Santa Monica School Transfers 2 Small Accounts : College Tables S. Africa Fund Question

Times Staff Writer

A measure requiring Santa Monica College to withdraw its funds from institutions doing business with the government of South Africa has been tabled by the college Board of Trustees.

Instead trustees unanimously approved another measure transferring funds from two small accounts in banks with large international holdings to two small local financial institutions described as "clean" by school officials because they do not do business with South Africa.

Though the measure authorizing the transfer did not mention South Africa, Tom Donner, college assistant superintendent of business, said the banks were selected so that the school could avoid "stepping into the divestiture problem."

Donner said that under the new measure a check-clearing account with a peak balance of about $200,000 will be moved from Union Bank to Santa Monica Bank. A revolving fund account that contains about $25,000 will be switched from Crocker Bank to Brentwood Bank.

Failed on 4-3 Vote

The earlier measure, which was tabled by a 4-3 vote after an hour of debate Monday, was recommended by Anne Peters and supported by Blyden Boyle and James Bambrick. Trustees Fred Beteta, Carole Currey, Ilona Katz and Colin Petrie voted to table it.

Peters' motion would have made it a policy of the college not to place financial assets with institutions that make loans to or invest in South Africa. Letters would be sent requesting the KCRW Foundation (the college radio station group), the College Foundation and the state Teachers Retirement System to take the same action.

A proposal to divest Santa Monica city funds from institutions doing business with South Africa is expected to be debated by the City Council on Tuesday night. The council is also divided on the issue.

"There is no place like South Africa and its vicious apartheid policies," Boyle said during the debate. "It can be equated to Nazi Germany. I don't have to be Jewish to abhor the Holocaust and you don't have to be black to abhor apartheid."

Larger Funds With County

Beteta said he opposed apartheid but felt that the Board of Trustees was not the place to make that statement. "I was elected as a trustee of a college," he said. "Somehow I think (this issue) does not belong here. . . . We were not elected to establish foreign policy."

Santa Monica College, which has an operating budget of $27 million, has $2 million to $3 million invested in a Los Angeles County treasury pool with other districts so it can earn a higher rate of interest. Last year the college earned $220,000.

Donner said the county will not invest the money separately in corporations that do not do business in South Africa. He said that only if the college were "fiscally independent" from the county could it choose its investments. But, he added, fiscal independence would mean a lower interest rate and a loss of money.

Donner said the only accounts over which the district exercises authority are the revolving and clearing accounts that his staff recommended changing.

"I was disappointed and actually surprised that the majority of the board did not favor complete divestment," Peters said.

"I suspect that it is more a matter of inconvenience than . . . a loss of money. We could put pressure on the Board of Supervisors to invest their money in clean banks or we could pressure them to divest themselves. I doubt that we would have to lose money."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World