Endorsement In Board Race Gets Coduto Removed As ASB President

(October 24)  His endorsement of a non-incumbent in this year’s Chaffey College Governing Board race appears to have gotten Chaffey College Student Body President Kevin Coduto bounced off the Chaffey Campus Student Council.
Incumbent Kathleen Brugger of Rancho Cucamonga, a now-retired social worker who has served on the Chaffey board since 1993 and is currently board president, and incumbent Katie Roberts of Upland, a retired police captain who has been on the Chaffey board since 2001, are standing for reelection in the November 5 balloting. They have a sole challenger in the person of Zafar S. Inam of Ontario.
Coduto endorsed Inam, a civil engineer, who is also a science, engineering and math instructor at Westwood College as well as a field representative for Congresswoman Gloria Negrete-McLeod. Coduto had recorded robo-calls promoting Inam’s candidacy which were placed to voters in the district and he also made video statements supporting Inam and consented to his name being used in press releases sent out by the Inam campaign.
Coduto’s political activity was upsetting to the college administration. There is something of a clubby atmosphere on the college’s governing board, where the vast majority of issues that have come before it over the last several years have been decided on 5-0 votes.
As student body president, Coduto fulfilled the dual role of a student trustee with full voting rights on the student council as well as being a liaison between the college’s governing board and the student population. He was the student representative at the college board meetings. As such, he was permitted to participate in the board discussions but did not have voting authority on that body.
At the October 7 meeting of the Associated Students of Chaffey College, Chaffey College President/Superintendent Dr. Henry Shannon made a rare showing before that panel, and was critical of Coduto’s endorsement of Inam, which he said represented an ethical misstep on the ASB president’s part. Shannon said having a student body president who was campaigning against two of his five bosses was making things difficult for him as the head of the institution.
“I got calls from my governing board members,” Shannon told the campus council. “It’s making it very awkward for me.”
The college president said the role of student body president put restrictions on Coduto’s free speech rights. “Kevin cannot just be Kevin if he’s elected by the student government society here at Chaffey College,” Shannon said.
On October 21, the Campus Council adjourned into an equally rare closed executive session, citing disciplinary procedures. The council was accompanied into the closed session by two faculty members, ASB advisor John Machado and director of student activities Susan Stewart. The public was entirely excluded from the council’s deliberations during that session, as was Coduto, who was refused admittance to the discussion. Those partaking in the closed session included campus council members Carlotta Bohon, Jane-Frances A. Okere, Antoinette Duke, Victor Bocanegra, Manuel Elguera, Christian Garcia, Mia Henderson, Salvadore Espinoza Losa, Daisy Serrato and Corey Stevens. One member of the campus council, Chelshy Garcia, was not present at the meeting.
Upon the body’s return to open session, it was announced that Coduto had been removed by a two-thirds vote of his council colleagues and had been replaced by Bohon.
Bohon cited Coduto’s violation of Article III of the Associated Students of Chaffey College by-laws as the basis for her predecessor’s removal. Article III pertains to the need for student representatives to maintain “decorum” and avoid statements that would confuse their own personal views with that of the college or the student body as a whole.
After Shannon’s appearance at the student council meeting on October 7, Coduto, who was elected to the ASB president post in April, made statements to the Chaffey College newspaper, The Breeze, in which he stated that Shannon’s criticism of him before his council colleagues for having endorsed Inam was “unprofessional and disrespectful.”
It was this statement that was utilized to make the case that Coduto had violated Article III.
Despite suggestions that Shannon had induced the campus council to take the action to depose Coduto, the president/superintendent denied that was the case.
“That was a student issue and you need to talk to the student adviser,” Shannon told the Sentinel on October 23, indicating he would make no further comment on the matter.
Inam told the Sentinel that he was “not sure what happened during the student body forum. My feeling is what happened to Kevin was a reaction to him not following along with what the administration wanted to hear.” He said he considered Coduto’s removal to have been both ill-advised and outside the scope of the college’s and the campus council’s authority. “All students have freedom of speech. That applies to whether they are a student government member or not. There should not be restrictions on what they can say.”
Coduto said he believes he was within his rights to support the college board candidate of his choice publicly. He acknowledged that traditionally student body presidents have not endorsed college board candidates and that he noted his ASB president title in making the endorsements, but said he did not believe he was bound by tradition and that he made clear he was speaking for himself when endorsing Inam.
“I have never spoken on behalf of the entire student body saying that the whole student body thinks this, or even that the whole student government thinks this,” he said. “The endorsement is what spurred the entire situation, but technically not the reason I was removed from office. It caused a stir-up with the board, who put pressure on the president of the college, who put pressure on the student government advisors, who put pressure on the student government members to remove me from office on grounds such as being ‘unethical.’”
Coduto said it was hypocritical of Shannon to attack him for having engaged in political activity when Shannon has himself made political contributions to the college board members, at whose pleasure he serves as president/superintendent. “I question the ethics of that,” Coduto said.
Coduto said he now recognizes that he had to pay a steep price – being removed as student body president – for exercising his freedom of speech. Nevertheless, he said, he would “absolutely do so again.”

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  1. Pingback: President of ASCC reinstated | The Breeze

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