Yuba City: Action by community college trustees provokes dispute over open meeting violation

Some contend that a pay raise for the Yuba Community College district chancellor was made without observing California’s Brown Act. Today’s special meeting to reconsider the raise should remedy the problem. -db

February 3, 2010
By Ryan McCarthy

A special meeting today for trustees to consider rescinding the pay raise for Nicki Harrington, chancellor of the Yuba Community College District, is not spurred by Tuesday’s protest, the college district spokesman says.

“There was a public perception that there was a Brown Act violation,” Adrian Lopez said of the state open meeting law and the trustees action Jan. 20.

Today’s meeting is to remedy that, Lopez said.

But Lisa Jensen-Martin, president of the Yuba College Faculty Association, said trustees are meeting today about the $29,282 pay raise boosting the chancellor salary to $249,282 because of the community reaction to the trustee’s decision last month.

“They got caught with their hand right in the cookie jar,” Jensen-Martin said. “And they’re trying to save face.”

Trustees last month announced their favorable evaluation of Harrington after a closed session and said that she would receive a salary increase, Jensen-Martin recounted.

The faculty association president said the college district had contended only the chancellor’s evaluation occurred in the closed-door session and not a pay raise.

“What is there to rescind if they never approved it in the first place?” Jensen-Martin asked of today’s meeting.

Lopez said trustees took no action last month to adopt a new contract and that issue was to be taken up when trustees meet Feb. 10 in Woodland.

The special meeting today may alter that plan, he said, and matters will be more clear after meeting.

Trustee Alan Flory said Tuesday that he supports rescinding the new salary for the chancellor. “It appears to me that the action makes sense,” Flory said. “We need to put this thing to bed once and for all.”

Trustee Xavier Tafoya disagrees. “I still support her salary increase,” he said. “She’s done a terrific job.”

Moreover, Tafoya said, trustees will have to hire a new chancellor when Harrington retires. “To get somebody halfway decent, I’m going to have to increase the salary,” he said.

Jensen-Martin said rescinding the raise “is the right thing to do” but won’t end concerns about the Yuba College district. “This board has mismanaged the district for several years and they’ve been getting away with it,” she said.

Trustee George Nicholau will attend the meeting by telephone, according to the agenda. He will be in La Quinta in Riverside County near the community of Indian Wells.

Copyright 2010 Freedom Communications.