Meeting in Chester on Oct. 18, the Feather River College Board of Trustees voted 5-0 against approving, as initially presented, two policies covering public participation at board meetings and placement of items on the agenda.
The board then heard amended versions of FRC Board Policies 2340 and 2345 and voted unanimously to adopt the policies with revised language that emphasizes the board’s sole authority to set agendas and decide what items will be heard by the trustees.
“This issue of someone getting on the agenda and being denied has never happened in all my years on the board,” said Trustee John Sheehan, former president of the FRC board. “It’s a theoretical issue and today we are amending and refining the policy.”
Policy 2340 covered FRC Board of Trustee meeting agendas. Describing the process for placing items on agendas per Education Code requirements, the policy specified that members of the public may submit matters directly related to the business of the college district for board meetings. The process is spelled out in detail in the policy document.
Policy 2345 covered public participation at board meetings. The policy included similar specifications for the process by which members of the general public may bring matters directly related to the business of the college district to the attention of board members.
The amended language in both policies, approved 5-0 by the trustees, included the following:
“The Superintendent/President shall consult with the Board President and judge whether the request is or is not a matter directly related to community college business. The Superintendent/President likewise has the discretion to consolidate similar agenda requests as one agenda item. In the event that a request is denied, the Board will be advised, in writing, to include rationale for the denial. The Board has final authority to set the Board agenda.”
FRC President Dr. Kevin Trutna stated the intention of the policy updates was to “get in line with the Education Code and make things open to the public.”
He acknowledged the value of the board’s amendments and had brought revised documents ahead of time to the meeting with suggested clarifications for consideration.
“The board will always have the final authority,” Trutna said, adding that there was never any intention to usurp the process and the new language changes were welcome and minor.
Trustees Guy McNett, Bill Elliott, Dr. James Meyers and Board President Dr. Dana Ware joined fellow Trustee Sheehan in a discussion of the policy updates.
“Are you worried (something might come up for the board) and we might not even know about it?” Dr. Ware said and asked for information about concerns from FRC’s classified staff.
Staff commented about the possibility that people may not have fully understood the intent of the policy language as originally proposed and said there was no intention to prevent information from coming before the trustees.
By taking two distinct votes, the trustees made sure to address the issue.
“Folks in the community are concerned [about having access to the FRC board] and that’s not right,” Trustee McNett said. “This new language makes it clear that authority about what the board hears on its agenda will not rest with only one person. This makes it clear that the board has sole authority to accept or reject a written rationale for items coming before the trustees or not.”
Trustees Elliott and Dr. Meyers added their assent.
“Yes, otherwise we’re transferring our authority,” Meyers said, referring to the clarified language. “The board holds its authority to set items for its agenda.”
Making the motion to adopt the two amended policies, Elliott said, “The board does retain the right to take action.”