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COC negotiating settlement in Voting Rights Act lawsuit

Posted: June 11, 2014 7:09 p.m.
Updated: June 11, 2014 7:09 p.m.

College of the Canyons trustees announced publicly Wednesday what they presented in court last week: that the Santa Clarita Community College District is working toward a settlement to a lawsuit brought against the district alleging its election system violates minorities’ voting rights.

Addressing a crush of more than 100 faculty members who showed up in force at Wednesday’s regular board meeting as a show of unity on the unrelated issue of contract talks, Board of Trustees President Michele Jenkins announced what board members had discussed in private behind closed doors for more than two hours.

“The board has given direction to its attorneys to finalize the settlement in the case of — I didn’t bring the case name with me — the plaintiffs versus the district concerning the (California Voting Rights Act) suit,” she said.

“A joint statement will be issue when it’s been mutually agreed upon by both parties involved in the suit,” she said. “And that will be released when both parties have approved the statement.”

Meeting attendees, however, were more interested in the board’s agenda item dealing with proposed salary increases for administrative staffers.

An attorney representing College of the Canyons and the district told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu on June 4 that COC trustees authorized her to proceed with a settlement during a two-hour closed-door meeting the day before.

The community college district was one of three Santa Clarita Valley public agencies sued last summer by a Malibu law firm over alleged Voting Rights Act violations.

The other two agencies sued — the city of Santa Clarita and Sulphur Springs School District — have announced settlements in their cases.

All three lawsuits allege at-large election systems — whereby voters throughout a municipal agency choose from a pool of common candidates, rather than electing individuals district by district — prevents Latino voters from electing candidates of their choice, and such systems violate the 2001 California Voting Rights Act.
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