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BY BRADEN CARTWRIGHT
Daily Post Staff Writer
A board member representing the Foothill-DeAnza Community College District has been stripped of his committee assignments and banned from publicly funded travel after he made comments about the skin color of a college president who is black.
The district’s board voted on Tuesday to formally express disapproval of board member Gilbert Wong, who apologized for his comments to DeAnza College President Lloyd Holmes.
The specifics of what Wong said weren’t available yesterday because the board declined to release an investigation, citing attorney-client privilege.
Instead, the district released a four-page “determination panel report” on March 1 written by two board members and two administrators.
The authors didn’t get into details of the incident, but they said Wong subjected Holmes “to unlawful harassment and discrimination on the basis of race or color in violation of district policy as a result of his comments regarding skin color.”
Wong was talking to Holmes on Dec. 9 about the district’s search for a new leader, as Chancellor Judy Miner is retiring in September, according to a resolution passed by the board.
Holmes emailed Miner about the conservation afterwards, and Miner considered it a complaint and began an investigation.
The board was also troubled that Wong allegedly talked about the chancellor search outside of closed session, violating rules that allow some board discussions about employees to be confidential.
The resolution passed on Tuesday publicly censures Wong, which is a way to formally express disapproval.
“Trustee Wong, you have much to change and work on from your offensive actions and words,” board member Pearl Cheng said.
Board member Laura Casas compared the situation to what happened to in Los Angeles, where city council members with a history of public service were recorded making racist comments in private.
Wong’s comments aren’t the same, Casas said, “but it’s close.”
Wong, who is a former mayor of Cupertino, declined a request for an interview yesterday.
District Attorney asked to enter case
The resolution asks Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen to investigate whether Wong violated the Brown Act, which is the state law governing public meetings.
The resolution directs Wong to have no contact with Holmes, unless another board member is present, and to take anti-discrimination training.
The district will no longer pay for Wong to go to conferences with the organizations he is involved with, including the Association of Community College Trustees, Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education, and Asian Pacific Americans Trustee Association.
Wong was also stripped of his role as chair of the board’s Audit and Finance Committee and as representative on the 2023 Santa Clara County Committee on School District Organization.
Wong apologized to Holmes for his language at the meeting, and he promised to never repeat his actions. But said the board’s resolution were disproportionate to what he did.
“Though my words were wrong, there was no malice in my intention,” he said.
Members of the public supported Wong, saying he has a history of supporting students and diversity.
But board members were less forgiving.
Whatever happened to sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me?
Good to know you support racist statements.
What did the college board member say to warrant a racist accusation? What did he exactly say.
Funny how nobody will repeat what Wong said. If his quote includes an appropriate word, then they can put dashes in the word to mute the impact. But they should say what he supposedly said so we can determine for ourselves whether he said something offensive or not. Usually the guilty party is the one who wants to keep information secret.