Board votes 6-1 to censure Reynoso for what it deemed as a failure to uphold a trustee’s standards
DUBLIN — The district office in Dublin, where the conflict over what to do about Luis Reynoso was playing out, had been percolating since the Board of Trustees meeting started on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
This audience gathered in this board room, beneath yellow fluorescent lighting, filling nearly all 50 or so of the black seats. Two cameramen working with Tom Wong, a Hayward politician who in December lost his bid for the Hayward Unified School District board, in his campaign to defend Reynoso, clung to the sides of the taupe wall of the rectangular room. Outside the entrance to the district office building were two protestors fuming with indignation, and picket signs: “Chabot Las Positas College District is Corrupt!”
The crowd was about to join them outside because the boisterous spectators were about to get booted from the boardroom.
A boiling point was reached this night after four months of meetings, advocacy efforts and investigations. After allegations of a witch hunt, of censorship, of First Amendment infringement, of this all being a Chinese Communist party conspiracy. The drama sparked by an offensive Reynoso post on LinkedIn was brought to a head by one vocal spectator.
A white male, about 5-foot-9 with gray hair surrounding his balding dome, stood up from his chair near the front of the room. He wore a dark blue blazer, broad and loose on his shoulders, and a bright red vest over a light blue collared shirt — a stark contradiction to his slouchy light blue jeans. He dressed like he wanted to be seen. He shouted like he wanted to be heard.
“You guys ganged up on a Mexican!” he bellowed loud enough to drown all other chatter. “You are all racist.”
The Mexican he was referring to was Reynoso, the trustee, who was being judged after posting homophobic and misogynist posts on social media. The “gang” he was calling “racist” was the Chabot Las Positas Community College District’s Board of Trustees.
Reynoso was officially censured.
This censure follows a series of misconduct by Reynoso, from anti-LGBTQ+ posts on his LinkedIn account, to his failure to follow up and make amends to students and the board. At previous meetings, all six students, faculty and classified senates of CLPCCD gave a vote of no confidence on the trustee.
In late September, Reynoso spread a post of an apple with the quote, “This is a banana. If you see an apple, you’re a right-wing extremist.” Former Las Positas student president Kyle Johnson and current student Hayden Sidun responded with disapproval of his message.
Reynoso replied by calling out the students for not using “common sense” and refused to answer Johnson’s request to clarify his support for LGBTQ+ communities.
In addition to his initial post, further investigation by students found anti-abortion and anti-trans rhetoric in his LinkedIn comments and posts.
Five months later, six of the seven board members, with Reynoso being the lone exception, voted in favor of the motion to censure — which is an official statement of disapproval from the board.
“Today we prove that love always wins,” Sidun said during public comment. “We prove that acceptance always wins. We prove that inclusion always wins. But most importantly, we proved that hate never wins. We proved that bigotry never wins.”
Reynoso’s censure does not mean he is fired from his position as trustee, to which he is elected. But it strains his relationship with other board members.
An ad-hoc investigative committee headed by trustees Hal Gin and Linda Granger, formed at a November meeting, presented their findings that Reynoso did not exemplify the district’s ideals. Specifically, the trustees concluded he failed to uphold the board’s stated commitment to “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility” as stated in the board’s priorities.
The report detailed that Reynoso failed to defend his posting, accept any responsibility for his conduct at prior board meetings or acknowledge support for the LGBTQ+ committee. In addition, the report stated Reynoso made biased comments toward Trustee Harris Mojadedi, an openly-gay board member, since he cried at a November district meeting.
Following complaints, Reynoso promised District Chancellor Ron Gerhard he would contact the students who commented on the post that month. According to the ad-hoc committee’s report, Gerhard said Reynoso had not done so when he followed up. Johnson confirmed he received no message.
“This college board,” Reynoso said before the audience, “is grasping at straws to conduct a witch trial.”
Before the meeting, a Reynoso supporter passed out disparaging flyers. One featured Tim Sbranti with an Asian woman. The other featured Congressman Eric Swalwell with the same Asian woman.
Wong, an avid defender of Reynoso, who spoke with him on News Max, came with a videographer, photographer, public relations manager and others. Also, his email was included on a flyer supporting Reynoso that was posted on social media before the meeting. That flyer also included photos of Sbranti and Swalwell with the Asian woman, who was labeled on the flyer as “Chinese spy Fang Fang.” Wong denied that he worked with Reynoso.
“We have reasons to believe that the president, Sbranti, is somehow compromised and that the Chinese government might have influenced him,” Wong said in an interview with The Express. He added that he believes the government wants “to push their agenda in school curriculum and their way of thinking in socialism and capitalism” since it is “highly suspicious and out of character for this to happen.”
Some of those same conspiratorial sentiments made it inside the meeting, which was loud and vigorous as the yelling and loud, interrupting comments continued for three hours.
