Jason Jackson was once again elected as chairman of the county’s Workforce Development Board, prompting the resignations of two established board members who questioned the election process.
Jackson, also an El Centro councilman, has served as chairman of the WDB four times in past years and won what will be his fifth one-year term Wednesday. He succeeds Mark Gran, an Imperial councilman who until Wednesday was running for the chairmanship unopposed alongside now former vice chairwoman Cheryl Viegas-Walker and former secretary Orlando Foote.
“I am a champion of good governance and transparency,” Viegas-Walker said in an interview after the meeting and added she had “real philosophical differences with how the election today (Wednesday) was manipulated. In a healthy organization you rotate leadership positions. It just makes for a better more effective board.”
Gran had served a year as a chairman, similarly to Viegas-Walker and Foote. He was the unanimous choice of the so-called nominating committee to serve a second term.
“Norma Saikhon made a motion to close the nominations with the three people presented, at which point Mr. Jackson interrupted and said wait a minute,” said Viegas-Walker, adding then Jackson was nominated by board member Robert Rubio. “It was very clear that this had been orchestrated in advance that there would be this nomination from the floor,” she said.
Jackson then won the election in what some board members described as an unusually well attended meeting.
Viegas-Walker, who served the WDB for almost six years, resigned after the divided vote and Foote soon followed. Robert Rubio was ultimately elected as vice chairman and Elvira Anaya as secretary as Gran declined the nomination to run as vice chairman.
“I felt that the process that was utilized in connection with the election of officers was predetermined and that it involved efforts by Mr. Jackson to be sure that he had enough votes to resume the chairmanship,” said Foote.
“I’m not sure what his agenda is, although in the past I don’t think anyone involved with him would place into doubt that he has carried a great deal of support from organized labor,” Foote continued. “I have no problem at all with organized labor participation on the board or in the political process in general and I think it is entirely appropriate … but in this instance, I felt the process was not a fair one, that it was arranged.”
Asked about the matter, Jackson dismissed the allegations and said, “It’s an election and people fall on one side or the other, and was there people that told me that they were going to support me, sure. … I’m sure there was people that said they were going to support Mark, Cheryl and Lanny also. Unfortunately, I think it comes down to a situation of sour grapes.”
Jackson added that everybody could see how members voted as it was a hand vote and that no secret ballots were involved.
“It’s really kind of childish, this whole situation in a simple election for a board made up of a bunch of volunteers who are donating and volunteering their time to serve the people of Imperial County,” said Jackson.
The Workforce Development Board serves as an advisory board to the county Board of Supervisors in the investment of public funds for employment and training programs. Supervisors will have to accept the resignations and appoint new members.
Staff Writer Alejandro Dávila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or email@example.com