College of the Siskiyous trustees elected new board officers for the coming year, officially began the search for a permanent president, and approved a rare “vote of no confidence” in one of their own during their Dec. 10 regular meeting.
Barry Ohlund, who is beginning his fifth year as a COS trustee, was elected by the board to serve as its president. Greg Hanna was chosen as vice president/clerk.
All the trustees except Jim Hardy voted to approve a vote of no confidence in Hardy, citing two violations of COS board policy and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges’ Accreditation Standard.
The violations were identified by an ad hoc committee that investigated inquiries Hardy made regarding former COS head softball coach Doug Eastman’s attempt to get that same position at Feather River College.
On Saturday, Eastman’s attorney, Peter Martin, served a Claim for Damages against COS and the Community College Athletic Association for embarrassment, annoyance, emotional distress, damage to reputation, lost economic opportunities, lost wages and benefits, according to the claim.
Hardy, who did not attend the Dec. 10 COS board meeting, believes his contact with Feather River College was about carrying out his job; he does not agree that he violated any policy.
A vote of no confidence carries no enforcable consequences and is a “rather unusual” step for a college board to take against a fellow trustee, said Jim Ewert, a legal counselor with the California Newspaper Publishers Association.
Ohlund agreed that the vote is an unusual situation, and said he believes it may be one of the first “for almost any college board.”
Board elections, presidential search
Trustee Alan Dyar gave special thanks to outgoing board president Bob Rice, saying Rice “has been an exceptional and valued leader of the Board of Trustees.”
Ohlund, who is just beginning his fifth year on the board, said he’s excited to be the president and plans to focus on developing the Yreka campus. He would also like the see the college focus on increasing student enrollment and initiating classes, including a robotics program.
“We have an excellent administration, staff and faculty,” Ohlund said in a follow up interview on Friday. “COS is on a real good road right now for students to get an excellent education.”
Representatives for state and local organizations will be determined at the January 2014 meeting.
The board also took action at the Dec. 10 meeting to officially begin the search for a permanent president.
Dr. Robert Frost is serving as the college’s interim president following an unsuccessful search for a new superintendent/president in spring of 2013.
A search committee has been formed and approved, and a sub-committee has already finalized the content for the job announcement, according to a news release from the college.
Page 2 of 3 - A final draft of the brochure was distributed and approved during the Dec. 10 meeting, and the job announcement and brochure were approved.
The search committee, as well as subcommittee members Penny Heilman, Hanna, and Carol Cupp, will work with Dr. Fran White, consultant with Community College Search Services, to develop interview questions and finalize the process for board interviews with the candidate finalists.
Vote of no confidence
Members of the ad hoc committee that investigated Hardy were chair Barry Ohlund, Hanna and Dyar. Their report identified two violations of COS’s board policy 2715 and the Accreditation Standard: exercising authority only as a board and using appropriate channels of communication.
The report states that when Hardy called the Feather River College athletic director to discuss Eastman’s job search, he violated the policy by identifying himself as a board member, since he was not authorized by the COS governing board to do so.
The report states that Hardy wasn’t authorized to “engage in any employment inquiry or advocacy on behalf of Mr. Eastman,” and it would have been appropriate instead to communicate with the COS president, with the board president or to ask that a matter be agendized for the full board to consider.
“Information regarding employment determinations is confidential, and it appears that Mr. Hardy attempted to obtain confidential information... by asserting his position as a COS board member,” the report states.
Because the committee found the violations to be “significant,” it recommended the board consider a vote of no confidence.
Asked later about the board’s decision, Ohlund said the vote means exactly what it says – that the board has no confidence in Hardy and that “he will not be supported.”
The committee took its responsibility “very seriously,” Ohlund said, and documented everything fastidiously, though none of them had previous investigative experience.
“We asked (Hardy) to please reconsider,” Ohlund said. “We tried hard but he had decided he was right, and that he supports Eastman, so we had to enforce the board policies.”
Hardy said on Friday that when he made his inquiries regarding Eastman’s situation at Feather River College, he was asking questions and attempting to verify what he had heard. He said he never implied that he was acting on behalf of COS, but did identify himself as a board member. He believes it was not a violation of board policy or WASC’s Accreditation Standards.
“My job is to ask questions,” said Hardy. “... I get the feeling they wanted to slap my hand and shut me up. It is my job to hold everyone accountable... and it’s not like I am going against something the board voted on. The board never took action on the Eastman topic.”
Page 3 of 3 - Next meeting
The COS board will meet next on Tuesday, Jan. 14, at the Weed campus board room. Open session will begin at 6 p.m.