Governing Board Address 09/22/20

President Sullivan, Secretary Hendrix, members of the Board, Chancellor, members of CEC, colleagues, and guests,

Thank you for the opportunity to address you this evening on behalf of the Faculty Executive Council and the faculty at large.

As you know, troubling events relating to the search for a new Chancellor have been revealed over the past several weeks. These events are of deep concern to the faculty and the future of this institution.

Tonight is my first address since this Board convened on September 10 to take action on the corrupted Chancellor Search. At that meeting, the Board resolved on a 4-to-1 vote to admonish Board member Kathleen Winn for what an external investigation concluded were her “egregious” actions on that committee. The resolution also requested she resign from the Board.

Given that the historic nature of the Board Resolution is commensurate with the historic nature of the documented wrongdoing, I would strongly recommend that every member of the MCCCD community read the investigative report, in full.

Among its findings, I wish to highlight one in particular. The report documents an email communication between Ms. Winn and a community member unaffiliated with the search. In this email, which violated the confidentiality agreement required of all committee members, Ms. Winn both communicated about a candidate for the position and endorsed that candidate, thus destroying the neutrality the process demands. Furthermore, when questioned by the investigator about the communication, Ms. Winn flatly denied everything, despite having sent an email that irrefutably documents she had contacted the community member and says “and I support this candidate.”

This remarkable denial of incontrovertible evidence, in addition to testimony by other interviewees consistent with that email, in part led the investigator to conclude Ms. Winn’s claims to the contrary were “not credible.”

One might think that exposing Ms. Winn’s conduct would lead her to contrition, but her reaction to Mr. Heffner distributing the public investigative report was to send him a threatening text message instead. This threat led Mr. Heffner to file a whistleblower complaint.

We appreciate the Board’s bold actions in publicly addressing Ms. Winn’s misconduct that resulted in an aborted search process. The Board’s censure and request for her resignation demonstrates its commitment to integrity and accountability. But that resolution did not address her threat against a faculty member on that committee, and the inapplicability of the current whistleblower policy makes clear that something must be done, in the name of integrity and accountability, to demonstrate that such board behavior is intolerable.

So, my questions to you, Members of the Board, are these: How can this institution properly function when a Board member can deny basic facts, threaten employees, and refuse to take responsibility for her actions? How can a Board member’s “egregious” misconduct and “not credible” assertions do anything but detract from our mission of student success and our future candidate search? If the whistleblower policy cannot protect employees from Board members’ ominous threats that curtail legitimate conduct and silence dissent, what is to be done?

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Patrice Nango
Faculty Association President