COD Board of Trustees to consider censure of one of its own
PALM DESERT — Joel Kinnamon, who represents Trustee Area 4 on the College of the Desert Board of Trustees, has filed a complaint on behalf of district constituents and himself asking Board Chair Bonnie Stefan to place an item on the next board meeting to start 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.
Pérez made the questionable comments during the December board meeting when new and returning trustees were sworn in.
The purpose of the Board’s censure is to officially reprimand one of its members and is deemed to be a serious offense. Some have suggested he could be stripped of committee assignments.
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.’
Pérez, who represents Trustee Area 1, did not attend Friday’s meeting in person. He attended via zoom. He was reelected to a second, four-year term in November.
Not that I need to address Trustee Pérez’s false allegations of me being a racist, but I want the public to know that throughout my professional history, I have always been about equality and equal opportunity, Kinnamon said from the dais.
“As a gay man, I understand the ugliness of discrimination and not being able to live openly or advance in a career,” Kinnamon said. “My husband, Chris, (Parman) and I moved to California because of LGBTQ discrimination we faced while living and working in Oklahoma back in the early 2000s. California was one of the few states that offered legal protections.”
As the former president of College of the Desert, Kinnamon said he hired and supported a diverse workforce and worked to remove barriers that would prevent any student from getting a college education. I believe, as Horace Mann stated, an education is the greatest equalizer in reaching the American Dream.
So, I worked to make sure COD offered free tuition to every high school graduate in the entire Coachella Valley, Kinnamon said. He said he also worked to establish and enhance programs that celebrated the diversity of our students, such as the Veterans Resource Center, Dreamers Resource Center, Black Student Success Center, and the Gender and Sexual Diversity Pride Center.
“I am extremely proud of those accomplishments,” Kinnamon said. “However, I’m not surprised by my fellow trustee’s personal and political attacks. What I am surprised about is the level of potentially illegal political activity that was used against me when I ran for this board. I have recently been presented with copies of emails between former Trustee Aurora Wilson, President Martha Garcia, and the former Board Attorney, which if true, are potential violations of Board Policy 2716 “Political Activity” and the California Political Reform Act. ”
All of this follows Kinnamon’s call for a forensic audit in December.
When pressed on why he sought a forensic audit, Kinnamon told Uken Report that, “During the campaign I clearly stated that I would ask for a forensic audit into matters that were being brought up by community constituents. It is paramount that a public institution like College of the Desert and those entrusted to safeguard the interests of the public demonstrate transparency and accountability. I am committed to upholding my pledge to bring transparency to College of the Desert and be responsive to any questions of our community. The college is here to serve its community and the educational opportunities for everyone within Coachella Valley.”
The curtains are slowly being pulled back.
Kinnamon wasn’t the only one to take issue with Perez. Pam Hunter, the former public information officer for COD, spoke bluntly during public comments. For more than 20 years, Hunter said she was a member of 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.”
Listen to Perez’s comments here:
She added, “I was encouraged to hear Supervisor Perez call for us all ….”to be statesmen and get back to work on behalf of our students and our community …”
“But in a matter of minutes Trustee Pérez threw that out the window,” Hunter said.
Lynne O’Neill, a retired attorney from Thousand Palms, also spoke out against Pérez.
She said Pérez is one of the people “lost in social media hate talk,” and supports a censure.
Listen to her comments in their entirety here:
“It’s all in the context of diverting millions of dollars from other cities in the Coachella Valley to the city of Coachella,” O’Neill said.
She pointedly asked why there was no disclosures of financial interests from any of Perez’s family, government officials and people lined up for contracts — in short, all those who stood to gain from new college facilities in Coachella.
“You are using governmental money, you better get into the disclosure mode,” O’Neill said her voice swelling with the emotion of an impassioned lawyer fighting for the underdog and pointing at the board.
Alan Carvalho of Cathedral City said he echoed O’Neill’s comments.
This is a developing story. Check back at UkenReport.com for more.
- Lynnie O’Neill: Facebook
- Censure: Shutterstock