Unrest remains since flea market takeover

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It’s business as usual at the Delta College Flea Market.

There’s sunshine overhead in the Budd 4 parking lot and a maze of vendors are around every corner on a recent Saturday.

But the calm environment belies the tempest brewing over the campus market that was established in 1981.

Since Aug. 17, the Associate Student Body Government has been fighting back against an administrative takeover, which moved control of the market to the Delta College Foundation.

The change in leadership results in a nearly $500,000 loss of revenue each school year for ASBG and has sent the governing body in search of new sources of revenue.

“What we’re doing is just identifying different ideas,” said Donna Armstrong, who serves as the student representative to the board of trustees. “So we’re really in a brainstorming type phase.”

The storm started right after school began when Michael Kerns, the college’s vice president of student services, came to an ASBG meeting and announced the removal of control.

“I will be transitioning the management of the flea market from the ASBG to the College Foundation,” Kerns told the students. “The College Foundation is the arm of the district that handles fund raising.”

The announcement took the ASBG board, including newly elected president Nicholas Aguirre, by surprise.

The meeting turned tense after the announcement, with Aguirre telling Kerns he was putting Superintendent/President Jeff Marsee “on notice.”

The move comes after the arrest of Robbin Gerald Sealey, the flea market coordinator, who plead guilty to grand theft of market funds this summer.

More than three weeks after the change, ASBG has taken steps with the intent of hiring a lawyer to fight the administration’s decision and used a “welcome back” barbecue to protest the move.

The issue has become a talking point on campus, with opinions being vented through campus email, including Aguirre’s recent forwarding of email communications between himself and Kerns over a payment request.

Aguirre forwarded the email to “campus wide announcements,” “campus wide business,” members of local media and Delta’s board of trustees.

On Aug. 23, Aguirre asked Kerns to pass through funding for ASBG’s hiring of a law firm to represent the government.

“I feel that in your position as Vice President of Student Services you are deliberately holding up the payment process, and you are doing so as a stalling tactic,” Aguirre wrote in the email.

Kerns responded by saying two days was not enough notice to fund the request.

“According to the procedures that are in place, all requests are to be submitted two weeks in advance to allow time for processing by my office, as well as the Business Office staff,” Kerns wrote.

Kerns is on medical leave through Sept. 20. A follow-up to the request for funds was also recently denied by Mark Mekjavich, who is currently filling in for Kerns.

Mekjavich wrote in Sept. 7 email that he did not intend to change Kerns original action on the request. Aguirre forwarded the email, again, to the campus on Sept. 7.

On Sept. 2, Aguirre also sent a “campus wide” and “campus business” email asking recipients to donate $25 to ASBG for legal fees.

“I have contacted the San Joaquin County Superior Court and it costs $350 to file a writ of mandate,” said Aguirre in the email. “I intend to file this injunction to put halt to the administration’s takeover of the ASBG Flea Market.”
Aguirre sent another email at the end of the day, stating that he had already received donations exceeding the required amount.

At stake is the half million in funding that will now go to the Delta College Foundation, which, in addition to other things, funds the Passport to College program.

Armstrong, though, said ASBG is looking into new ideas for funding including opening up an afternoon cafe or, as suggested by the Delta College administration, raising student representation fees in order to make up lost revenue.

“We’re looking into other sources of revenue and business ventures only because that was our goal before this (transaction of flea market) even happened,” said Aguirre. “I’m not going to go into detail because, well, A: we haven’t decided anything and B: I don’t want the administration thinking ‘Oh, they’ll be okay.’”

When asked if these new revenues would bring in as much as the flea market did, Aguirre said it wouldn’t.

“We’re only going to get $50,000 to $100,000. And that’s me being very optimistic,” he said.

ASBG claims if they don’t get the flea market back, they will be cutting back $50,000 on donations to clubs and various organizations to $10,000.

According to Armstrong, ASBG has also cut back on its scholarship program, student planners at the bookstore and other funded activities.

“If we get the flea market back, when we get the flea market back, we’re going to have a clear understanding that it belongs to the students; they (the administration) cannot take it,” said Aguirre.

ASBG is planning a 5 p.m. Sept. 13 protest in front of the administration building.

“Without us having the money in order to do the things we’re here to do, then what is our function other than to say we exist?” asked Armstrong.

DELTA COLLEGE FOUNDATION TAKES OVER FLEA MARKET

Aug. 17: ASBG has an emergency meeting, Kerns informs Student Body they are losing campus flea market.

Aug. 23: ASBG President Nicholas Aguirre releases an email of between himself and Michael Kerns , vice president  of student services, denying ASBG funding for an attorney. Kerns says request must be sent two weeks in advance.

Aug. 25: ASBG’s “welcome back” barbecue becomes a protest asking students to sign a petition to keep flea market in ASBG control and to join another protest in September.

Sept. 2: Aguirre releases campus and business wide email asking recipients to donate $25 so ASBG can hire an attorney and legal fee’s.

CORRECTION: We attributed information about revenue ideas to ASBG President Nicholas Aguirre. The information regarding ideas for revenue sources was actually provided by Student Representative Donna Armstrong. Armstrong said fee increases were a suggestion of the Delta College administration. The error has been fixed in the article. We regret the error.