Sun Exclusive: Governing Board Member William Stewart Resigns; cites ‘lack of transparency’ by administration


QUITTING IN PROTEST – Governing Board Member William Stewart said he will resign tonight after just three months, citing a lack of transparency and shared governance.

Citing frustration over college administration’s threats of layoffs and his inability to get accurate budget figures, Southwestern College Governing Board Member William Stewart told The Sun he will resign this evening.

Stewart informed The Sun in an exclusive interview this afternoon that he was resigning out of frustration with district administrators whom he said were not providing complete and accurate information to board members or union negotiators. He also said he could not abide by the district’s negotiating strategies, “including the threat of layoffs.”

“Without information, all the information (his emphasis), oversight is a sham,” he wrote in his letter of resignation, which he said he will make public soon after The Sun posts this article.

Stewart compared the current state of district negotiations and fiscal management to the Titanic. In his letter he referenced Titanic Captain Edward Smith, who went down with the doomed ocean liner in 1912.

“If I am the captain of a vessel and I see clearly to port, but I have one blind spot to starboard, and I have crew members that will not provide me with a clear view off my starboard bow,” he wrote, “then I as captain am taking a grave risk to continue forward, a risk for me an my crew and all the passengers on board. I for one am unwilling to take such a risk.”

Stewart said he was dissatisfied with SWC’s campus governance culture, which he said was not shared governance, but merely “advisory.” The San Diego City College District, where he is a faculty member, has a truly collaborative shared governance system with meaningful input from all sectors of the district, he said. SWC, Stewart said, has a powerless Shared Consultation Council that the superintendent is free to ignore.

Stewart’s resignation letter

Stewart said he is very frustrated with the lack of transparency at SWC and its inability or lack of willingness to provide accurate budget figures to board members.

“There would be times when I couldn’t keep the data in order to analyze it,” he said. “From my perspective to the point when board members are not permitted to have access to the information to the point where they can analyze it, then they effectively don’t have access. That’s sort of like token access because to do careful in depth analysis means you have to study it. It doesn’t mean somebody waves a sheet in front of you.”

Stewart said there was particular information that he was not permitted to have pertaining to the budget.

“Any of the stuff I could draw down from public sites I could have just like anybody else could,” said Stewart. “Other documentation that I and the board have specifically asked for, I was not permitted to carefully examine it. Information that is vital for making decisions that are going on right now and I can’t make important decisions without truly understanding the numbers behind it.”

He said it is a board member’s responsibility to be properly informed. Without the proper information, he said, he cannot fulfill his duty.

“I’m not going to act as if I am fulfilling my fiduciary duty, like a good custodian, when in fact I am not being permitted to do so,” he said.

HAPPIER TIMES – Stewart and Governing Board President Humberto Peraza celebrate their November 2012 election to the governing board following a meeting with the Southwestern College Sun Editorial Board.

Stewart said his only viable choice is to resign.

“It’s as if someone said ‘hey we’re going to go 65 miles-per-hour down the freeway and by the way the fog is so thick you can’t see more than 15 feet in front of you’,” he said. “So I have a choice. I either get out of the car or take a chance of there being lots of casualties along the way.”

Stewart said he believes Southwestern College has a history of governing boards making important decisions without doing their due diligence. The results, he said, were catastrophic.

“They didn’t do careful examination of the finances and the financial records and we’ve seen where that’s taken Southwestern before,” he said.

Stewart said governance at SWC is from the top down in violation of the California Educational Code and state laws calling for shared governance of state community colleges.

“Shared governance means they’re sharing in the governing process, so it’s not a top-down system,” he said. “Shared consultation suggests they (staff) have a role as an advisor. I personally do not believe the direction faculty and staff would be inclined to move so quickly to discussions on layoffs if the whole college process involves a real collaborative model.”

When layoffs are being discussed first in negotiations with employees, it is clearly a sign of a top-down governance model, he said. College president Dr. Melinda Nish and her vice presidents are “good people,” he said, but “the way they approach their problem solving is radical.”

Stewart said his resignation is the best chance to force meaningful change at SWC.

“The people who for sure, for positive, were not responsible in any way for the negative financial outcome, are going to be the ones who pay the price,” said Stewart. “I cannot live with that.”


