Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Governator: Judgment Day at Santa Monica College

Well, a picture is worth a thousand words...

the Governator at SMC's 2005 Commencement ceremony


"Thanks for having me, and God bless California." -- Governor Schwazenegger to SMC

Everyone recognizes Hollywood "Terminator" superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger turned California governor, yet who are those two people standing to the left of him? It appears to be Winniphred Stone and Thomas Donner. Donner is a defendant in our current lawsuit against Santa Monica College under the California Public Records Act. Thomas J. Donner is acting interim president of SMC, replacing former President Piedad Robertson who left earlier this year. The photo of Stone closely resembles Pat Green, the executive assistant to Reagan Romali, Associate Vice President of Fiscal Services.

Pat Green was the initial person in which we requested SMC's public records on or about July 15, 2005. Did she willingly comply with our request for records vital to the public's interests? Of course not, she called the campus police on us instead. You can read my email to Pat Green for yourself:

-------------------EMAIL TO PAT GREEN---------------

August 25, 2005


Patricia Green, Executive Assistant
Fiscal Services
Santa Monica Community College
2714 Pico Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90405

Phone: (310) 434-4500

RE: Request for Compliance with the California Public Records Act

Dear Pat,

On or about August 18, 2005, at approximately 11:31 a.m., you were served via personal delivery with a CPRA (California Public Records Act) Compliance Demand Letter (dated August 18, 2005). At the time you were served, you immediately stated to both Mr. Dustin Curran and myself when we walked into your office, “You either turn your asses around now and get out or I call the police. What choice do you want?” I immediately asked you, “Why would you call the police?” You did not respond and took it upon yourself, with no justifiable reason, to call the campus police on the two of us. While you were allegedly on the phone with the police, you again stated, “I want you out of this office now." Again, I asked you, “"What did we do to justify the police being called on us?" You refused to respond to this legitimate question and both Dustin and I voluntarily left your office to speak with Mr. Thomas Donner, the President of SMC.

This is a clear abuse of both the campus police and your position at SMC. Neither Mr. Curran or myself have ever given you any reason whatsoever which would warrant such an abuse of discretion. I have always been both polite and professional both in person and in my written communications with you. We were merely providing you with written documentation pertaining to our myriad, yet thwarted, attempts to inspect and obtain copies of SMC’s public records.

Again, I quote from the relevant portion of the California Public Records Act as follows:

Cal. Gov. Code Sec. 6253.1.

(a) When a member of the public requests to inspect a public record or obtain a copy of a public record, the public agency, in order to assist the member of the public make a focused and effective request that reasonably describes an identifiable record or records, shall do all of the following, to the extent reasonable under the circumstances:

(1) Assist the member of the public to identify records and information that are responsive to the request or to the purpose of the request, if stated.

(2) Describe the information technology and physical location in which the records exist.

(3) Provide suggestions for overcoming any practical basis for denying access to the records or information sought.

Your statement that we “either turn [our] asses around now and get out or I call the police” does not seem to fall into the construed meaning of the above portion of the California Government Code pertaining to public records assistance. In fact, to date, you have done absolutely nothing to assist us in inspecting these records and, conversely, have done everything under the sun to discourage and threaten us.

Again, please accept this as a formal request to allow me or any designee to both inspect and copy any and all public records belonging to Santa Monica Community College without any further delay, intimidation, harassment, retaliation, or threat of violence on your part or the part of the SMC police department.

Do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance of any kind. Thank you for your prompt attention regarding this matter.

Very Truly Yours,
Des Manttari


Now, Pat Green called the police on us for serving her with a CPRA Compliance Demand Letter. You can read the Adobe PDF letter, dated August 18, 2005, here. Well, that was one week I would like to forget... Campus Disciplinarian Judith Penchansky went on a retaliatory campaign against me, generating all kinds of written false allegations from not only Pat Green, but Academy of Entertainment and Technology staff members Tim Ryan and Stu Seldon in addition to AET animation professor Jim Keeshen. Penchansky placed a "disciplinary" hold on my student records and she attempted to suspend me from school, all of which failed.

This is nothing new for Penchansky. According to SMC student Philip Sanchez, Penchansky recently dragged him into her office and told him what she wanted him to write against another SMC student she wanted to "discipline." Penchansky didn't want the alleged witness statement in Sanchez's words, but in her own. Another student, who was an alleged victim of a crime on campus, had such a "disciplinary" hold placed on her enrollment, just because Penchansky wanted to force her to come into her office. The hold has been recently removed.

