TRUSTEE TROUBLE: Board president’s offensive speech.
On a warm spring afternoon at Eddie West Field, thousands of family members and friends gathered to laud Santa Ana College graduates.
Standing expressionless before the class of 2012, Phillip Yarbrough, president of the Board of Trustees, delivered an unconventional speech that left graduates and family members stunned, perplexed and offended.
“He’s a slave to theatrics,” said Raymond Hicks, president of the SAC academic senate, noting Yarbrough’s “hell, fire and brimstone” tone of voice.
“Earn more money,” Yarbrough urged graduates before listing the things money can buy, including “the bliss of heroine, or the cold comfort of cocaine.”
College faculty leaders called out Yarbrough for his outlandish remarks and behavior they contend has put SAC, Santiago Canyon College and the district’s reputations at risk.
Yarbrough’s decision to urge constituents to vote no on Proposition 30 — a tax measure to fund education voters passed this election — has left some of his colleagues defending his freedom of speech, but disagreeing with his action.
In the commencement speech, he advised the graduates that money is everything.
“You can use your money to wield power. You can use your money to destroy your enemies,” he bellowed, “ ‘cause they got it coming to them, don’t they?”
Faculty leaders questioned the appropriateness of Yarbrough’s commencement address.
“This was a SAC event, and that’s what sticks with people. Not who said it, or what was said exactly, but that it was at a SAC commencement,” SAC President Erlinda Martinez said.
But Yarbrough shrugs off the criticism.
“I have no idea what they are talking about. I heard nothing but good things about my speech. I had several people tell me that they really enjoyed it,”
In an opinion piece published in the Orange County Register on Oct. 26, Yarbrough urged readers to vote against Proposition 30. He identified himself as the President of the Board of Trustees for RSCCD.
Trustee John Hanna disapproves of Yarbrough’s position and said before the election,
“I get the philosophical thing, but on this one, with all due respect to him, he’s wrong,
and if 30 doesn’t pass, there will be blood.”
Yarbrough’s editorial is a conflict of interest because it is partisan, Hicks claims. It is a violation of the board’s code of ethics that states, “trustees are non-partisan elected officials and will always put district and college priorities before their own political or personal priorities.”
The Faculty Association said Yarbrough misrepresented the district and called on him to forgo his district health insurance, travel expenses and stipend.
Health benefits for trustees serving RSCCD are higher than any of the other four districts in the county, totaling about $33,000 per trustee. They are classified as part-time employees.
Benefits at North Orange County Community College District amount to about $33,000 for all nine trustees.
In addition to health benefits, Yarbrough billed taxpayers $252 in meal expenses for a $3,323 conference in Dallas in 2011, according to district financial records.