College of the Desert’s board of trustees receives ethics training amid controversy
The College of the Desert's board of trustees underwent ethics training on Monday to ensure that they are aware of the laws and regulations that govern their work as public officials. The training covered a range of topics, including conflicts of interest, bribery, and government transparency laws.
The board's ethics training included a highly relevant discussion on transparency, a sore spot for the college given recent controversies surrounding the college's construction projects. The training aimed to remind the trustees of their obligation to be transparent and avoid conflicts of interest.
The presentation came at a critical time for the college, which has recently fallen under scrutiny for its construction projects and how its spending hundreds of millions of dollars in bond money approved by voters nearly 20 years ago. The board is trying to address a perceived lack of public transparency surrounding changes to plans for the Palm Springs expansion project and the cancellation and subsequent reinstatement of the Roadrunner Motors project in Cathedral City.
Lynne O'Neill, a retired attorney from Thousand Palms and the only member of the public attending Monday's special board meeting, expressed concern about the lack of disclosure and transparency regarding the bond fund.
"There were blackouts of information to other cities that were entitled to information about this bond fund," O'Neill said. "At the moment, you have hundreds of millions of dollars on the table without a lot of disclosure or transparency about what's happening."
Trustee Rubén Pérez arrived an hour late to the board ethics training workshop. It was revealed last week that he was arrested in February on suspicion of driving under the influence. Although the incident does not appear to violate the board's code of ethics, the College's values call for professionalism and "high standards of conduct."
In January, Trustee Joel Kinnamon filed a complaint asking to formally censure Pérez on allegations that he violated board policy and ethics standards during comments he made in a December board meeting.
Pérez declined News Channel 3's request to speak on camera.