Two lawyers engaged in a written altercation this week over whether or not the Academic Senate could legally review college Superintendent/President Mark Rocha.
General Counsel Gail Cooper and Faculty Association (FA) attorney Lawrence Rosenzweig traded caustic letters to each other after Cooper and the District accused Academic Senate President Eduardo Cairo of violating state law by not attending the Committee on Academic and Professional Matters (CAPM) meetings.
Rosenzweig said that Cooper was wrong for claiming the senate’s proposal to form an Ad Hoc Committee to evaluate the college president violated Board policy and state law, calling her statements a “blatant example of the District’s misguided attempts to intimidate faculty members.”
“Your threats are pointless,” Rosenzweig wrote. “In plain English, please stop.”
Cooper insists that Cairo’s boycott of CAPM was a violation of Board policy and the Brown Act, the state law that governs public meetings. Cooper also said that if the Academic Senate had a quorum of members present at the Town Hall meetings, they could not discuss business relating to the Academic Senate matters, according to the Brown Act.
“…My [Oct. 23] letter advised Cairo of violation of the law and Board policy, specifically regarding the unauthorized effort of the Academic Senate to conduct an evaluation of the Superintendent/President,” Cooper wrote in a Nov. 4 follow-up email. “As is stated in my letter, the violation of law is based upon the fact that a purported evaluation of the Superintendent/President is outside the purview of the Academic Senate…”
Rosenzweig is technically the Faculty Association’s lawyer, but was asked by them to respond to Cooper’s letter.
“You state you do not represent the Academic Senate,” Cooper wrote. “But are responding because the Faculty Association asked you to do so… The fact that you do not represent the Academic Senate, but you are nonetheless intervening in a manner between the District and the Academic Senate at the behest of the Faculty Association corroborates the District’s view.”
In her Oct. 23 letter to Cairo, Cooper stated that if the senate attempted to conduct a public evaluation of Rocha it would be a violation of his right to privacy and he would have the right to seek redress in a court of law against any individuals who participated in the defamatory statement.
“Frankly, I am shocked that you would threaten faculty of the college,” Rosenzweig wrote. “Who do you represent? As General Counsel of the District, you represent the interests of the District. You are not the college president’s personal attorney. It’s not your job to protect the president’s privacy.”
Cooper countered, saying that it was a statement of fact, and added that she would not necessarily represent Rocha if he chose to sue.
She said that Rosenzweig should make his client aware that the District does not defend or indemnify employees if investigation reveals that they committed conduct outside the course and scope of their employment.
“The communication sent to Cairo [has] properly placed him and the members of the Academic Senate on notice of their violations of law and Board policy,” Cooper said. “They should conduct themselves accordingly.”
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