Ethics probe stems from complaints against Trustee Pérez

PALM DESERT — The College of the Desert Board of Trustees on Thursday appointed a subcommittee of Fred Jandt and Bonnie Stefan to review allegations against Trustee Rubén Pérez as part of an ethics probe.

The ethics probe is in response to written complaints against Trustee Pérez for College of the Desert’s Code of Ethics Standards of Practice.

Neither Perez nor any of the other trustees said a word.

Joel Kinnamon, who represents Trustee Area 4 on the College of the Desert Board of Trustees, has filed at least one of those complaints on behalf of district constituents and himself. He initiated the request for a censure process against Trustee Rubén Pérez for his violations that occurred on the board’s dais, and other more recent actions that he believes, violated board policies.

Kinnamon has not said what those “recent violations” might be.

Pérez made the questionable comments during the December board meeting when new and returning trustees were sworn in.

During the board meeting on Friday, Jan. 20, Kinnamon said, “Trustee Pérez sat here at this dais and delivered public comments that I believe violated Board Policy 2715, the Code of Ethics Standards of Practices for Trustees, by disparaging the work of previous trustees who served on this board; disparaging the work of former and current administrators, faculty and staff by describing them as part of a “cesspool”; accusing constituents in our community and our largest newspaper in the Valley of race lighting; and his continued political rhetoric that disparages my name and reputation, basically calling me a “racist” again, from this dais.”

His comments caused a huge uproar throughout this Valley and were the opposite of how a trustee should conduct him or herself on this dais, Kinnamon said.  “Trustee Perez even went against his own father’s (Supervisor Manuel Perez) advice minutes before when he plead with everyone to conduct themselves as ‘statesmen.’

Pam Hunter, the former public information officer for COD, said that for more than 20 years, she was a member of a dedicated team that served students and community proudly.

“Now, however, based on Trustee Pérez’s comments, we are all apparently just a cesspool,” Hunter told the board.

You can hear what he said here:

Pérez has told Uken report he would not apologize for what he said. He also said he had a First Amendment right to free speech.

Based upon the findings of the investigation, the Board may take any and/or all of the following actions:

  • No Violation. Determine that the alleged misconduct did not occur or was not a violation of the code of ethics and that no further action should be taken.
  • Corrective Action Unnecessary. Determine that a violation occurred, but that the violating Trustee is unlikely to repeat the offense and therefore no corrective action is needed unless and until a future violation occurs.
  • Warning. Find that a violation occurred and officially warn the Trustee specifically identifying the misconduct. The warning may direct the Trustee to take specified corrective action. Failure of the violating Trustee to take such corrective action may result in Reprimand.
  • Reprimand. Find that a violation occurred and officially reprimand the Trustee, specifically identifying and condemning the misconduct. The Reprimand may include direction to the violating Trustee to undertake ethical training, perform restitution, or otherwise take specified corrective action. Failure of the violating Trustee to take such corrective action may result in Censure.
  • Censure. Find that a violation occurred and censure the Trustee. Censure not only expresses the Board’s disapproval of the misconduct but expresses the Board’s disapproval of the Trustee based upon the Trustee’s likelihood of continuing with ethical misconduct as a Trustee. The Censure shall be made publicly.

The action taken by the board will be made public and be binding on the board member charged and on the board as a whole.

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  • Ethics (shutterstock_561549859): Shutterstock