Rancho Santiago College Foundation Accused of Brown Act Violations in Saudi Arabia Deal
A clash between Rancho Sanitago Community College faculty and brass could rock the casbah.
The Faculty Association of the Rancho Santiago Community College District claims the state's open-meeting law was violated in deliberations that led to RSCCD's controversial $105 million consulting contract with two technical schools in Saudi Arabia.
Last month, a dozen or so Rancho Santiago employees blasted the idea of the multi-million dollar consulting agreement--which provides the Saudi schools with a teacher training program, infrastructure upgrades and an updated curriculum--because of the Middle East country's stands on human rights, alternative lifestyles and Israel or Jews in general.
But Chancellor Raul Rodriguez told the Board of Trustees that the deal does not amount to an endorsement of Saudi Arabia's human rights record by the district that oversees Santa Ana and Santiago Canyon colleges.
Now, Barry Resnick, president of the Faculty Association of the RSCCD, has opened a new front in the battle, based on this statement he emailed to the Weekly:
I am the faculty association president of the Rancho Santiago Community College District (RSCCD). The chancellor of the RSCCD created a foundation and publicly commented that it did not require adherence to the Brown Act. Consequently, he entered into a very questionable and controversial contract with Saudi Arabia through this foundation. Despite foundation meetings being held and contracts signed, agendas and minutes were either not provided to us through our public records request or never done. The public records our law firm did receive uncovered e-mails indicating foundation board members were solicited to discuss business matters outside of meetings. I have been told by several who know the Brown Act these are among the most egregious violations they have seen.
The Weekly received the following response from the district through Judy Iannaccone, the district's director of Public Affairs and Publications:
The Foundation has received a communication from the Faculty Association inquiring as to the Foundation's compliance with the provisions of the Ralph M. Brown Act, which relates to the conduct of meetings, and requesting a response as well as corrective action within thirty (30) days.
At all times, the Foundation has sought to conduct and conducted its activities in good faith compliance with the Act. While disagreeing with the position of the Association, statutory compliance is and remains the Foundation's objective. The Foundation is having legal counsel review all issues regarding the Association's communications, with a response and any needed corrective action to timely occur. Legal counsel has also been request to assist and advise the Foundation on a going forward basis on future agendas and meetings to further assure continued compliance.
Further comment at this time is being appropriately deferred pending the results of those efforts and in light of the recency of the Association's inquiries on Thursday of last week.
So ... stay tuned.
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