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Palomar College’s Empty Governing Board Seat

SAN MARCOS — Palomar College’s Governing Board prepares to make a decision on a vacant board seat. Following Christian Garcia’s exit from the Palomar Community College District (PCCD) on Feb. 1st, the Governing Board now has to decide how to fill his empty seat.

Garcia served as the President of the PCCD as the trustee from Trustee Area 2, which encompasses Escondido and San Marcos. His exit was prompted by his move into the Escondido City Council where he is now serving as a council member.

“He was a steadfast proponent of student success and fiscal stewardship,” wrote Palomar College’s Public Affairs Office.

This leaves returning board member and Vice President of the PCCD Roberto Rodriguez, and newly elected trustees Dr. Judy Patacsil, Jacqueline Kaiser, and Michelle Rains to make up the board.

The day Garcia resigned from the PCCD began the Governing Board’s countdown of a 60-day window to decide how to fill the vacant seat. The last day of the countdown is March 3rd. Due to the board now being made up of four trustees, any action will require a majority vote of three, or else it could go into a two-to-two deadlock. If the Governing Board is unable to make a decision by the end of the 60 days, it will automatically go into a special election.

During a Governing Board meeting on Feb. 14th, the trustees were tasked with deciding how to fill the vacant seat. One of the options is to hold a special election, which according to the San Diego Registered Voters office could cost up to $600,000.

The lowest projected cost for a special election would be around $325,000, and the cost for such an election would come out of the college’s general funds. A special election would happen no less than 140 days after Garcia’s resignation, meaning the election would take place in November.

The other option to fill the vacancy was for the current board members to appoint a provisional trustee. Palomar College recently had an appointed trustee when Kartik Raju was representing Trustee Area 4 before losing his seat to Michelle Rains in the 2022 election. In the case of a provisional appointment, the current Governing Board members would be tasked with determining procedures for the process.

All discussion involved in a provisional appointment is required to take place in an open session, and the board is not allowed to discuss the appointment in any closed session.

Trustee Rodriguez motioned for a vote to proceed with a provisional appointment to fill the Trustee Area 2 seat, with Rodriguez, Patacsil, Kaiser, and Rains all voting in favor of an appointment. Trustee Rodriguez also motioned to create an ad hoc committee to be formed in order to move forward. The board agreed to have Trustee Rodriguez and Trustee Rains make up the ad hoc committee.

In an official statement from Palomar College’s Public Affairs Office regarding the news, they wrote, “The ad-hoc committee is charged with reviewing and finalizing a timeline to comply with legal mandates associated with appointing a provisional trustee, and the development of a draft application and application process, draft candidate screening criteria and submitting these items to the full Board for its approval.”

To learn more about how the provisional appointment will be carried out you can read the procedures here.

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