Removal of banking resolution questioned by CCSF trustees 

click to enlarge Wells Fargo
  • Justin Sullivan/Getty Images file photo
  • In 2012, the City College of San Francisco board of trustees voted to divest the school's money from Wells Fargo. This month, the special trustee in charge of the school rescinded that order.

In spring 2012, City College of San Francisco's board of trustees passed a resolution aimed in part at putting the school's money in a socially responsible bank. Trustees say it was meant to act as a divestment of the college's reported $13 billion in annual transactions from irresponsible bad actors -- namely Wells Fargo.

But on Oct. 24, Special Trustee Robert Agrella rescinded the resolution without explanation.

Now some members of the college's powerless elected board of trustees are calling foul, saying the move is not only an indication of how much the new leadership's values diverge from The City's, but also its undemocratic nature.

"This shows their values are out of step with San Francisco values," Trustee Chris Jackson said about Agrella's team. "Wells Fargo is responsible for a number of illegal and irresponsible foreclosures here in San Francisco."

Agrella's office gave no explanation for why the resolution was overturned other than the language of the measure. "The special trustee wishes to express its support for continuing to receive banking services from Wells Fargo Bank," an office statement said.

That was not the case in April 2012 when the resolution, which was authored by Jackson, passed unanimously.

It stated that City College's "mission is better aligned with the goals" of community banks and credit unions who "place importance on educational, financial, social and environmental goals." The motion went on to chastise the college's banker, Wells Fargo, for being responsible for 22 percent of all foreclosures in The City and for irresponsible and predatory banking, similar to what brought on the mortgage meltdown and the subsequent Great Recession.

The resolution asked the chancellor's office to put out a bid for banking services.

In May 2012, City College's request for banking services was bundled with a number of other local agencies by the city of San Francisco, according to Greg Kato with the Office of the Treasurer. The City's proposal had an approach to choosing its banker in line with the college's resolution, specifically asking the banks to answer a series of questions about their socially responsible banking practices. The answers given, said Kato, were meant to promote transparency rather than bar any given bank based solely on its input.

So far, seven successful bidders have been ranked according to a series of criteria, including, in small part, how they answered questions about their socially responsible banking practices. While Wells Fargo did not rank at the bottom of the list, it was not at the top either.

The announcement of which two banks will be chosen is expected soon, Kato said. City College has not said if it will go with the banks chosen by The City.

Whichever banks are chosen, Trustee Rafael Mandelman thinks the decision to overturn an elected body's resolution should not be up to one unelected representative. Governments, he said, "routinely adopt screens around their investment that reflect local values. ... That should be done by a democratically elected body."

In July, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, announced that CCSF would lose its accreditation if it does not transform itself into a viable institution. And unless officials can successfully appeal the decision by July, the college, which serves roughly 85,000 students, will lose its accreditation and effectively close.

Agrella, who was appointed in October 2012 with veto power over accreditation issues, was given near total power in July by the California Community Colleges board of governors after it stripped CCSF’s elected board of trustees of its powers.

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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