The taxpayers of Washtenaw County are in an unusual situation. They elect the WCC Board of Trustees to provide oversight over the extraordinarily generous property tax appropriation the College receives. Unfortunately, once elected, the Trustees don’t see the Board as an oversight board. As Dianna McKnight-Morton announced at the May 27, 2014 Board meeting:
“Trustee McKnight-Morton spoke about the presidential search committee that had diverse people on it. She noted that the current board is an advisory board and a policy board, not a micro-managing board. President Bellanca is being a change agent as the Board has directed her.”
The voters elect the WCC Board of Trustees to perform oversight, but the current Board views oversight as micromanagement. So, it focuses on making policies and dispensing advice, instead.
Only the WCC Board of Trustees doesn’t actually write the policies in the Board Policy Manual. The College staff does that. And it doesn’t dispense advice, either. So, the question becomes, “What exactly does the WCC Board of Trustees do besides sign off on spending authorizations?”
The Administration creates the agenda, which means that the WCC Board of Trustees does not raise or discuss real, substantive issues facing WCC. The Administration does not seek the Board’s advice, which means the Trustees do not provide direction to the Administration. This opens opportunities for the Administration to hide or minimize major problems from the Board and the public.
WCC Board of Trustees are passengers
When the Trustees do ask questions of the Administration, the Administration typically avoids giving a direct, transparent response. What’s worse, the Trustees typically accept this behavior. Last summer, when Trustee Richard Landau asked about the College’s expenses regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, he got a response about the College’s revenues instead. When Trustee McKnight-Morton asked about what was going to happen to the Children’s Center employees who were losing their jobs, a College executive pretended not to understand the question. The president referred it to the College lawyer, who spoke, but did not actually answer the question. When Trustees DeVarti and Hatcher asked a set of uncomfortable questions regarding the Police Academy, another Trustee attempted to make those questions less awkward.
The WCC Board of Trustees members should ask questions about expenses. They should ask questions about employees who are losing their jobs. They’re supposed to ask awkward, uncomfortable questions. But they’re not supposed to get blown off by the administration.
When the Trustees we elect don’t control the meeting agenda, and they don’t write policy, and they don’t provide direction, they’re not really performing their statutory duties. The WCC Trustees have the power to change this dynamic immediately, but they choose not to.
We have seven passengers on the WCC Board of Trustees, and no one is looking out for the taxpayers.
Photo Credit: Konstantin Pavlov , via Flickr