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Bill Macfadyen: After Clouds of Suspicion, SBCC Gets a Ray of Sunlight

Best of Noozhawk 02.17.12 reveals a confidential report, a censored councilman, emergencies and drug dogs

1. Accrediting Commission’s Findings on SBCC Trustees Surface, Detailing Series of Violations

One of the longest-running controversies in Santa Barbara has involved the 2010 election of a new majority on the SBCC Board of Trustees, the 2011 dismissal of school President Andreea Serban and the circumstances surrounding that decision. Trotting alongside have been complaints to the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges about the new board’s governing practices.

Through it all, SBCC has steadfastly maintained a vow of secrecy. First Amendment experts and lawyers assert that the fealty to confidentiality is quaintly admirable ... but legally suspect. For their part, SBCC officials insist that what’s done and left undone is for them to know and the rest of us to find out. So we did.

On Feb. 15, Noozhawk got its talons on the Accrediting Commission’s 16-page preliminary report. Included in the document are findings that the trustees violated the board’s own rules, failed to delegate authority to Serban, and either didn’t understand or dismissed as an irritant the Brown Act requiring open meetings. (Scroll down the page to view the report.)

Predictably, SBCC was aghast at the leak, which appeared to expose a crack in the stone wall of silent solidarity among high-ranking school officials and representatives.

Hopefully, that crack will soon become a window of transparency. Reading through the report reveals a narrative of almost comical bumbling, which is so beneath the stature of one of the nation’s finest community colleges.

2. Carpinteria City Council Strips Armendariz of Committee Assignments, Asks Him to Resign

The Carpinteria City Council voted 3-1 on Feb. 13 to strip Councilman Joe Armendariz of his committee assignments, publicly reprimand him for his conduct and ask him to resign in response to an alleged drunken-driving incident that ended in a wreck on Highway 101. Armendariz was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence Dec. 2 after testing determined he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.18, more than twice the legal limit.

A defiant Armendariz insisted he is the best man for the job that voters elected him to do and repeated his vow to serve out the rest of his term, which ends this year. He will not seek re-election.

3. Emergency Response Times Slow as County Fire Faces Increasing Structural, Financial Deficits

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department may be accustomed to emergency situations but a consultant’s Feb. 14 report to the Board of Supervisors raised some alarming issues. Among the areas needing immediate attention were response times and a structural deficit of services and aging infrastructure.

The supervisors asked Fire Chief Michael Dyer to return with a more detailed report and requested that county CEO Chandra Wallar arm herself with more information about reallocating a greater portion of property taxes to the county Fire Department.

4. Santa Barbara School Board OKs Use of Drug-Detection Dogs at High Schools

Santa Barbara Unified School District trustees on Feb. 14 authorized the use of drug-sniffing dogs to randomly search the district’s high school campuses in the fall in an effort to deter students from bringing drugs to school. Trustees Annette Cordero and Monique Limon dissented.

The district has pursued the idea before but was unable to rally much public support. Parents and principals interviewed by Noozhawk in October were mostly positive, but many reserved judgment until more details came out.

Reporters with the Dos Pueblos High School Charger Account surveyed classmates on the subject last year and found overwhelming opposition, mostly because of cost and doubts about effectiveness.

5. Celebration of Mike deGruy’s Life Filled with an Ocean of Heartfelt Tributes

Hundreds of locals and Hollywood heavyweights — including famed filmmaker James Cameron — turned out Feb. 12 for a celebration of the life and good times of Mike deGruy. The Santa Barbara cinematographer died Feb. 3 in a helicopter crash in Australia.

Although deGruy did some of his best work underwater, his devotion to his family and community surfaced as a theme throughout the memorial. DeGruy, 60, is survived by his wife, Mimi, and their two teenage children, Max and Frances.

Memorial contributions can be made to Santa Barbara Middle School, Heal the Ocean or Mobile Baykeeper in his native Alabama.

Click here for a selection of Mike deGruy photos on Noozhawk’s Pinterest page. Special thanks to my friend, Harry Rabin, CEO of On the Wave Productions, for the picture from the memorial at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort.

                                                                  •        •        •

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