On Aug. 5, as candidates have been submitting to run for election, the president of the board and the spokesman for the Contra Costa Neighborhood School District contacted us.
They wished to tip us off to investigations of two district trustees who have been operating for reelection this fall. It’s uncommon for an elected board member to affix forces with an administrator of a school system to publicly name out and embarrass one other board member. However they mentioned they have been attempting to be clear.
We’ve got since concluded that this was a uncooked political and partisan play, timed by board President Rebecca Barrett to attempt to affect the upcoming faculty board election.
On the time, we informed Barrett, whom we have been leery of due to her voter deception throughout her marketing campaign two years in the past, and spokesman Timothy Leong that we might have a look at the investigation findings however would need to additionally see the experiences. We submitted a Public Information Act request.
Two and half months later, we’ve been supplied brief abstract letters signed by Barrett and a separate government abstract from workers, however we’re nonetheless ready on the complete investigation experiences. And, based on Interim Chancellor Gene Huff, it’s Barrett who controls the timing of their potential launch. Barrett didn’t reply to our requests for remark.
The allegations contain separate investigations pertaining to trustees Vicki Gordon and Greg Enholm. The 2 investigations have been performed by separate legislation corporations, and the problems are fully completely different. The one frequent issue is that Barrett timed the concurrent launch of details about the investigations to coincide with the election.
With Election Day drawing close to, we’re left to do our greatest with what we’ve been supplied, and our personal impartial reporting, as we make our election endorsement. It’s additionally essential that voters perceive the abusive political manipulation that has transpired and the intense issues with the investigation of Gordon.
Reelect Vicki Gordon
We wholeheartedly endorse Gordon for reelection in Ward 2. No present trustee brings a greater understanding of the district and its funds, nobody works more durable, and nobody is extra devoted to serving to college students.
Gordon has additionally pushed for district transparency, has been a frontrunner on ending the district’s pension spiking and correctly funding the once-anemic retiree well being care program for employees. And he or she hasn’t all the time earned pals doing it.
She’s not good. She acknowledges she has made errors, particularly some inappropriate cellphone calls to different trustees and workers that she regrets and has apologized for. However, as we’ll elaborate beneath, many of the investigation, as offered in Barrett’s abstract, was deeply flawed, with incorrect authorized evaluation in a single case and conclusions about her actions that make no sense to anybody who is aware of Gordon.
As for her challengers, neither scholar John Michaelson nor, far more surprisingly, former Diablo Valley School President Judy Walters come near Gordon’s information of district funds. Gordon is clearly the most effective candidate.
As for Ward 5, we very tepidly endorse Enholm’s opponent, retired monetary advisor Fernando Sandoval. We’ve had long-standing issues about Enholm’s abrasive model and meddling past his applicable function as a trustee.
So it wasn’t shocking that the investigation discovered that he additionally inappropriately lobbied former Chancellor Fred Wooden to rent as Contra Costa School president a professor who lacked the wanted expertise. Not like within the case of Gordon, the district supplied paperwork concerning Enholm that help the allegations in his case.
Sandoval, whom we endorsed 4 years in the past, stays uninspiring. We want there have been a greater various.
The opposite a part of this story is the political manipulation by Barrett, a Democratic Occasion activist who will not be on the poll this 12 months however, as the present board president, managed the timing of launch of knowledge.
Barrett has a history of deception. When she ran for workplace in 2018, she claimed in her poll designation to be an educator. However she’s not an educator within the sense most individuals would interpret that. She doesn’t work in our colleges. She’s not an accredited trainer or faculty professor. She tried to justify the educator declare by saying that, as a part of her political consulting work, she offers coaching on political activism.
Gordon had initially endorsed Barrett in that election however withdrew the backing after the poll designation deception got here to mild. The connection between the 2 has been troublesome since.
Then, in September 2019, an nameless particular person filed a grievance with the district towards Gordon. The nameless allegations towards Enholm got here in November 2019.
