Asked at a March forum about Rancho Santiago Community College District's controversial $105 million consulting contract with two technical schools in Saudi Arabia, Chancellor Raul Rodriguez stated that the public community college's private foundation that struck the deal was not subject to California's open meetings law, commonly referred to as the Brown Act.
So, naturally, the foundation's board is scheduled to meet at noon today in the district trustees' board room to consider "approval and ratification of unconditional commitment as to compliance with the Ralph M. Brown Act," according to the agenda.
The about-face follows a law firm representing the Faculty Association of the Rancho Santiago Community College District sending the foundation a letter requesting that it "correct its noncompliance with the Brown Act," explains Barry Resnick, the RSCCD faculty union president.
Resnick, some of his association's members and others on campus have questioned the agreement "that effectively excludes any individual or group that does not conform to the 'national values and beliefs in Saudi Arabia,' a country that openly discriminates against women, Jews, and others."
But equally troubling, according to Resnick, is the way the deal was approved. The deal was not reached in public nor by the citizen-elected Rancho Santiago Community College District Board of Trustees, even though Chancellor Rodriguez has said $1 million in taxpayer funds could be jeopardized if the agreement with Saudi Arabia is nixed.
"We have been unable to find evidence of the Board of Trustees' approval of this contract," Resnick writes in an email. "However, the Board of Trustees did approve payment for the agreement on February 3, 2014 through purchase order #14-P0030073. A $5,000 payment was made to Christopher J. Mackie on January 23, 2014."
Supporting documents indicate Mackie, director of Scottsdale, Arizona-based The rSmart Group Inc., is something of a consulting liaison between the district and the Saudis. According to the company website:
rSmart OneCampus is a cloud-based platform that simplifies finding and accessing campus services and information such as grades, class schedules, email, and more. With its robust search functionality and intuitive design, users can now spend more time on the task and less time trying to find it.
According to Bloomberg:
Dr. Christopher J. Mackie, Chris, Ph.D. served as a Program Officer for the Program in Research in Information Technology (RIT) at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Mr. Mackie is a technology professional with more than 20 years of leadership, management, philanthropic, and consulting experience in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors, including: education; healthcare; information technology; libraries; museums; the arts; and environmental protection. He has consulted with a wide range of domestic and international nonprofits and NGOs on strategic technology planning, organizational design, leadership development, and institutional advancement. He participated in a series of startup ventures in healthcare and information technology. Mr. Mackie serves as a Director at The rSmart Group, Inc. He holds an A.B in International Studies from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, an M.Ed. in higher education policy from the University of Michigan, and an M.P.P. and Ph.D. in International and Public Affairs from Princeton University.
Due to Brown Act violations, the Faculty Association is asking the foundation board to go back and re-consider every decision it has made over the past five years–even for authorizing spending for things that have already been paid for–only to do it this time in an open meeting or meetings.