred the grand jury’s concerns to the state attorney general’s office.
California Senior Assistant Attorney General Mark Geiger reviewed the issues and responded to Burns’ inquiry.
“It is apparent that while the community college has been inarguably poorly managed and is in fiscal disarray,” Geiger wrote, “the somewhat unorthodox actions Homer Cissell took in addressing a variety of problems facing the college do not appear to rise to the level of any chargeable crimes,” and “I recommend that no further criminal investigation or prosecution be considered at this time.”
Lady Grizzlies celebrate a championship season
Miranda Langenhorst, back left, Mikailia Bustamante, Melica Woodhead, Dana Lovelace, Makenna Busse, Klari Scheff, bottom left, Hailey Hannah, Stevie Woodbury, Myeisha Shepard, Emilee Downing, Gabi Geoia and Jayde Hartzell pose together with the awards they were presented with at the Lassen High School...Read More...
Grizzlies soccer team plays tough, rain or shine
The Lassen High School boy’s soccer team is ready to give its opponents tough competition this year. The team is made up of Andy Wotjen, back left, Jon Langston, Cyrus White, Michael Pelfrey, Josh Schmidt, Jason Lilly, Jake Morgan, Jayce Gray, Carson Friedline, Garrison Collier, Jesus Garibo, Robert...Read More...
Sanctions upheld, Lassen College soccer cannot compete in playoffs
Dec. 2 — After a lengthy appeals process and a hugely successful soccer season, it turns out the Lassen Community College men’s and women’s soccer teams will not be allowed to compete in the playoffs. Lassen College has been appealing sanctions placed on the soccer program for competing in nontraditional...Read More...