Trustee Eric Payne

The State Center Community College District were united Tuesday in their support of a single candidate to become the board president. John Leal, whose nomination was made by outgoing president Debbie Ikeda and seconded by trustee Eric Payne, faced no opposition.

Payne, the board’s vice president, was bypassed for the top spot after some trustees said that his legal woes over state election law violations and questionable use of district rental cars were disqualifying factors.

Two candidates were nominated for board vice president — trustee Bobby Kahn and trustee Annalisa Perea, who was serving as board secretary, a position that’s traditionally been a steppingstone to the VP job.

Two Ballots Were Needed

The vote for Kahn was a 3-3 split, with trustee Richard Caglia, Ikeda, and Kahn voting yes, Payne, Perea, and trustee Magdalena Gomez voting no, and Leal abstaining. After he learned that the nomination had failed for lack of a board majority, Leal said, “Then I need to vote, apparently. I’m going to vote no.” The 3-4 vote also defeated Kahn’s nomination.

Perea was then elected unanimously by the trustees.

For the board secretary’s position, Kahn and Gomez were nominated. Kahn’s nomination was defeated on a 1-5 vote, with Ikeda casting the only yes vote and Leal abstaining. Gomez was then elected on a 6-0 vote, with Leal again abstaining.

Payne tweeted later that Leal, Perea, and Gomez represent the first all-Latino State Center Executive Committee, which district spokeswoman Lucy Ruiz confirmed Wednesday.

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Original story

Trustee Eric Payne, who now serves as vice president of State Center Community College, might not be elevated Tuesday to the board presidency — even though moving from vice president to president is somewhat of a board tradition.

Several trustees, including current board president Debbie Ikeda, say that Payne’s outstanding fines to the state Fair Political Practices Commission — he owes $54,000 for 21 elections law violations — plus recent incidents involving district-paid rental cars and conference attendance make him a poor candidate for the board’s top job.

An FPPC spokesman said Friday that Payne has not begun paying the fines. The majority of violations were because he missed deadlines to file the yearly statements of economic interests, otherwise known as Form 700, that are required of all candidates and elected officials.


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Duties of Board President Spelled Out

According to board policy, the State Center president presides over all board meetings, calls emergency and special board meetings, consults with the chancellor on board meeting agendas, communicates with individual trustees about their responsibilities, and represents the board at official functions, or makes sure another trustee does so.

In addition, the president participates in orientations for new board members and makes sure the board is complying with policies for self-evaluation and the chancellor’s evaluations, and also with policies on board education.

Ikeda and trustee Richard Caglia told GV Wire they will not vote for Payne’s promotion to board president.

“In my mind, he is not in good standing,” Ikeda said.

Ad Hoc Committee Nixed

Both Ikeda and Caglia voted last month in favor of creating an ad hoc committee to investigate whether Payne violated board policy in his use of rental cars to attend state conferences in Lake Tahoe and San Francisco, and whether he arrived late at both conferences. The motion to create the committee was defeated on a 3-3 vote, with trustee Magdalena Gomez abstaining and trustee Bobby Kahn voting with Ikeda and Caglia to create the committee.

Trustee Annalisa Perea, who serves as the board secretary, told GV Wire she hasn’t decided whether or not to support Payne’s promotion to board president.

“I think it’s important to take into consideration everything, as it related to anybody being nominated for that presidential spot, or the chairmanship spot,” she said. “The next board chairman needs to be someone who is strong and has leadership capabilities.”

The trustees said that Payne has been passed over for the board presidency at least once before.

Other State Center trustees did not return phone calls and emails seeking comment.

Tasks in 2020 Loom Large

Perea said the need for a united board is particularly important in 2020, when Madera Community College prepares for full accreditation as a separate college. It’s now a college center operating under the accreditation of Reedley College.

And, in 2020, Payne will be among the State Center trustees whose seats are up for election. He already faces one challenger — Sevag Tateosian, a longtime Fresno County employee.

Payne could not be reached for comment Monday.

The board of trustees meeting begins at 4:30 p.m. and will be in the district office boardroom, 1525 E. Weldon Ave., Fresno.

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