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  • CV_Voter

    I am sad to see this happen. We need highly conscious, integrity-laden men and women (on the Board) who will stand up against corruption. Failing to disclose budgetary information, incompetent data and processing information at the school is unconscionable. Nish – I hope you realize that this is leading to a vote of no-confidence. No-confidence in your ability to collaborate, or disclose detailed budget information. Please take some NIGHT COURSES from other colleges who do share transparency and have a WORKING governance system.

    Your only hope (Nish) is to let go of the reigns and allow people the freedom of speech to bring in fresh ideas, methods, and use the intellectual campus climate to improve the situation. There are many people on campus who are qualified, talented, and intelligent to help with breaking down the financial mess, and fixing it. We can go over the budget as a campus. Faculty and staff have PROVEN their dedication.

    Denise Whitaker (past interim president – who we should have kept) had a good way of including the faculty and staff. She brought continuity. You are bringing separation and division… your own demise.

  • As a CPA I serve on the boards of several non-profit organizations and it just drives me NUTS when financial information is botched, inaccurate, and/or poorly presented. But not to get any financial information at all? That’s absolutely unacceptable. William Stewart is right to resign – you cannot perform your fiduciary duties as a board member of any board without financial data. In this era of inexpensive, user friendly and robust applications that can provide business intelligence and good finance data, there is no excuse at all for not providing the information that board members need to perform their duties.

  • Pablo Cruz•in a few seconds



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    Yes mr Bolland said Mexican drug related-violence is an American problem, too. Americans are the world’s largest consumers of drugs from Mexico and spend billions on drugs. If Americans would not of listened to our “freinds” in mexico, drugs wouldnt of been used, but your ignorance of what the drugs are really being used for is PC, Americans were hooked by freinds from mexico, And again the drug issue in mexico if it such a problem, then have the mexicans selling it stop selling or the government of mexico’s army plan to drug the people of the USA into believing they are our freinds, do you think all americans latino white or black believe the crap from the mexican government? or ours? do you really think anybody in mexico is forced to grow drugs? or smuggle them? the main drug lords all have communistic ties and background, this included a non mexican pablo escobar, and Fidel Castro of cuba who is a brother in law of luis echeverria alvarez ex presidente of mexico who used coommunistic style assinations of the people since 1968 on october 2 , I know this personally, yet you feed the public misinformation, echeverria was indicted for genocide but the case held up since his ties to communists would expose the who enchelada, just do your research and dont leave out the truth for your buddies in mexico of the PRI

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    Pablo Cruz•8 minutes ago



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    the problem mr bolland is the consumers yes, but again NOBODY! I say NOBODY, HAS any obligation TO SUPPLY DRUGS EITHER, from the early braceros from around the 1900’s who introduced marijuana, heroin to the people here , the supply side is what started it, there was no american that said produce produce or invent drugs, they are part of the mexican latin cultures from the past, and these drugs are not part of american history or europeon, its a latino bad gift, its like sarying the aztecs were a great culture after they enslaved and ate people or the nazi socialists, drugs are for mind control, and that is the real reason for these drugs being introduced, the mexican government which IS part of the drug culture wanted drugs to be intro to the USA for the reconquista, but it backfired on them when people here took a stand, drugs became sold and distributed in mexico, and presidente calderon ADMITTED that, and also that his county looked the other way when going north for the money, and now it has bit them in the rear, so no mr bolland place the blame where it belongs on mexico.

  • Glinda the Good Witch

    Here we go again…

    Maybe there is a jackass virus at the school that causes people to act like they have no soul. If the CDC finds the illusive little bug, use all the millions in construction money to raze the school and do something with the land that is a bonafide benefit to the community, like a commune or a community garden.

    Second best idea: beg San Diego Community College District to absorb its sorry tush.

  • Hector

    I don’t get why the teachers union thinks they should get to control things. The schools do not exist for them.

  • jennifermavens

    I’d run for Superintendent of SWC, but I don’t look good in orange!!! (Prison joke)

  • Please note that the comment above did not come from the SaveOurSWC associated with the blog. Thanks.

  • Glinda the Good Witch

    What: Special Governing Board meeting
    When Monday March 4 at 6 pm
    Where L238 in the Library Complex

    • Agenda says Room 214. Which is correct?

      • Glinda the Good Witch

        Room 214 is correct — sorry, I copied & pasted from elsewhere too hastily.