Another SMC student, Giovanna Borgo-Carrillo, complained in writing to Dean Katharine Muller about various problems in the Academy of Entertainment & Technology's computer lab. She wrote in part, on or about June 6, 2003, the following:

When David is in a foul mood he cannot control himself, nor his mouth and temperament.... I try not to ask him for help, but when he is the only one there, and he is in a foul mood he loves to be obnoxious. I've spoken to him about it on several occasions, when he is in a better mood. He says he knows he has his days, but brushes it off as if nothing. Unfortunately, I cannot speak to Stu about it because they both cover for each other. Stu can be another person who is difficult to deal with. I have great respect for Virgil because he does not bring his personal problems to work with him, and, is always happy to offer his assistance. I really like his work ethics.... There are things that go on in this lab that I know you are not aware of, and I feel strongly that these two issues are not ones that I care to let go on any more.

David, the AET lab tech in question, no longer works at AET. Stu Seldon was one of the individuals who first called campus police on me, due to Dean Muller's gnawing fears of my ever-growing knowledge of the inner workings of the Academy thanks to my close personal and professional relationship with Jim Keeshen. Virgil has left to work at another school. Sadly, Dean Muller did nothing to resolve the issues of alleged wrongdoing at AET. Instead, this year, Judith Penchansky coerced Ms. Borgo-Carrillo to leave school. According to the documents I reviewed, Ms. Borgo-Carrillo did not have a chance to examine those who provided written statements against her or even learn the identities of some of the witnesses Penchansky acquired. Perhaps, they were also forced to write the events Penchansky needed and "disciplinary" holds were placed on their enrollment if they did not comply. Or, alternatively, maybe they were otherwise blackmailed like Professor Keeshen was in my case. Ms. Borgo-Carrillo is currently attempting reinstatement at Santa Monica College.

Interestingly, Ms. Borgo-Carrillo and I were featured in the Fall 2005 schedule of classes alongside Professors Jim Keeshen and Steve Brown under the Academy's Mentor Program. Ms. Borgo-Carrillo recently commented:

I haven't hurdled this huge an obstacle before, but I've been trying to stand up for myself with authority figures who are determining my re-admittance to school, the very purpose of my life at the time. It is providing me the necessary skills preparing me to re-enter the work force, in a creative environment in the entertainment industry, and these individuals I'm confronting (with professional contacts to this entertainment industry) are administrators who are unlawfully trying to keep me from my education which they are unlawfully robbing many other students and taxpayers of. This college is unique as it is the only one of its kind, on a community college level, offering 2D, and 3D animation as part of its program, here, in Santa Monica, and I've invested three years of my life in it. This is my major, and future career.

Philip Sanchez was a bit upset to learn that there had once been a Themed Entertainment major which fell to the wayside, especially after he learned that Judith Penchansky was one of the people in charge at the Academy at the time. Now, Sanchez is gearing up to transfer to another school where he will complete his dream of entering into a career in Theme Park Management.

Well, I fight for all these students' rights as well as the rights of the faculty and staff at SMC. One staff member told me to "keep the fire under SMC's feet" while a professor informed me, "Boy, you continue to bring things out in the open. People who steal food and knowledge away from students and teachers, need to be dealt with. Thanks for having the courage to continue." I keep both these two SMC employees' names anonymous, given the overwhelming history of retaliation at the hands of Santa Monica College's administration.

But Governor Schwarzenegger told us during his commencement the following: "Don’t let other people’s negativity poison you. Don’t take it in for one second." He told us to set a goal, to visualize our success, and to have the courage to take risks despite our fears. He further stated:

You can do that, if you don’t fill yourself up with other people’s predictions of doom and gloom. That will always hold you back. If I’d have listened to all the people who said I shouldn’t run for Governor because I was surely going to lose – then where would I be? If I set a goal as governor and fulfill it only part-way, am I a failure? I don’t think so. Should I have just stuck with the status quo – and not risked setting the goal and making the change? I don’t think so. I’m a failure if I didn’t have the courage to try. Moving towards your goals takes courage – and what you find out is that you have all the courage you need – if you try. If you don’t try, you’ll have nothing. I believe, just about anything is possible – if you have the foundation, the education, the confidence, the will, the guts, and the courage.

Hopefully Schwarzenegger will keep to his own words of advice and provide us the education we both need and deserve. As Arnold pumped "$6 billion more dollars into the state treasury," will he now be able to pump fiscal accountability, enrollment recovery, and a climate of trust and mutual respect back into the SMC community? Will those answers be forthcoming or will SMC suffer Judgment Day under the former Terminator's hands? As the commencement photograph clearly reveals, even Winniphred Stone and Thomas Donner are looking to their former SMC student for answers. Perhaps it will not be Governor Schwarzenegger, but we - the devoted students, staff, and faculty of SMC - who will guide them.

-- Des Manttari, Editor-in-Chief, Phoenix Genesis
(c)2005: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

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