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Our Community College Trustees Are Ripping Us Off

In an era in which our community colleges are in crisis, the South Orange County Community College District trustees are wasting our money.

Many Orange County elected officials are part-time employees. These individuals are those who lead water districts, city councils, school districts and community college districts. They do not work on a full-time basis because they do not run the day-to-day operations of the agencies they represent. Our cities have city managers in place, school districts have superintendents and water boards have general managers, all of whom are paid well to manage staff members and multimillion-dollar budgets. In theory, this is an example of democracy at its finest—a board of elected citizens oversees a public agency. The citizen board performs numerous roles such as establishing the vision, approving the budget and representing the district in the community. No one has absolute power—chief administrators answer to the board and the board answers to the citizenry.

As I said, this is great in theory; unfortunately, in reality, these part-time public officials are ripping us off.

I am currently running for the South Orange County Community College District board of trustees. The district is composed of Saddleback College, Irvine Valley College and the Advanced Technology and Education Park. Roughly every voter from Irvine to San Clemente will be eligible to vote in this race. My strategy for this campaign has been unconventional. While most candidates for local office invest their time in direct mail pieces that highlight two to three talking points, I have concentrated my time and resources on detailed critiques of existing policies and proposed solutions. Last month, I submitted public records requests with all four Orange County community college districts, asking for details on stipends, health benefits and travel reimbursements. Upon receiving data, I wrote a report based on my findings and listed several potential solutions. You can read the entire report at www.moodian.com/trusteereport.pdf and the Orange County Register’s coverage of the report at http://taxdollars.ocregister.com/2012/10/12/community-college-boards-more-part-time-jobs-with-full-time-perks/163111/.

The results were astounding. The South Orange County Community College District spends $125,925.94 per year on health benefits for its trustees. This is substantially more than what the North Orange County Community College District pays, which is $33,496.36. I propose eliminating all health benefits for community college trustees. If you own a business that is bankrupt, would you pay lucrative medical benefits to part-time employees who work less than 30 hours per week? Why should greedy public officials be an exception? Our state is in a fiscal crisis and these officials are wasting taxpayer dollars on unnecessary benefits.

Beyond health insurance, most private companies, nonprofits groups and public-sector agencies drastically reduce nonessential travel during tough economic times. It is expensive to fund cross-country trips, and employers see this as a way to save money, particularly in an era in which virtual meetings are becoming commonplace. However, this is not the case with the South Orange County Community College District. John Williams, my primary opponent in the race, took several lavish trips to Florida on our dime during his initial tenure as community college trustee. I recommend seriously limiting district-funded travel.

Austerity should always begin at the top. As your trustee, I will refuse all full-time health benefits and fight the establishment aristocrats until these benefits are abolished for the entire board.

I look forward to sharing my vision for the district with Patch readers in the days leading to the election. In the meantime, feel free to contact me with questions or to share your concerns. You can e-mail me at drmike[at]moodian.com or connect with me through Facebook (www.facebook.com/mikemoodian), Twitter (@mikemoodian) and LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/mikemoodian).

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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