Dispute between board trustees and board leads to special school meeting with district attorney set to step in | Dublin News

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DUBLIN – Following calls for the resignation of three trustees, the Dublin Unified School District (DUSD) board has scheduled a special meeting for July 12 to discuss whether the three board members had committed violations of Brown’s Law during the recent redistricting process.

While some believed there had indeed been a violation, others alleged that the uproar had more to do with a desire to overthrow the three people in question. The school district attorney will address the issue at the mid-July meeting.

The June 28 decision followed resentful public comments reacting to a Facebook post revealing that Dublin resident Bill Carey had sent numerous emails and text messages to DUSD administrators Dan Cherrier, Gabi Blackman and William Kuo before the redistricting vote of the board of directors. Mary Garvey Washington, a parent and DUSD employee, had obtained the communications through a California Public Records Act (PRA) request and posted them on social media. In emails and text messages, Carey encouraged trustees to vote for a map that placed the other two council trustees, Megan Rouse and Kristin Pelham, in the same district.

At a meeting on February 22, Cherrier, Kuo, and Blackman had voted for this map, known as “Scenario 1” – one of the two final maps selected. Rouse and Pelham voted against the map, which moves Pelham’s home address from his own district to Rouse’s district. If the two women decided to stand for election in November, they would face each other.

In an interview, Cherrier said he voted for Scenario 1 in February over the other finalist, Scenario 4, because he thought it was the best choice, creating a large percentage of Latino voters while with the least impact on voters. He remembers pausing before voting because he knew its political implications for Rouse and Pelham.

Under redistricting laws, politicians aren’t supposed to wonder if elected officials might lose their seats when new maps are drawn and they no longer live in the area they represent.

Kuo said in an email that he also thought Scenario 1 was the best choice. The other runner-up, he said, diluted the Latino vote and was not in the best interests of voters. He said that “administrator protection is a nice feature to have, but not in the general requirement as set forth by this district map rework.”

“Many voters who participated in the map’s public comment periods also told me of their preference for the No. 1 map,” he said.

Cherrier, the chairman of the board, denied doing anything improper before the vote. He said he never participated in joint conversations with Kuo and Blackman, which would violate quorum rules for the five-member panel, and never revealed which card he preferred to his counterparts until what he votes at the public meeting. He also said he never asked Carey or anyone else to tell his colleagues how he planned to vote. Known as a “serial meeting,” conveying how an elected official plans to vote through an intermediary is also a violation of open meeting rules.

“I didn’t make my decision until the last night,” said Cherrier. “There’s not an email that says, ‘I’m going to vote this way. “”

Although copies of the emails and texts posted online showed Kuo, Cherrier and Blackman communicating with Carey and other residents, it does not appear that they took part in a group text. Such disclosure would be a violation of the state’s Brown Law, which sets rules for what elected bodies must do in public. It is not illegal, or uncommon, for elected officials to receive correspondence from members of the public, as long as neither quorum nor serial meeting rules are violated.

In an email, Kuo also denied any wrongdoing, saying he was “confident that no serial meetings took place and no violations of Brown’s Law occurred.”

“I also haven’t received any text messages, emails or calls with admin Blackman and admin Cherrier regarding the topic of the admin map revamp,” Kuo wrote.

Blackman declined to comment.

In an interview with The Independent, Washington said she filed the PRA after watching the Feb. 22 vote and feeling uncomfortable about the process.

“I don’t feel like they’re behaving ethically,” Washington said. “If there is illegality, I don’t know; I’m not a lawyer… There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes communications that aren’t open to the public. It should be a public process. This is an elected school board, and we should know what is going on. We should know how they make their decisions.

The PRA documents, which were also shared with The Independent, show that Carey, a public accountant and corporate controller at a Santa Clara database company, wrote numerous texts and emails to board members. administration to express their opinions on the various card proposals.

In one of her posts, Carey wrote, “Your decision is clear, reject Scenarios 2, 3, 4 and 4a and vote yes for Scenario 1. With Scenario 1, the current incumbents will fulfill their terms and have the same opportunity as anyone. another in their new zone to run for future elections (specifically, Kristin will be treated equally with all other voters in the revised Zone 2).

