Trustee Area 5 Representative Bonnie Stefan will remain chair one more year

PALM DESERT — Arguing it is in the interest of continuity, the College of the Desert Board of Trustees voted 4-2 to break with tradition, which is legal, and reappoint Bonnie Stefan as chair of the board.

Trustees Bea Gonzalez and Rubén AríAztlán Pérez voted against Stefan.

Trustee Joel Kinnamon said she is the longest-serving trustee having served since 1999 and has experience with the accreditation process. During a tumultuous year in which one controversial president left and an interim was hired, Stefan ruled with a steady hand without drama and theatrics.

Before continuing the discussion and while waiting for an ill and tardy Trustee Ron Oden, the Board took a quick recess. Headed into the break, someone, presumably Pérez, was caught on a hot mic, saying, “It’s kind of ridiculous. Let’s circumvent the process here.”

He echoed similar sentiments during the live meeting.

“Why circumvent the process now?” Pérez asked. “Why not follow the procedure? Something fishy is at play.”

Legal counsel assured him the board was well within its right to do what it did.

Gonzalez has been a lightning rod for controversy much of the year, often criticized for opposing the Palm Springs campus. Gonzalez, who faces reelection next year, was even the target of a billboard campaign accusing her of turning her back on students in her district.

She called the board’s action to retain Stefan and not her as “petty games, nonsense, and calculated.”  Shee said she had a feeling the board would play games. Gonzalez said it was obvious, but not surprising.

During her lengthy and often repetitive statements, no one said a word.

Had the board followed tradition, Gonzalez would have been chair and Pérez would have been vice chair. The majority of the board had no appetite for that. It named Gonzelez as vice chair and Kinnamon as clerk. Pérez has moved to the back of the succession line.

At one point, Kinnamon asked when the investigation will be done into the possible censure of Pérez. Stefan replied, “Next month.”

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