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New rift appears on Luna board

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By Martin Salazar

A new rift is beginning to emerge on the Luna Community College Board of Trustees, and it appears that board Chairman Abelino Montoya has once again found himself on the outside looking in, with some of the recently elected board members gunning for him.

Tension among board members was evident at several points during Wednesday’s board meeting, but they boiled over toward the end of the three-hour meeting as the board was deciding whether the college should move forward with hiring a vice president of student services — a position that has been vacant for years — and whether the college should fill its human resources director position, which recently became vacant with the resignation of Lawrence Quintana.

After a heated discussion, the board voted 4-3 to move forward with the hiring of those two positions. Board members David Gutierrez, Daniel Romero, Kenneth Medina and Ernie Chavez voted to move forward with the hiring while Montoya and board members Tony Valdez and Frankie Tenorio voted against it.

Montoya argued against moving forward with the hiring process on those two positions, saying that another vice president would cost the college about $85,000 a year, and he’s not sure that Luna can afford that. He also said Highlands University, which has more employees and students than Luna, currently operates with one vice president and several directors. Luna already has a finance vice president. As for the human resources director position, Montoya said he feels that the previous human resources director was paid too much given that Luna only has 135 employees.

“I’m still concerned about the budget,” Montoya said. “Before we make these big commitments, I’d like to know that we have the money for it.”

Romero confronted Montoya, telling him that he has served on the Luna board for many years and that during that period, the number of dual enrollment students at Luna has dwindled to about half of what it had been. He said board members have shown up at the campus when President Pete Campos has been absent, and nobody knows who is in charge. He said the ball has been dropped on recruitment of local students.

“It’s the duty of this board to move this school in the right direction,” Romero said.

At one point, Chavez began speaking and was ruled to be out of order by Chairman Montoya, who told him that he had the floor. Chavez continued speaking, telling Montoya he didn’t care about his having the floor.

Chavez said the school needs a vice president for student services because nobody seems to be in charge when Campos is away. He said he is concerned about security on the campus.

Montoya said he was the first one to jump on the concurrent enrollment issue. He said he was upset about the drop because of the importance of the program, but he said the solution to that would be to hire someone to oversee concurrent enrollment, something that Valdez pointed out is already being done.

As for Campos’ absences, Montoya said he feels Campos has gotten the message.

“He’s here most of the time,” Montoya said. “Every time I come up here, he’s here.”

“I’m going to do what’s right for you and our community and those students we serve, and I’m not going to play a political game with anybody,” Montoya said.

Romero responded that what Montoya says and does are two different things, bringing up the current nepotism policy that prohibits the hiring of board members’ relatives. Romero and several other board members are trying to revamp that policy.

Romero hinted at the fact that Montoya’s wife and daughter work at the college. Montoya responded that his daughter, who works in the IT department, and his wife, who is a part-time instructor, were hired prior to the stringent nepotism policy being adopted in November 2010.

Romero said the child of another board member recently applied for a job at Luna and was told the reason he wasn’t hired was because of the nepotism policy. He said the college needs to be fair.