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CWC trustees object to colleague's quip

Nov 16, 2012 - By Christina George and Katie Roenigk, Staff Writers

Board member Judy Pedersen said after the Nov. 6 election that she was "the only person that really looks at the issues."

Central Wyoming College Board of Trustees chairwoman Caroline Mills will meet informally with trustee Judy Pedersen this month to discuss an alleged violation of the board's code of ethics.

Barbara Gose, CWC Foundation member and wife of CWC trustee Roger Gose, requested that the board address Pedersen's public comments that were published in The Ranger on Wednesday, Nov. 7.

In the page-one story, Pedersen is quoted as saying, "I don't really look forward to another four years of being the only person that really looks at the issues."

Gose approached the board during its regular meeting Wednesday to express her concern about the public's perception of Pedersen's comment.

"In my opinion this public statement defames the board of trustees and, by implication. the administration and the college as a whole," Barbara Gose said. "Public statements that deride other board members and insult their work ethic have no place on this board."

She cited the board's policy governance manual, which instructs trustees to "never criticize the college president, CWC staff, or board members in public."

"Public respect for one another is part of this board's code of conduct," Barbara Gose said. "One important institutional value that CWC and its board have agreed to carry out is 'mutual respect and civil discourse.' Please lead the way."

Pedersen had no comment in response, though she said later in the meeting that "it's making a mountain out of a molehill."

Trustee Frank Welty agreed, adding that in his opinion Pedersen's statement did not necessarily reflect incivility.

"Certainly the board has ... disagreed and had different opinions over the tenure I've had here," Welty said. "But the board has always gone ahead and moved forward once a decision has been made. ... I think the board can work together. I think there is mutual respect."

Enforcement of code

Enforcement rules surrounding the board's code of conduct say the chair will work with the person who may have violated the code in order to resolve the issue informally if possible. If an informal resolution is not agreed upon, the chair will request the matter be investigated by an independent third party, who will bring findings before the board for a hearing.

After the hearing, the board will vote to determine whether the code was violated and, if there was a violation, what sanctions should be imposed against the board member in question. Sanctions range from the revocation of travel privileges to removal from the board.

Because Wednesday marked Mills's last meeting as a trustee before her planned resignation in December, she asked for clarification from the board about how to proceed.

"Do we want this just to be over?" she asked. "Or should I deal with it and get back to you at the end of the month?"

Trustees indicated they wished to pursue the issue. They said they were offended by Pedersen's published statement, which was "at the least intemperate" according to Roger Gose.

"It questions the board, our work ethic, and the electorate that put us here," he said. "If we just let it slide, in essence we're agreeing that we show up not really prepared to deal with the issues. I don't think that's the case."

Trustee Charlie Krebs noted the importance of following board rules and regulations.

"We have this instrument now as part of our governance policy," he said of the board code. "We have to follow that as opposed to ignoring it. Ignoring it is condoning it."

Though he did not think Pedersen's statement was illegal or unethical, Trustee Colton Crane agreed that her words violated the board's code of conduct.

"(Her comment) makes the appearance to everyone in the community that we're divided and, frankly, that Trustee Pedersen thinks we're incompetent and perhaps unable to do what we're set out to be doing," Crane said. "I also took some offense to that."

Trustee Scott Phister also said the statement is a violation of board code. He hoped the issue would be addressed, not only through code enforcement, but with a conversation among board members.

"We owe each other that much, don't we?" he asked. "(We should) let each other know how we feel. If there's a problem with this board, let's speak our mind and say it appropriately where it's productive and constructive."

Mills said she would report back to the board regarding her conversation with Pedersen before Mills's term officially ends in December.

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