Cabrillo College’s governing board of trustees voted 7-1 to censure member Steve Trujillo during its Nov. 6 meeting for a series of Facebook posts that were deemed misogynistic and laced with profanity.
The censure came despite a recommendation against it from an ad-hoc committee made up of trustees Rachael Spencer and Martha Vega.
While penalties such as removal from an elected office are left up to voters, censures are a way for a board of elected leaders to publicly show their disapproval of a fellow member’s actions, Trustee Adam Spickler said.
“If a trustee violates board policy, or if there has been egregious behavior, censure exists as a way for the governance board to say ‘we disagree with this behavior,’” Spickler said.
Still, under board bylaws, Trujillo will be unable to serve as board president or vice-president for three years.
The informational packet provided to board members shows a series of Facebook posts with Trujillo’s name and photo. These show, among other things, profane language against Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, calling her “a sorry ass member of Congress” and saying that women who vote for Republican candidates “need psychotherapy.”
The posts also mention former President Donald Trump, as well as country singer Jason Aldean, whose May 2023 song “Try That in a Small Town” became a paean for conservatives and an inciter of ire for liberals.
The posts also show several expletives not printable in this publication.
Another post claims that Republican members of Congress “are SMUG male supremacists that live in 1923, not 2023.”
Trujillo said he did not write the posts, and claims that they came from hackers who were likely targeting him for his outspoken political beliefs, including his support for changing the name of Cabrillo College.
He said he has found six websites that facilitate such hacking.
“These hacks are not hard to make, apparently,” he said. “It’s obvious to me that there is real animus toward anybody who wants to take the stand to take the side of the oppressed, not the oppressor.”
The ad-hoc committee said that, other than Trujillo’s statement, there is no evidence that his Facebook page was hacked.
Trujillo said he has no plans to either give up his Facebook account or to stop expressing his opinions.
“What I am doing is scrutinizing it a lot more than I was before, because obviously I wasn’t paying enough attention,” he said.
Trujillo says the posts came before the board changed its policies in October, which now state that “trustees have a responsibility to follow respectful protocols for verbal and written communications, including email, social media posting, and trustee comments should refrain from offensive language and avoid bringing the college and board’s reputation into disrepute.”
Spickler says that the new policy—Board Policy 2715—came in the wake of Trujillo’s posts, but added that it was also a way to address social media posts by all board members.
“It’s become clear to us that the legislature is trying to get more clear on ways in which social media can inadvertently be used to violate the Brown Act,” Spickler said, referring to the state law that governs public meetings. “And so we’re trying to make sure we’re giving ourselves policies that give us guidance on how to best use social media so that we’re not violating both the Brown Act and our own policy.”
Spickler stressed that the policy is not a dilution of the Freedom of Speech.
“First Amendment rights are still there,” he said. “People can and should—elected or not—be able to espouse their opinions. But they should do so in a way that doesn’t bring the college’s reputation into damage, and that’s the distinction we’re trying to make.”
Trujillo says that his censure for comments he made before the new rule was passed possibly amounts to ex-post facto punishment, and said he is consulting a lawyer.
“I don’t feel that is in any way, shape or form fair,” he said.
To see the ad-hoc committee’s report, visit bit.ly/40Ds9AM.