Sanction underway

President Walker targeted


Cathie Lawrence

Keith Montes, far left, and Gary Walker, far right, at the Feb. 23 AS meeting,

In a surprising move, members of the Los Medanos College Associated Students attempted to sanction AS President Gary Walker during the Feb. 23 board meeting.

“I was totally caught off-guard, bamboozled you might say,” said Walker in response to the motion.

Walker received the official notification of intent to sanction from AS Senator Sable Horton via email Sunday, Feb. 22 after first being notified the previous Thursday of an impending “senator sanction” agenda request.

“There was no description to what the agenda item was going to be, so I asked in email form the description and I didn’t get one,” said Walker, who as president, prepares the agenda for each meeting.

He later spoke to AS Officer Diona Shelbourne, and said she told him that an officer was to be sanctioned.

“I thought, there’s only three of us, so it’s me,” said Walker.

The letter was signed by AS Vice President Candice Tidwell, Sen. Taima Miller, Shelbourne and Horton.

In the letter, Walker is accused of violating two AS bylaws:

Section XII A 3. Misconduct/unprofessionalism at any meeting or event sponsored by the LMCAS.

Section XII A 4. Misrepresentation of the LMCAS or the individual role within the LMCAS.

A packed-house of more than 30 people attended, many at the last-minute request of Walker to show support for his defense.

After a motion to move the sanction up to the beginning of the meeting by Horton failed to garner the required two-thirds majority vote, a member of the public requested that the board suspend the motion indefinitely.

Keith Montes, Diablo Valley College AS board member, was in attendance to support Walker. “He stood up a lot,” said student Yetunde Oguleye, adding, “He would remind [the board] of a law they were ignoring.”

Instead, Shelbourne rescheduled the action for the March 9 AS agenda.

“Officer Shelbourne motioned for it to be suspended until March 9 because I’m at March in March,” said Walker.

Shelbourne asked that the motion to sanction be rescheduled for the March 2 meeting in his absence, but was advised against such action by Dave Belman, dean of student success.

The four members of the senate cited in the sanction letter that “tone of voice, facial expressions given, or even rolling of the eyes have been noticed.”

Despite declining to comment on the current sanction actions, AS faculty Adviser Demetria Lawrence said that “professionalism in meetings has been an issue since the fall.”

According to meeting minutes posted online, the issue of “professionalism and conduct” appeared once during the fall semester, at the Oct. 20, 2014 meeting. The attempted sanctioning at the Feb. 23 board meeting was the second time this issue was officially addressed.

“I was informed that a sanction was coming forth to the senate and was asked about the sanction process,” said Lawrence, who prefers not to discuss the action at this time, but rather let the process run its course.

“I am refraining from giving my opinion as to remain neutral,” she said.

In the sanction letter the four members of the senate also claimed that a problem resulting from Walker’s alleged misdeeds is that “members of our board are reluctant to even speak out about your conduct because they are uncomfortable.”

“This becomes an issue since their voice not being heard would also mean the students aren’t being heard,” they continued.

The letter, however, contains no specific examples of unprofessional behavior regarding vocal tonality, facial expressions, eye-rolling or anything else.

“Should the senate have [provided detailed proof], and I was clearly out of line, I perhaps would have handed in my resignation,” said Walker.

Walker plans to use these proceedings as a learning experience. He said he would like to be involved with public service in the future, and learning from experience now may prove useful in his future career.

Horton, and Miller who was just appointed as a senator Feb 16, both refused to comment when approached by reporters in numerous attempts to clarify the allegations against Walker, while Shelbourne said that they were going to take the discussion to the senate.

Contrary to the contents of the sanction letter, members of LMC’s administration said Walker has been an asset to the college.

“I’ve always had a positive personal and business relationship with Gary,” said LMC President Bob Kratochvil, adding, “He has been a good campus representative.”

Kiran Kamath, senior dean of planning and institutional effectiveness, has worked with Walker on various projects, including accreditation.

She said that she has always “found him to be polite” and was impressed on how well he ran the meetings that she attended.

“He’s been very supportive of the college,” said Kamath.

Letters defending Walker have begun to pile up in response to the pending sanction motion. As of press time, Walker said he had received 14 letters of support from various sources including LMC students, AS members from other colleges (Santa Rosa Junior College and Norco Community College), board members from the Student Senate of California Community Colleges and even the March in March Taskforce.

Part of Walker’s duties as AS president includes building relationships and working with external organizations and student bodies.

Following are selected excerpts from a few letters of support:

“I do question the true purpose of the ‘unprofessionalism’ charge. Where do we draw the line at what constitutes as unprofessional? Sneezing without saying ‘excuse me’? Yelling or berating an individual? Or worse? This is a decision for your board, personally for my senate, I wouldn’t be using time for a sanction on tones of voice, facial expressions, or eye-rolling,” said Joshua Pinaula, Santa Rosa Junior College AS president.

“In all of my dealings with Mr. Walker, he has displayed the utmost respect and professionalism. Even under states of pressure, Mr. Walker has performed with dignity and diplomacy. Never have I witnessed any type of behavior which was hurtful to others. On the contrary, Mr. Walker has been a voice of reason and logic while remaining sensitive to the diverse demographics we have [to] encounter with the California Community College shared governance processes,” said Keith Montes, Diablo Valley College AS board member and former president.

“I have worked with Gary the past two semesters in Allies and I can full heartedly say he cares about the people around him and his only goal is to be the voice of the fellow students. He wants LMC to thrive and become a stronger community. His work ethic is admirable, he’s very disciplined, and he’s a hard worker. He always goes above and beyond and out of his way to help those around him and that is a characteristic we need in every community,” said LMC student and Allies Club President Claudia Vasquez.

While the letter notified Walker of the intent to call for him to be sanctioned, noticeably missing is the punishment sought.

Nowhere in the letter does it explain whether Walker is to simply be warned, removed from office, removed from the board or even suspended as the bylaws allow.

“If sanctions are imposed on a member of the LMCAS Senate, the implications of those sanctioned would be dependent on the specific sanctions that LMCAS decided upon,” said Belman.

The four will again attempt to sanction Walker March 9.

“Hopefully, dialogue will be positive,” said Kratochvil.

A selection of letters of support, the Oct. 20, 2014 minutes, along with the sanction letter and a copy of the AS bylaws can be accessed below.