LBCC Trustee Board Bitterness Revealed In Superior Court Ruling In Favor Of Trustee Sunny Zia; LBCC Partially Dropped Its "Investigation" Suit Against Her But Still Sought Atty Fees Alleging She'd Failed To Recuse Herself From Certain Closed Sessions; Court Finds Zia Already Did So And LBCC's Action Against Her Was Legally Unnecessary
|Publisher Statement: Local News Matters when it's independent. LBREPORT.com has no ties to development or business interests that may seek approval from Long Beach elected or appointed officials. No one in our ownership or operational structure has accepted a Mayor/Council appointed position or has been part of the governing board of any City government body or other entity on whose policies we report. To help keep unflinching independent local news alive in LB, please click here. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) or your choice of a modest monthly sum helps keep us online. We value your readership.|
(November 16, 2021, 2:30 p.m.) -- A Los Angeles Superior Court has ruled that the Long Beach Community College District (reflecting actions of its governing Board of Trustees majority) pursued a legal action seeking attorney fees from Trustee Sunny Zia alleging she failed to recuse herself from certain closed session items allegedly involving her...when in more than one instance she had already voluntarily agreed to do so.
In stinging verbiage at several points in a 19 page Nov. 15 minute order, Judge Mary Strobel said LBCC's pursuit of the writ seeking attorney fees from Ms. Zia was legally unnecessary.
The proceedings stemmed from an LBCC legal action seeking to require Trustee Zia to recuse herself from Board closed sessions regarding misconduct allegations against now former LBCC President/Superintendent Dr. Reagan Romali and Trustee Zia (that Zia contended from the outset were without merit.) In Sept. 2021, LBCC partially dismissed its action but still pursued the writ seeking attorney fees against Ms. Zia.
The court's opinion reveals a level of acrimony between some LBCC Trustees and Trustee Zia not widely visible until now.
At one point, LBCC argued in Court papers that "during Board meetings Respondent [Zia] has failed to comply with parliamentary procedure, interrupts other Board members, raises her voice when in disagreement, speaks out of turn, and engages in other disruptive conduct."...The Court dispensed that line of argument as follows: "Petitionerís contention that Respondent has been 'disruptive' at subsequent Board meetings is irrelevant and raises First Amendment questions that need not be adjudicated by this court. Petitioner does not seek a writ preventing Respondent from being disruptive at Board meetings or failing to follow parliamentary procedures..."
LBCC's legal proceedings are estimated to have cost taxpayers/students over half a million dollars...and Trustee Zia is now also left to pay her own attorney fees for having had to defend herself.
On taking office, Trustee Zia (first elected in 2014, re-elected in 2018 and up for re-election in 2022) initially irked some now former Board members by seeking greater transparency in spending practices but her support for Dr. Romali appears to have triggered more intense reactions from some of her Board colleagues.
From portions of the Court's minute order:
[Scroll down for further.]
Trustees Uduak-Joe Ntuk and Vivian Malauulu declare that ď[f]rom approximately July 2020 until December 2020, Trustee Sunny Zia has consistently refused to recuse herself from regular and special meetings in closed session that related to her and former Superintendent-President Reagan Romaliís conduct.Ē (Ntuk Decl. ∂ 3; Malauulu Decl. ∂ 3.) Given the conclusory nature of this evidence, it does not satisfy Petitionerís [LBCC's] burden of proof to show the necessity of writ relief...Petitioner has since dismissed that part of its writ claim which asserted that Respondent [Zia] had a duty to recuse herself from closed session discussions relating to Romali...In this context, Petitionerís conclusory evidence does not prove that Respondent refused to recuse herself from Board discussions pertaining specifically to her...
What's next? The LBCC Nov. 17 Board of Trustees agenda includes the following closed session item:
"Conference with Legal Counsel - Existing Litigation per Gov. Code Sec. 54956.9(a) LASC Case No. 20STCP03604: Long Beach Community College District v. Sunny Zia."
Recommend LBREPORT.com to your Facebook friends:
Follow LBReport.com with:
Contact us: mail@LBReport.com