Political manipulation at the Contra Costa college district

Contra Costa voters in Wards 2, shown in purple above, and 5, shown in blue, will elect trustees to the community college district board. 

On Aug. 5, as candidates were filing to run for election, the president of the board and the spokesman for the Contra Costa Community College District contacted us.

They wanted to tip us off to investigations of two district trustees who were running for reelection this fall. It’s unusual for an elected board member to join forces with an administrator of a college system to publicly call out and embarrass another board member. But they said they were trying to be transparent.

We have since concluded that this was a raw political and partisan play, timed by board President Rebecca Barrett to try to influence the upcoming college board election.

At the time, we told Barrett, whom we were leery of because of her voter deception during her campaign two years ago, and spokesman Timothy Leong that we would look at the investigation findings but would want to also see the reports. We submitted a Public Records Act request.

Two and half months later, we’ve been provided short summary letters signed by Barrett and a separate executive summary from staff, but we’re still waiting on the full investigation reports. And, according to Interim Chancellor Gene Huff, it’s Barrett who controls the timing of their possible release. Barrett did not respond to our requests for comment.

The allegations involve separate investigations pertaining to trustees Vicki Gordon and Greg Enholm. The two investigations were conducted by separate law firms, and the issues are completely different. The only common factor is that Barrett timed the concurrent release of information about the investigations to coincide with the election.

With Election Day drawing near, we are left to do our best with what we’ve been provided, and our own independent reporting, as we make our election endorsement. It’s also important that voters understand the abusive political manipulation that has transpired and the serious problems with the investigation of Gordon.

Reelect Vicki Gordon

No current trustee brings a better understanding of the district and its finances, no one works harder, and no one is more dedicated to helping students than Vicki Gordon, above. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

We wholeheartedly endorse Gordon for reelection in Ward 2. No current trustee brings a better understanding of the district and its finances, no one works harder, and no one is more dedicated to helping students.

Gordon has also pushed for district transparency, has been a leader on ending the district’s pension spiking and properly funding the once-anemic retiree health care program for workers. And she hasn’t always earned friends doing it.

She’s not perfect. She acknowledges she has made mistakes, specifically some inappropriate phone calls to other trustees and staff that she regrets and has apologized for. But, as we’ll elaborate below, most of the investigation, as presented in Barrett’s summary, was deeply flawed, with incorrect legal analysis in one case and conclusions