Letter: Verbally attacked at candidate forum
To the editor,
For reasons known only to their maker, I was verbally attacked by an eight year incumbent at the 10/10 Candidate Forum even though I am not a candidate.
I’d like to respond to that attack the gist of which goes something like this: I was publicly censured for:
a. Repeated and highly unethical behavior involving contract negotiations on behalf of a client of client of mine resulting in the loss of an $800,000 of (e-Rate) grant.
b. For repeatedly bullying staff
c. For costing the district thousands of dollars in legal fees for investigating (my) bad behavior
d. For “threatening to shoot my fellow trustees in the head with a gun that uses big bullets”
My response: In 2016, As part of my due diligence, I questioned staff’s recommendation to approve 2016 bid proposal for a wireless technology upgrade that appeared to me to be $700,000 higher ($2.4 million vs. $1.7m) than a similar bid and where the more expensive contractor had been allowed to rebid when none of the other contractors were allowed to resubmit. I asked staff in a direct and frank exchange if it was prudent to spend $700,000 more for the same goods and services. I was not disrespectful. When staff could not justify the extra $700,000, legal counsel advised that the project had to be sent back out to the original vendors for rebid. The rebid caused a delay that resulted in the district being unable to process a grant request for an $800,000 e-Rate grant. Superintendent Williams told me we would be able to reapply for the missed grant which I believed happened in due course.
At the same time, there was a separate bid proposal to install the cables for the wireless technology upgrade noted above. One vendor, Quintron, based in Santa Maria, bid on both the technology upgrade and the cables. In full disclosure while the coard deliberated the proposed expenditures, I noted that Quintron had installed a telephone system in building that was built in the 1990’s for one of my businesses by Mr. John J. Will. Mr. Will had an ongoing relationship with Quintron. Mr. Will ordered the phone system, paid for it and for its installation. My employees received training from Quintron. I never purchased anything from Quintron; I especially never provided any services to Quintron. Quintron was never my client. The 10/10 attacker accused me incorrectly during the coard’s censure and repeated the error during the Candidate Forum.
Not satisfied with my explanation regarding Quintron, the then Board President ordered an investigation of my “unethical” behavior of negotiating with vendors on behalf of one of my clients. I was investigated by Lozano & Smith, Attorneys At Law. Their findings? I was exonerated of any wrong doing and the vendor who staff had recommended we pay $700,000 too much was disqualified from bidding. The cost of “my” investigation? That depends who you believe. The then Board President says “over $13,000.” Superintendent Williams says it was “only $11,000.” Either way, it is important to note that it was my attacker who wasted the districts’ money by ordering the ill-conceived investigation without first obtaining board approval.
My attacker said that I had “threatened to shoot all Trustees.” His accusation is taken wildly out of context. I had defended a high school student’s right to use a line from a song lyric as his year book photo caption. The line went something like “It feels like a bullet went through my heart.” When the yearbook staff denied his caption, he came before the board to appeal. He told us he choose that line because his girlfriend had left him. At least one Trustee felt the high school senior should be placed on suicide watch and be immediately expelled as an extreme danger to all other students. I disagreed so a Second Amendment arms race was on and apparently continues to this day. As a way to disgrace me during my censure, two board members said they felt threatened by my belief in our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. To them, that meant I might walk into a School Board meeting and become a shooter. They demanded that an armed guard be posted to prevent me from shooting them. A vote was put to the board and so yes, this unnecessary expense continues to this day.
Perhaps my attacker feels safe retelling his tale of my censure in his revisionist style because he made sure that all of the documents used to censure me have been embargoed by the district at his request. I have made repeated attempts to obtain copies via the California Public Records act only to have my request delayed, deferred and denied. My attacker was wrong to lead a censure campaign against me then and is wrong in repeating his still incorrect charges now.
My attacker has accused me of being anti-immigration, associating with anti-immigration supporters, being anti-population growth and seeking to impose an agenda to change the immigration policy of our District. As a grandson of immigrants from Germany and Belgium, as a grandson of Irish immigrants, I am proudly pro legal immigration. As a practicing Roman Catholic and very proud father of five, I obviously believe in population growth. I do not knowingly associate with anyone who supports anti-immigration. I have never emailed a single word about supporting any anti-immigration policy or agenda. Again, my attacker is wrong.
Regarding the disappearing budget reserve, my attacker says “It’s not a crisis. We have an accounting problem.” I say that the board has failed our duty to serve the public and failed the test of being the fiduciaries we are elected to be. As Assistant County Superintendent Sheldon Smith said on 10/9, the board knew in 2016 that our spending could not be sustained. We had been warned. It is time for the board to once again become the adults in the room, to stop being managed by the superintendent and to regain control of the out of control
spending of the past three years.
My attacker is running the risk of being outed as insincere and disingenuous in an effort to discredit me and therefore the new candidates who are so bravely running for office in such a contentious and threatening environment created by the incumbents. Will you be fooled again?
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