In another, Carey wrote, “Whatever the path, we can have support aligned. Need to decide. Is it more important to get Megan or Kristin out or reinforce three areas to the east?

In a comment with his Facebook post, Washington alleged that “one unelected Dublin resident pulls the strings for the majority of DUSD trustees.” She accused Carey of spending “considerable time and energy convincing Trustees Cherrier, Blackman, and Kuo to vote in favor of a map that drew Trustees Rouse and Pelham to the same district.”

Reached by email, Carey said he was on vacation in central Europe and was unaware of the controversy with his name on it.

“Interesting,” Carey said. “It’s really mean and divisive. Why didn’t they just ask me?

Cherrier described Carey as a Dublin resident who attended redistricting meetings and gave the panel his opinion on which card to choose.

“He was very interested in the first set of cards,” Cherrier said. “He created his own map. He was very involved. He is a caring person who wants the best. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

Carey said he gave his advice because “the limits per administrator are intended to give new communities in Dublin, including those in the west, like Schaefer Ranch and the east like Wallis Ranch, the opportunity to choose their elect”.

“To me, that’s very important, and Scenario 1 was the only one that met the intent of the legal process and put voters first, as opposed to gerrymandering to protect incumbents,” Carey said.

Carey said he had no idea how directors would vote, never participated in a group text with them, and did not relay decisions from one director to another.

The process of redrawing the area’s boundaries began weeks earlier to comply with federal and state law after the last census. DUSD had moved from general elections – where the five board members represent the entire district – to district elections in 2017 after a lawyer began suing elected bodies across the state. The attorney alleged that the general election violated the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) by reducing the power of minorities to elect representation. Many entities, including the town of Livermore and Pleasanton, as well as the Pleasanton Unified School District, moved to district elections instead of fighting the attorney.

Following the 2020 census, the council had to adjust the five districts due to population increases. The population of Zone 4 nearly doubled to 17,500 people, creating an imbalance in the districts, which were required by law to be similar in number. During a series of public meetings and in conjunction with a demographer, the council created six different maps with neighborhoods containing around 14,000 people. In addition to population size, the CVRA demanded that the panel create areas where minorities — in this case, Asians and Latinos — could maintain a large enough voting bloc to potentially elect a representative to the council.

Laurie Sargent, who will be co-chair of the Dublin Teachers Association next year, was among many teachers who spoke at the council meeting on June 28. Sargent told The Independent that an investigation should be conducted to “shed light on gerrymandering, violations of the (California School Boards Association) Bylaws and Rules, non-compliance with the (Fair Political Practices Commission) and collusion”.

Kelly Baalman, a parent and teacher at Frederiksen Elementary School, accused Cherrier, Kuo and Blackman of breaking the Brown Law.

“The people of Dublin could not know or influence the comments of these private texts, only the comments shared by administrators at public school board meetings,” Baalman said. “We now know that there were two very different conversations going on. While they were supposed to alter the trusteeship map to balance population and demographics, and they claimed to do so publicly, they were actually discussing plans for their own political gain and the demise of others outside of it. public eye. This is exactly the kind of clandestine agreements the Brown Act was written to prevent.

Supporting Cherrier, Kuo and Blackman, Ramya Ramakrishnan, a resident whose texts advocating her position on redistricting were among those found in Washington’s PRA request, raised the conflict between the west side and the east side of the DUSD that exists between the townspeople as the town grows. Ramakrishnan said that every year “there is a well-orchestrated attempt to overthrow the elected administrators on the east side”. Cherrier and Blackman currently represent the east side.

Ramakrishnan said Cherrier, Blackman and Kuo could not be manipulated because they had “a clear idea of ​​what is right and wrong”. Residents accusing them of Brown Law violations were “making up tricks to confuse the public” to try to oust them from council.

“Make no mistake, this is a handful of white people in a part of town trying to intimidate and silence the administrators who represent the Asian and Indian population and have done a great job with key positions that impact the entire district,” she said. .

While Cherrier continued to assert that he did not believe there was a violation of the Brown Law, he supported holding a special meeting to discuss the allegations with the district attorney. Kuo agreed, saying he wanted to hear from the lawyer if any mistakes were made.

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