Sacked Chaffey College ASB President Reinstated

(November 6) In a significant reversal, Kevin Coduto was reinstated as Chaffey College Associated Student Body President less than a week after he was removed from that elected position in what is now acknowledged was an improper manipulation of the Associated Students of Chaffey College’s governing board’s authority by the college administration.
At the prompting of  Associated Students of Chaffey College Campus Council Adviser John Machado, who is answerable to Chaffey College President/Superintendant Henry Shannon, the Associated Students of Chaffey College’s governing body, known as the campus council, on October 21 adjourned into a closed session from which Coduto was excluded and then relieved him of his position and title as student body president on a two-thirds vote. Caduto was also removed as a student trustee during the closed session  vote. Student body vice president Carlotta Bohon was then appointed to succeed Caduto.
Upon the body’s return to open session, Bohon reported the action against Coduto had been taken based upon what she said was Coduto’s violation of Article III of the Associated Students of Chaffey College by-laws. 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.
Coduto had gotten on the wrong side of Shannon by endorsing Zafar S. Inam in the run-up to the November 5 Chaffey College Board of Trustees election in which Inam, was challenging incumbents Kathleen Brugger and Katie Roberts.
At the October 7 meeting of the Associated Students of Chaffey College, Shannon in his capacity as college president/superintendent 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.
Coduto, however, did not back down, insisting that he was entitled to make an endorsement as he saw fit, aslong as he made clear hewas speaking for himself. He was critical of what he said was Shannon’s effort to curb his free speech rights. He charged the president/superintendent with hypocrisy, pointing out that Shannon was attacking 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.
The move to depose Coduto as associated student body president, which was choreographed by Machado and director of student activities Susan Stewart, appeared to have been done at the behest of Shannon, who in his only public statement on the matter sought to deflect responsibility from himself by suggesting Machado had taken the action on his own initiative. Machado and Stewart are directly answerable to Shannon.
In the immediate aftermath of his removal, Coduto unreservedly stated he believed the action had been taken in violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state of California’s open public meeting law, which requires advance notice of meetings, including an agenda of items to be discussed, considered or voted upon. Coduto questioned the legality of his removal on other grounds as well, noting he had been elected student body president by his peers at the college, had not been subject to a recall vote and was not given an opportunity to answer the charge that he had violated Article III, which he insisted he had not done.
Upon consideration of what had occurred, the college’s legal advisors apparently came to the conclusion that the action orchestrated against Coduto was illegal.
On October 25, Shannon’s second-in command, associate superintendent Sherrie Guerrero, released a memorandum stating the Associated Students of Chaffey College’s governing body was subject to the provisions of the Brown Act and all the closed sessions held by the student council were illegal and inoperative. According to Guerrero, the action removing Coduto and replacing him with Bohon was null and void.
“The district has been informed that the campus council attempted to remove Mr. Coduto from his position as president/student trustee in a closed session meeting on October 21, 2013,” the college district announced. “The district cannot recognize the executive board or the campus council’s actions with regard to Mr. Coduto at this time.”
The Associated Students of Chaffey College governing board announced on October 28 that Coduto has been reinstated and has so far not scheduled a public session at which it will attempt to undertake Coduto’s removal in compliance with proper procedural guidelines, including the Brown Act.
While Coduto told the Sentinel he was “happy to be reinstated as the student body president and student trustee,” he said he was “disappointed it had to be done by the Chaffey College legal department. It’s so clear that there was direct coercion from the board to Dr. Shannon, to the student government advisor, and then to the student government members to remove me from office, yet nobody is being held accountable.  The Associated Students of Chaffey College campus council advisor serves as the official parliamentarian of the group, and he directed the campus council to violate the Brown Act, yet there has not even been an admission of wrongdoing.”
Coduto said, “I’m still considering many actions to take. I would prefer to pursue a mutual agreement through an ad-hoc committee with the administration, faculty, and students on how we can work together to stop the coercion of students and violations of students’ freedom of speech from the administration. If the administration is unwilling to work with me, I am willing to take every measure possible in order to solve this problem.”

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