The meeting began at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The first order of business was public comment, which had 17 people speak — five in support of Reynoso’s censure and nine opposed.
Reynoso supporters, including Wong, took to the podium during public comment. They expressed disagreement with the action against Reynoso, which was deemed a “witch hunt,” a “cultural Marxist” movement, and akin to “big brother.”
Wendy Hoang, a Reynoso supporter, spoke passionately, comparing Reynoso’s treatment to her treatment under authoritarian rule. She said that the LGBTQ+ community “have been weaponized and monetized by cultural Marxists to cancel the freedom of expression in America, as I see with trustee Reynoso.”
But while Reynoso’s supporters focused on the board’s actions, his detractors harped on his posts and his response after being told of the harm they provoked. Trustees are obligated to be advocates for students, to prioritize their safety and opportunity. But Reynoso, based on those who wanted him reprimanded, prioritized social media commentary over his duty as a trustee.
Annie Koruga, an openly queer student senator from Ohlone College, sympathized with trustee Mojadeti and condemned Reynoso.
“Trustee Reynoso has had ample opportunity to learn to apologize and just start to undo some disgusting parts that he has perpetuated,” Koruga said. “He has taken exactly zero of those opportunities.”
After Koruga’s comment, a supporter of Reynoso in the crowd booed. The same supporter interrupted other opposers of Reynoso during the meeting and yelled at board members. He was asked several times by campus security to stop.
“It’s very ironic,” Koruga said in an interview with The Express, “that people who are standing up and wanted free speech, they wanted everyone to be heard, then boo people for standing up and talking.”
Next was Reynoso’s opportunity to defend himself. He did so from his usual seat, near the left end of the curved wooden podium. In a black blazer with a gray button-up shirt, loosened enough at the top to reveal his white shirt beneath, Reynoso spoke emphatically, looking over his glasses often and pointing for emphasis. He repeatedly called the censure a “mob movement,” and that he was being wrongfully punished for free speech and thinking.
Reynoso complained over the course of a 40-minute presentation that the proper grievance procedure was not followed. He declared that no student filed a “formal complaint.”
In rebuttal to Reynoso’s claim, Sbranti pointed out, students anonymously reported their issues with the board. That led to six votes of no confidence by classified, student and faculty senates against Reynoso, making the issue of Reynoso’s conduct a matter for the board. The ad-hoc committee interviewed several students and employees who felt they were “hurt and disturbed by Reynoso’s conduct,” some calling it “hateful and inappropriate.”
Mojadedi called out Reynoso for saying stakeholders at the meeting were part of a “mob” movement and said his supporters had doubled down on their hate by comparing the district to Communist China.
“I’m going to vote for this to hold you accountable,” Mojadedi said from his seat at the board, turning his head toward Reynoso before setting his focus back on the audience. “Because our students, our staff, our faculty, they deserve to feel safe. (You’ll) be held accountable for your actions. The actions that you display tonight, the actions that you displayed the past four months. But I’m really calling you in because we have a responsibility.”
Tensions rose as the motion to vote for the censure was finally on the floor. Reynoso’s arguments with the board became more abrasive and loud. His points of contention had grown worn out.
After Sbranti started the motion, each board member declared “Aye” — one by one, without any hesitation — in support of the censure. When it was Reynoso’s turn to vote, he paused. He took a deep breath and let out a sigh, then gave his firm vote: “No.”
The outcome, to many, was known from the beginning. This was a formality, a public rebuke and an official reminder of a trustee’s obligation to students. The result wasn’t a surprise. Yet, to those there to champion Reynoso, it seemed to land like an uppercut to the gut.
When the motion passed, 6-1, a silence fell over the room, a quiet that hadn’t been present for hours. Quiet enough to hear the frustrated grumble of defeat, the exhales of relief for the winners.
Calmly, Tim Sbranti called out for a five-minute break. But before people could get out of their seats, the quiet disappeared.
“You’re all racist!” shouted the man in the blue blazer and red vest. Audience members looked around, jarred by the sudden intensity in the room. Even Reynoso supporters seemed blindsided by the outburst.
Another voice took over the room.
“At this moment,” a campus security officer said, “I’m going to ask everyone to step out!”
Reynoso closed his folder, pushed his chair back and stood up. He huddled with Wong and some supporters near the board room’s glass door exit. As a group, they left the den of chaos and disappeared into the hallway, with five officers trailing closely behind them. They made their way outside. Reynoso declined a request for an interview, instead chatted with Wong for a bit in the parking lot. Reynoso smiled as they exchanged pleasantries.
Reynoso did not return to the board meeting. Neither did the chaos.
Lizzy Rager is the editor-in-chief of The Express Newspaper at Las Positas College. Follow her @Ragerwriter.