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No pay for absent CCSF trustees

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Unexcused: CCSF trustees may have to go to meetings to get their $500 stipends.

The elected officials who oversee City College of San Francisco may soon have to show up to work to be paid.
City College trustees have long been paid $500 per month, regardless of attendance. As a result, some members have frequently collected their stipends despite absences — including veteran trustee Lawrence Wong, who has regularly missed meetings to vacation in Brazil.

But now trustees say they intend to change that. At a recent meeting, the board unanimously approved — with all members present — a “first reading” of a policy that would require that they attend meetings to collect their stipends. The proposal will come back for a final vote later this month.

The payouts to absent trustees have drawn scrutiny from state community college officials, who have urged the college to stop the practice and said it violates state law. City College’s lawyer has said the stipends are allowed under the City Charter.

In interviews, several trustees expressed support for the attendance-for-pay policy.

Trustee Steve Ngo said it would be “a sign that we are heading in the right direction.”

“It speaks to whether or not the college’s leaders are present and engaged in addressing the problems that confront the college,” he said.

The 90,000-student college has no shortage of problems.

Declining state revenue has forced the institution to offer 700 fewer classes for fall semester compared with last year, officials said, and employees are taking furlough days to help make ends meet.

A scathing accreditation report recently found that “leadership weaknesses at all levels” had led the institution to “a financial breaking point.” Officials have until March to address serious longstanding financial and governance issues, or risk losing accreditation.

The seven elected trustees regularly meet once per month but sometimes hold additional special sessions. In addition to the stipend, the officials are eligible to participate in the college’s health and vision, dental and life insurance plans.

The proposed attendance policy would bring the college in line with state law, which says trustees can only be paid for meetings they attend. The board can vote to pay a trustee for an “excused” absence, such as when a member is ill or performing other work for the college.

Ngo said he believes the board still needs to look into whether absent trustees owe the college a refund.

“Will there be amnesty for all prior absences?” he asked. “I hope not.”

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