Last week’s Coast Report reported on the student Senate’s error in excluding the public and holding “closed session” interviews of applicants for two vacant Senate seats in “Violation forces a do-over,” on April 8.

That action was illegal because under California law all governments—the state legislature, county boards, city councils and even community college student governments—must conduct “the peoples” business in public. “Business” includes hearing from others, discussion and voting.

OCC’s student senators, who are the Associated Students “legislative body,” are elected annually after a campaign where others may publicly raise questions regarding their background and experience. 

Their character and ability is important when you consider the Senate has the authority to spend our — the student body’s — $4 million in savings and annual income of nearly $1.5 million.

Learning a week or more later of the non-public interviews I was puzzled.  

Was the Senate’s holding a “closed session” to obtain in secret the information used to select replacement senate members a violation of law? 

According to the California attorney general, yes.

The AG’s publication, The Brown Act: Open Meetings for Local Legislative Bodies, Office of the California Attorney General (2002), at p. 35 specifically provides that “In no case does the term ‘employee’ include elected officers or persons appointed to fill the vacancy of an elected office.” Emphasis added. 

I sent a brief to the Senate and its advisors so they could fix the problem.

Never did I say the Student Senate’s action was anything other than a mistake. 

I brought the matter up precisely because it was a mistake by student legislators.  They can like all the rest of us at OCC learn from their errors.

But I was rather naively surprised when some folks seemed to want to “kill the messenger.”

“This argument was first presented to the OCC student government by former ASOCC president Lynne Riddle, who according to senators was appointed twice by the same process,” said the Coast Report.  Emphasis added.

“Aha!  A conniving hypocrite!” seemed to be the implication. It’s regrettable the CR didn’t give me a chance to explain.

True I was appointed twice by former student “legislative bodies” to be their chief executive officer—but that position is akin to being an “employee,” not a member of the legislative body.  The president has no vote in the legislature.

Moreover, along with the “reform government” that first appointed me in September 2006, I have always advocated (and still do) that candidates for student government president and vice president (who are NOT elected) be interviewed publicly. 

The president is the chief spokesperson of the entire student body.   

Lynne Riddle

OCC student

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