Ward III seat is filled

Board overcomes process snag, appoints Rinn


Irvin Trigueros

New board member Matthew Rinn and Chancellor Helen Benjamin review agenda Wednesday evening.

Despite what has been perceived as a “broken process,” the Contra Costa Community College District Governing Board appointed Matthew Rinn Oct. 9 to fill the seat representing Ward III, left vacant by the Aug. 31 death of Sheila Grilli.

The seat that was filled by Grilli for 15 years represents Concord, Martinez, Pleasant Hill, and Pacheco. The board opted to make a provisional appointment instead of holding a special election. Rinn, who lives in Pleasant Hill, was unanimously approved by board members for the provisional appointment that will last through November 2014.

“He seems to be really committed and wants to do this job,” said Chancellor Helen Benjamin at Wednesday’s governing board meeting. “I think he understands what this job is, and I am very pleased.”

Rinn serves as the Education Commissioner for the city of Pleasant Hill, is the Chairman of the Board at the Pleasant Hill Chamber of Commerce, and owns his own State Farm Agency. The newly appointed board member said his reason for applying for the board seat was not to further his own career, but to ensure a future in higher education for his two daughters.

“That’s the reason I’m doing this,” said Rinn after being appointed to the Ward III seat. “I have two young daughters and I want the community college district to be an option for them when they get to that age. Obviously I have aspirations for their high education, and to use the community colleges as feeder schools.”

Although there was a unanimous vote to appoint Rinn, the application process hit a snag, according to Public Information Officer Timothy Leong, when board member Greg Enholm asked for additional information from applicants after the application deadline was closed, and without the knowledge of other board members.

The board originally met Sept. 11 to discuss an appointment process that would be fair and offer an even playing field for all candidates interested in applying for the Ward III seat. The board came to an agreement to review the applications for the open seat, rank their top choices and select six candidates to be interviewed during a special meeting Oct. 2.

On Sept. 26 Enholm, who represents Ward V, received the applications for the Ward III seats, but said that one application was missing pages. He said he contacted the applicants on his own asking for additional information, and gave them an opportunity to identify any materials missing from their application packets.

“It would not be possible for me to review applicants’ materials if I knew that at a minimum I was missing material from at least one applicant,” said Enholm. “I did not have time to consult anyone else. The only way to determine if more material was missing from the packets was to contact the applicants to have them identify if any material they had submitted was missing.”

Leong said that this contact had not been agreed upon by the board, and that all information concerning the applications had also been made available to the board members on the district website.

“The action to obtain additional information from the candidates was in conflict with the governing board’s decision at their Sept .11, 2013 meeting on the selection process,” Leong said in an email. “Enholm’s request provided a candidate, who may not have filled out the application completely the first time around, a second chance to share additional information after the deadline date. Mr. Enholm had an opportunity to go online and see the missing pages.”

In addition, Leong said board members were told that if they had any questions concerning the applications they should contact the chancellor.

However, Enholm said he noticed the pages were missing on the eve of a long weekend when the district office was closed and that he has no personal contact information for the chancellor or other district officials.

“I send emails and it usually takes a while to receive a response, especially when the district is closed and sometimes I need to resend emails to get a response,” said Enholm. “If I were somehow aware of an emergency involving the district, I would call 911 and report what I knew.”

According to Leong, the other three board members said they felt Enholm asking for additional information was a deviation from the process that was set in place Sept. 11, and to be fair it was necessary to interview all applicants.

There were 12 applications to review, but two withdrew from consideration for unknown reasons.

“The remaining three governing board members felt there was a perception our selection process was broken and action had to be taken to ensure the selection of the provisional appointee for Ward III is done fairly and maintains the integrity of the district,” said Leong. “The board members felt that the situation was not right, and they took action.”