Steve Petzold | The Corruption of Power

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Lord Acton is oft quoted, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Such is the case with Chancellor Dianne G Van Hook.

At long last, the many documented instances of power abuse and personal hubris have caught up with the chancellor. Pending unforeseen developments, Van Hook will be dismissed unceremoniously from her responsibilities to the Santa Clarita Community College District and the College of the Canyons on Wednesday evening. So much for “congratulations,” Van Hook is going to “get the hook “ like an unwanted guest who has long ago worn out their welcome.

The sentiments expressed in Saturday’s Signal editorial, “Well Deserved Congratulations to Van Hook,” may be appropriate to make at her retirement party, but are not helpful while the board of trustees finally takes action to address festering management problems at the college.

It is unfortunate that the editorial board decided to make a sweeping assessment that Van Hook’s tenure has been an unqualified success. We know that is not true. Those of us who brought important issues and concerns to the fore were often ignored by the trustees and the local media. 

Van Hook’s management style often skirted or ignored the education and government codes. In the end it has been revealed her goals were often accomplished by creating a hostile work environment for the faculty and employees that placed the district at legal and financial risk. Truth be known, the trustees often feared her as much or more than the employees. A future without the fundraising acumen of Dianne G. Van Hook was unthinkable. Not anymore.

It is unfortunate that the public is under the perception that the trustee’s pending discipline/dismissal/removal action must be held in a closed session. In fact placing the items 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 on the agenda subject to Government Code 54957 requires that Chancellor Van Hook be notified of her right to have the item heard in open session. The confidentiality of the closed session is afforded to the affected employee who has the option of waiving it.

I urge Van Hook to waive her right to have the agenda items held in closed session. If this is an unmerited or illegal action filled with false allegations, let Dr. Van Hook expose the trustees at a meeting open to the public and the press.

From the agenda released on Friday it appears that Van Hook or her representatives may have threatened legal action against the college and the trustees. Agenda item 2.4 has suddenly appeared as an item for Wednesday, citing unspecified anticipated legal action. We hope and pray that the trustees will follow the legal decision in Fowler v. City of Lafayette (2020) and place the record of threatened litigation in the agenda packet. We the people deserve maximum legal disclosure.

Van Hook, despite her unprecedented 36 years of service to COC does not own the position of chancellor and serves at the pleasure of the board of trustees. The reticence of the trustees to address numerous issues in the past has resulted in an uncertain future.

I urge the board of trustees to dismiss/remove Van Hook at Wednesday’s meeting and immediately begin the process of selecting a qualified replacement who can begin the healing process and lead COC into the future.

What say you?

Steve Petzold

Former Santa Clarita resident

Douglas County, Georgia 

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