YCCD trustee Anne DeMartini censured by board for email to worker

Anne DeMartini, Yosemite Community College District board member
Anne DeMartini, Yosemite Community College District board member Modesto Bee file

For the first time in memory, the Yosemite Community College District board censured one of its own, board member Anne DeMartini, claiming misuse of power in treatment of a YCCD office worker.

The rebuke Wednesday stemmed from an April 28 email Anne DeMartini sent Jann Mathies, an executive assistant in YCCD Chancellor Joan Smith’s office, chastising Mathies for contributing $100 to a candidate running against Jim DeMartini for county supervisor. Jim DeMartini, who is married to Anne DeMartini, narrowly won that race in the June election.

In the missive to Mathies’ work email, Anne DeMartini wrote, “Today I learned that you have made a campaign contribution to Luis Molina whose purpose is defeating my husband.” DeMartini’s email goes on to explain that contributions of less than $100 do not have to be reported by name.

“If you had given $99.99 your name would not have been disclosed. I would have preferred that you had done that because then you could have pretended to not be taking sides in this race. Had you done that I would not have known at all that you are supporting the person who hopes to beat my husband. I hope that in the future, if ever a similar situation arises, that you consider staying out of this type of controversy,” the trustee wrote.

Her email concludes, “Perhaps you gave $100.00 so that I would be aware of your position in this political race. Respectfully, Anne DeMartini.”

During Wednesday’s meeting, Anne DeMartini read a prepared statement that said she sent the email in an emotional moment during the heat of the race. Anne DeMartini said because Molina’s wife also works in Smith’s office, she did not feel she could work with her and had turned to Mathies with any requests, and that Mathies had always been professional.

“Well I was totally caught off guard when I learned that Jann was helping to finance Luis Molina’s campaign against my husband. I made it clear that she had every right to do so, but this now meant that 100 percent of the chancellor’s staff was opposing my husband and supporting Luis in hopes that he would defeat my husband,” she read from a prepared statement.

The board vote was five to one for the censure, with trustee Tom Hallinan dissenting. Hallinan said he saw no legal basis for censure. “Usually censure is related to district business,” he said, adding that it should be for “a serious offense,” not an occasional error in judgment.

Trustee Mike Riley disagreed. “I would hate to see any one of our employees subjected to an email like that,” he said at the meeting. “I think there’s intimidation involved, whether it’s meant or whether it’s just (perceived). I think we need to send a message to our employees that this is behavior that we don’t want to accept as being OK.”

On Thursday, Anne DeMartini said she thought the censure was unwarranted and showed board bias. “They think good was done by putting me in my place,” she said. “In an effort to punish me, they did more harm than good.”

Mathies addressed the board, also reading prepared remarks. “Over the last eight years I have had opportunity to observe trustee Anne DeMartini act with other trustees, other employees and guests that have come to give us reports,” she said. “I have seen, on occasion, what most reasonable persons would consider to be disrespectful, rude, unkind and unprofessional behavior (by Anne DeMartini).”

Speaking Thursday, Mathies said she was so nervous at the meeting she felt sick, but decided she needed to speak up. “This is not just about me,” she said.

The censure has no practical effect except to express the board’s disapproval, Smith said Thursday via email. “There is really nothing that the Board can do with a Trustee other than a public censure. Number 8 of the resolution addresses that stating that she ‘has been admonished and that the Board directs her to conform her behavior in the future in a manner that comports with the District’s Code of Ethics/Standards of Practice.’ 

Smith said censures are extremely rare, and administrators with more than 30 years in the district had never seen one before.

Anne DiMartini has sat on the board for 14 years, and her seat is up for election in 2018.

Nan Austin: 209-578-2339, @NanAustin