College District Accused of Rules Violation

Times Staff Writer

California’s top community college official said Monday that Coast Community College District’s board of trustees violated state affirmative action regulations in January when it elevated acting Chancellor David A. Brownell to permanent status.

Coast Community College District governs Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Golden West College in Huntington Beach and Coastline Community College, headquartered in Fountain Valley.

Surprise Move

Brownell’s appointment as permanent chief executive of the district was made in a surprise move Jan. 3, without a full-scale, formal search for candidates.


California Community Colleges Chancellor Gerald Hayward said that following his office’s five-month investigation of the appointment, Coast’s trustees last week accepted “a mutually agreed-upon resolution of the problem.”

The resolution, Hayward said, requires the college district, for the next two years, to make special reports to the state regarding the district’s adherence to affirmative action. The district cannot make any permanent management appointments within the next two years, Hayward said, without first conferring with the state chancellor’s office.

Brownell’s appointment as chancellor is unaffected by the state action, and Hayward stressed that the college district was never under question for discrimination, but for the procedure used in selecting the new chancellor.

Affirmative action requires governmental agencies to seek--but not necessarily to hire--under-represented minorities for job vacancies.


‘Judgment Call’

“The question we had is whether the district followed procedure, and we determined that the district did not,” Hayward said of Brownell’s appointment. “The district made a judgment call. They (the trustees) believed that they were coming under a provision (of state regulations) allowing an appointment for business necessity.”

Hayward noted that the five-member Coast board of trustees had argued that it had the right to appoint a permanent chancellor without a formal search because of an “urgent need.” At the time of the appointment, Armando Ruiz, president of the board of trustees, said Brownell’s immediate appointment was needed because of the district’s “uncertainties with the Legislature” regarding state funds for the district.

Brownell’s permanent appointment was one of several management-change controversies involving the Coast District since a new majority took over the board of trustees in late 1983. The new majority, elected with support from the teachers union, had criticized longtime Coast Chancellor Norman E. Watson, who unexpectedly resigned a week after the new majority was elected. Brownell subsequently was appointed by the new board as Watson’s acting successor.


Hayward said that the Coast District “gave absolute, full cooperation” during his investigation of Brownell’s appointment.

Brownell, in a separate interview, said the agreement worked out by the district and Hayward was “a very amicable understanding.” Brownell said the district has no problems in making the special reports called for by Hayward’s action. The reports include a yearly statement to be made by the district on how it is complying with the points of the agreement.