Two former board candidates file premature lawsuit on trustee elections
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 29, 2011
NORWALK, Calif. - September 29, 2011 - Two former candidates for the Cerritos College Board of Trustees have filed a lawsuit that could cost the Cerritos Community College District and the public well into the tens of thousands of dollars to defend. The lawsuit claims that the Board of Trustees has not acted on creating trustee areas for elections. But the lawsuit ignores the Board's work on the issue which began at their September 21 board meeting and the agenda resolution set for action at their October 5 meeting.
The Board will consider a resolution at their October 5 regular meeting that could formally begin the process to create seven trustees areas where trustees will have to live in and be elected in those areas. This action meets the legal requirements of the California Voter Rights Act (CVRA). Currently, the trustees are elected at large and must live in the college district.
"This legal action is premature and does not recognize the Board's work on the election issue, and defending the district in this lawsuit will be very costly to taxpayers while the Board is already taking a course of action. The lawsuit is totally unnecessary," said Dr. Linda Lacy, President/Superintendent, "especially at a time when we need every dollar we have to support the educational program at the college."
Carmen Avalos of South Gate, a former trustee with the district left after one term on the board to run a failed primary election bid for a state assembly seat and lost her attempt at reelection to the board. She then lost her bid for appointment to fill the unexpired term of Bob Epple, board member from Bellflower, who passed away last year. The Board appointed Jean McHatton of Cerritos, a long-time educator and for two decades a community supporter of the college to fill the unexpired term. Tom Chavez of Norwalk, a retired classified employee from the college, also lost his election bid for the board. A third party, Leonard Zuniga of Downey has joined the lawsuit.
The Cerritos College Board of Trustees is taking action to change its election process before this lawsuit was filed on September 28. The Board of Trustees is moving on this issue within the laws and timelines required by open meeting laws required of local governments in California. The lawsuit was filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Cerritos College serves as a comprehensive community college for southeastern Los Angeles County. Communities within the college's district include Artesia, Bellflower, Cerritos, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, La Mirada, Norwalk, and portions of Bell Gardens, Lakewood, Long Beach, Santa Fe Springs and South Gate. Cerritos College offers degrees and certificates in more than 180 areas of study in nine divisions. Annually, more than 1,200 students successfully complete their course of studies, and enrollment currently averages 23,000 students. Visit Cerritos College online at http://www.cerritos.edu/.