By EDDIE CELAYA
The Pima Community College Board of Governors voted during the April 12 meeting to limit debate for the sake of time and efficiency, spurring another round of contentious motions and requests.
The action followed an epic five-and-a-half-hour long board meeting on March 8. During the meeting, District 5 Representative Luis Gonzales clashed repeatedly with Chancellor Lee Lambert and Board Chair Mark Hanna.
Gonzales also questioned the administrative team tasked with assembling PCC’s first diversity handbook for nearly an hour.
The April agenda included Procedural Item 1.6, which limited discussion “on any specific agenda item” to a set amount of time, three to five minutes, depending on the item.
The item was unusual for a few reasons. Copies of the official board agenda provided to the Aztec Press did not include the item. It also applied only to the April meeting.
The purpose of PI 1.6 was “to devote the needed time to all items necessary,” Hanna said.
As Hanna called for a vote, Gonzales tried to protest. But Hanna reminded Gonzales that since the item was technically “procedural,” there could be no discussion.
The item passed on voice vote, with Gonzales dissenting. Gonzales eventually had his say during the time reserved for board member comment.
“Mr. Chairman, for the purposes of clarity, do I have three minutes?” Gonzales asked, facetiously. “How many minutes do I have?”
Hanna confirmed Gonzales indeed had three minutes.
“I believe what you are doing is muzzling this board,” Gonzales said. “I don’t know when this got on the agenda. It wasn’t on the agenda I received.”
Gonzales argued the board already had the power to end a discussion by a two-thirds vote. He continued, asking college attorney Jeff Silvyn to look into whether the addition of the procedural item was even legal.
Faculty Senate Representative David Morales used the end of his allotted speaking time to admonish the board. The board’s vote on PI 1.6 “reminds me of what the U.S. Senate just did to change the rules to limit the voice of the minority,” he said.
In an April 22 phone interview, Hanna confirmed he asked that PI 1.6 be introduced to the official agenda. He said it was updated and posted on the morning of April 11, and denied that PI 1.6 was in response to the length or tone of the March meeting.
“It was simply to move the meeting along,” he said. “We knew we had a large one when we reviewed the amount of items for the meeting, plus we had a lot of awards that evening.”
In a separate phone interview on April 22, Gonzales was still not convinced of the item’s legality.
“I just have a sneaky suspicion there was an open meeting law violation here,” he said. “I can’t prove it because of the way it came down.”
Gonzales pointed out how, after Hanna made the motion, a second came “immediately” from board member Meredith Hay, perhaps implying coordination.
He also saw the purpose of PI 1.6 differently than Hanna. Gonzales asserted it was intended to limit his time specifically.
“It’s very clear I ask too many questions and sometimes I’m embarrassing to some folks and they don’t want to deal with it,” he said.
“Of course not,” Hanna said in response to the claim PI 1.6 was introduced to stifle a particular board member. “It was for everyone.”