Board takes early steps to fill vacancy as Trustees mourn


Graphic art created via Canva. (Ethan Cohen | The Union)

After the unexpected death of Board of Trustees President Kenneth Brown on March 23, college officials are “still in shock,” even as they take the next steps to fill the vacant Area 1 position.

In the short term, Vice President of the Board Trisha Murakawa will take on the president’s duties during the next regularly scheduled board meeting on April 17.

“Because I’m the Vice President, that would be my role,” Murakawa said.

Other officials confirmed the vice president taking on the leadership role in the absence of a sitting president is “typical” and often occurs when sitting presidents miss single meetings.

In the long term, a major decision will be made to fill the vacant board position.

An update pinned at the top of the Board of Trustees webpage on the El Camino College website explains the board is in the “determination” stages regarding how to fill the unexpected vacancy.

“The vacancy will be filled either through a provisional appointment or a special election. Additional information regarding this process and a timeline will be provided once determined,” according to the webpage.

Brown himself was originally appointed to his first Trustee position in 2010, after the death of long-time Trustee member Nathaniel Jackson.

The Board of Trustees confirms no official option has been agreed to as of yet.

Trustee Cliff Numark said while the board does have the authority to choose between the two options, at this moment both are possibilities.

With Brown’s term set to expire in Nov. 2024, the new board member, whether appointed or elected, will most likely finish out the remainder of his term.

“Those decisions won’t be [made] at the next meeting,” El Camino’s Director of Public Information and Government Relations Kerri Webb said.

Webb added the board has 60 days to make a decision.

El Camino’s “Vacancies on the Board” policy gives a breakdown of the steps that are taken after a board vacancy.

Among the established 60-day time frame to fill the position by either election or appointment, the policy also establishes:

  • Elections, if ordered, will be held on the next regular election date. No less than 130 days after the official date of the vacancy.
  • Appointed members to the position hold office only until the next regularly scheduled election for district governing board members, afterward, an election is held to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the unexpired term.
  • The provisional appointment decided by a majority public vote of the Board members, to take place at a public meeting.
  • The Superintendent/President will set administrative procedures for any applications. Policy dictates ample publicity and information for prospective candidates.
  • In the case of an appointment process, the Board will determine the schedule and appointments, which can include interviews set to be held at a public meeting.

El Camino’s board vacancy policy heavily references and follows California Education Code, Sections 5090-5095.

The state code grants more insight into the next steps and options to fill the position, including details on steps voters can take to petition for a special election in cases where a significant portion of the public does not agree with an appointment.

With both the April 17 and May 15 board meetings set to take place before the 60-day time frame, the still-reeling trustees have some time to make a final decision, even as they mourn the loss of their president.

“Right now, we’re still in shock,” Trustee Nilo Michelin said. “They are making preparations right now, but you know, nothing’s really set in stone, everybody’s in shock and is just processing this.”

This is a developing story.