On Wednesday April 26, the Classified Union Staff asked the Board of Trustees to fire Aaron Hilliard. In attendance were BOT members Richard Fukutaki, Merisa Hue-Weller and Vice Chair Steve Miller. Interim President Jill Wakefield was also in attendance. After the executive session, a public business session took place.
The Washington Public Employees Association is a part of the Classified Council, a forum for classified staff to participate in Bellevue College decision-making. The Classified Staff Union asked the BOT to fire Vice President of Human Resources Aaron Hilliard for “not [honoring] our grievance procedures or bargaining process” of the staff, stated Jeanna Shockley, member of WPEA. “As a result of ongoing frustrations and lack of accountability in the Human Resources Department, WPEA Classified Staff have proceeded with a vote of no confidence against [Hilliard],” said Becky Turnbull, WPEA member. A vote of no confidence generally takes place when there is no confidence that an individual can successfully perform their job. “We did not come to this decision lightly, nor should this be a surprise to anyone else in this room. Our concerns have been voiced time and again to no avail and we cannot wait any longer,” said Turnbull.
This was not the first time the WPEA had expressed concerns about Hilliard’s leadership. Last year, the WPEA wrote a letter about their concerns and union leadership presented these issues to the Board.
“Aaron Hilliard consistently ignores us and this is a concern across the board that we hear from everyone,” said Shockley. He “fails to follow our union contract and management and staff are not held accountable to it either. [Hilliard] fails to follow through on his promises and issues that we bring to his attention are ignored over and over again.”
“As VP of HR he is our point of contact when we need to resolve anything on campus and we have no confidence in his ability to resolve these issues because he has failed to do so in his three years as VP,” said Shockley. WPEA cast a ballot, which encompassed 80 percent of the Bellevue College staff. 95 percent of those votes were in favor of going ahead with the vote of no confidence.
“Aaron has hurt our numbers long enough. Before Dave Rule left, he told us he formally disciplined Aaron. We can find no records of that. There is no accountability or integrity and that has to stop,” said May Cox, WPEA member. Dave Rule was the previous president of Bellevue College and took part in appointing Hilliard.
“We want Aaron Hilliard to be hands off of anything WPEA related. We don’t want him to be able to hurt our members any longer,” said Cox. The WPEA requested immediate action from the Board by May 17. “If we fail to see a firm decision by that point, we have no choice but to escalate this matter,” said Cox.
In response to this, Steve Miller stated that the BOT are told “not be involved in personnel matters with the exception of the president. We basically are responsible for the policy, the budget, the hiring evaluation of the president. I think we all take seriously the concerns raised because they affect the function of the college, but what we will do is ask the president to take this and advise us on our response.”
“I think I was expecting it,” said Turnbull afterwards about the response. “I know the Board can’t really assist with personnel matters, I realize that. But as a union we speak for the group. We speak for everyone and if we had not gone into that room and said what we said, we would’ve let everyone down. It was the only thing we could do.”
“We have tried resolving issues at a lower level and it hasn’t gotten us anywhere. We conducted the vote of no confidence but really as a last resort. And I think everyone in the college knew we were going to do it. We asked. We were ready to pull back if they would give us something,” said Turnbull.