MARTINEZ -- A dozen residents are vying to fill a vacancy on the Contra Costa Community College District board, but the appointment process hit a snag when one board member inappropriately contacted applicants.

The opening on the five-member governing board was caused by the death last month of Sheila Grilli. She represented Ward 3, which covers Pleasant Hill, Concord, Pacheco and most of Martinez. The term expires in December 2014.

Three elected officials are among those in the running for the Ward 3 seat -- Contra Costa County Board of Education member Daniel Gomes, Martinez school board member Kathi McLaughlin and Martinez City Councilman Michael Menesini.

Although the district has 60 days to appoint someone to the seat, the board planned to move sooner than that. Board members agreed to review the applications, rank their top three choices and select six candidates to interview during a special Oct. 2 meeting. They then had planned to conduct the interviews and select the new member on Tuesday.

However, problems arose when the board discovered that Greg Enholm, who represents East Contra Costa, had contacted the applicants on his own asking for additional information. Enholm said the applications he received on Sept. 26 were missing information. The candidates' application packets were available on the district website as part of the Oct. 2 meeting agenda.

According to an email obtained by this newspaper, Enholm sent the candidates a draft table summarizing some of the information included in their application packets and gave them the opportunity to submit changes.

"So the question is, should I have made do and try to make this decision on the basis of incomplete information, or what should I have done?" Enholm said. "I made a decision. I'm an elected official. I'm held accountable not by the chancellor, not by the other board members; I'm held accountable by my constituents."

The district office was closed Sept. 27. When asked why he didn't wait until the following Monday to request the missing information from the chancellor's office, Enholm said, "I'm not full-time, I have a job, I'm a professor. I wanted to use the weekend to get this done."

When the rest of the board members learned what Enholm had done, they decided it would only be fair to interview all 12 candidates.

"Some (applicants) thought it was an official request from the governing board so they replied not knowing it was just him. Some didn't reply and some weren't happy about being asked for additional information," said Tim Leong, district spokesman. "It raises question of fairness and integrity of the process."

Board President John Márquez said he hopes the applicants and the community feel that the revised process is above-board.

The Contra Costa Community College District includes Los Medanos College in Pittsburg, Contra Costa College in San Pablo, Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill and satellite campuses in Brentwood and San Ramon. The district serves about 62,000 students.

The college district board members are the most well-compensated of any elected education board in the county, according to a 2012 Contra Costa County Civil Grand Jury report. District board members receive $700 per month and are eligible to receive medical and dental benefits.

If Gomes, McLaughlin or Menesini is appointed to the college district seat, he or she likely would be replaced on their current board through an appointment process.

Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.