CALIFORNIA — Just weeks after Chaffey College administrators publicly rebuked student government for holding an illegally closed meeting, reporters at the school say rumors abound of another secret meeting held by Associated Students of Chaffey College.
In two closed sessions last month, board members at Rancho Cucamonga’s Chaffey Community College voted to remove student body president Kevin Coduto. Ryan Geluz, a reporter for the school’s student newspaper, The Breeze, was at one of the meetings and protested that its closure violated the Brown Act.
“There are very limited reasons under the Brown Act that would allow for a closed session and removal of an officer of the ACSCC (sic) is not one of them,” associate superintendent Sherrie Guerrero wrote in a memorandum a few days later. “Accordingly, the action to remove Mr. Coduto as President is void and the District cannot recognize it.”
In an article in The Breeze, Director of Student Activities Susan Stewart apologized for ASCC’s violation.
Despite these reactions from officials, Coduto and Geluz said they’ve heard that ASCC Senator Corey Stevens called another secret meeting last Friday. It’s unclear whether this meeting also violated the Brown Act, because it constituted a quorum of the executive board but not of ASCC as a whole. Coduto said he believed that four out of the five members of the executive board attended the meeting, with six senators attending total.
Geluz said if he can confirm the meeting violated the Brown Act, he will lodge another protest.
“If it’s true, it’s alarming,” he said. “We just went through this whole process… They could claim ignorance before, but they can’t claim ignorance now.”
If a majority of a standing committee meets to discuss business, that meeting is subject to the Brown Act. Student Press Law Center attorney Adam Goldstein said the executive board is a standing committee by the Brown Act’s definition. If members did meet Friday, it violates the act.
Goldstein said a meeting of just under 51 percent of the legislative body, which would have been a quorum, appeared to be a conspiracy to violate the Brown Act.
“It looks really suspicious,” he said.
There’s still an “unspoken unwillingness” among student government members to talk publicly, and Geluz said he hasn’t been able to confirm the meeting took place. ASCC advisor John Machado has refused to speak to student media, and he deleted his only public statement, which he posted on the ASCC Facebook page.
“Machado is still claiming that we are reporting inaccurately, that we’re biased,” but he hasn’t communicated with The Breeze directly, Geluz said. The Breeze copy editor Andrew Coons criticized Machado in a letter to the editor last week.
“It is disingenuous of him to claim that only one side of the story is being presented while simultaneously declining to comment after multiple requests,” Coons wrote.
In his own open letter on Tuesday, Coduto requested that Machado be removed from his position for advising ASCC to violate the Brown Act.
“Of course there was no admission of wrongdoing or guilt or anything like that (after my reinstatement),” Coduto said in an interview.
Machado couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
Geluz said students’ demands for accountability have been growing as Machado and other student government members fail to issue an apology for holding illegal meetings. Still, he said, he’s glad to know The Breeze was right that the meetings shouldn’t have been closed.
“It’s important for the media and the public to have access to something like that,” Geluz said. “It’s how we balance the system.”
By Samantha Sunne, SPLC staff writer. Contact Sunne by email or at (703) 807-1904 ext. 123.