When Barrett grew to become board president, a rotating place, initially of 2020, she assumed accountability for the investigations. The few paperwork launched by the district make it arduous to reconstruct the Enholm investigation timeline however present key details about the Gordon probe calendar.
They present that the investigation was accomplished on both March 24 or March 26. However the launch of the discovering summaries, which Huff says Barrett managed, was delayed three months till simply earlier than the election season — when it would do essentially the most political injury.
Lastly, on June 30, Barrett notified Gordon in an e-mail that “The findings are again from the ethics complaints that have been filed which contain you.” They agreed to fulfill on July 2.
Whereas Barrett had an legal professional along with her, she forbade Gordon from bringing her lawyer, her husband Scott Gordon. Vicki Gordon says she didn’t know the breadth of the investigation, nor did she have any thought of the findings prematurely.
So she was shocked when offered with Barrett’s six-page letter of dedication that Gordon had tried to take away an merchandise from the agenda for her personal private achieve, that she had violated the Brown Act and that, whereas intoxicated, she had threatened different board members.
Barrett gave Gordon a one-page decision settlement to signal, which she did. At that time, Gordon says, she was so shocked that she didn’t need to put up a combat. About three weeks later, the decision settlement was offered to the complete board.
Earlier that day, July 22, Barrett and Leong contacted a Instances reporter to alert her to what was coming on the assembly. The reporter requested for all of the documentation. When no story appeared over the following two weeks partly as a result of Barrett and the district hadn’t produced the complete report, the pair contacted the editorial web page to attempt to reignite curiosity however have been met with the identical request to first produce the supporting documentation.
In a July 2 e-mail to Gordon earlier than their assembly that day, Barrett mentioned, “I’m genuinely hopeful this could be a fruitful dialog about how we will greatest transfer ahead on behalf of the district.” However Barrett apparently wasn’t occupied with patching up the connection.
The next month, in a big Zoom assembly, Barrett vehemently argued to the Democratic Occasion of Contra Costa County that it ought to endorse Gordon’s main opponent partly as a result of Gordon, a Democrat, had endorsed three native Republicans previously — candidates who’ve usually garnered bipartisan help.
Barrett additionally falsely informed the Democratic gathering that the investigation findings about Gordon had been launched in a well timed method. After which Barrett doubled down with misinformation. Responding to Gordon’s feedback to the board, Barrett informed the committee, that there was no dispute that Gordon used her place for private monetary achieve.
Probing the findings
That discovering may be very a lot in dispute. The difficulty revolved round a change to a 2019 memorandum of understanding for managers within the district. The settlement was to offer them an additional 1% wage enhance in trade for his or her paying an extra 6% of their medical health insurance premiums.
For these with higher-end salaries, it was an excellent deal. However these on the decrease finish, relying on their protection, may find yourself shedding from the discount. And trustees, who obtain well being care from the district on the identical worth as managers however obtain solely a $750 month-to-month stipend, would even be negatively affected. The rivalry was that Gordon tried to dam the deal as a result of she personally stood to lose.
Truly, based on Gordon, and individually verified, she had obtained calls from members of the bargaining group who have been confused in regards to the deal. She says she might have used her scenario to make some extent to workers members that lower-income individuals could be adversely affected. However what she wished was to ensure that the affected managers understood the deal. The administration group agreed to postpone the vote; they resurveyed their members and the board, together with Gordon, subsequently authorized the settlement.
What makes the allegation so questionable is that it requires one to consider that Gordon is working as a trustee for the paltry compensation. Gordon is married to a really profitable lawyer. It’s arduous to fathom that she, who has aggressively labored to manage district profit prices, would cross an moral line to keep away from paying $220 extra every month for medical health insurance.
The credibility of Barrett’s letter is additional undercut by the discovering that Gordon violated the Brown Act, the state open assembly legislation for native authorities, by asking two administrators elected in 2018, Barrett and Andy Li, to help her for board chairwoman the next 12 months.
Gordon says that wasn’t the purpose of the conversations, however even when it was, there was no violation of the legislation. The legislation prohibits communication by a quorum of five-member board members outdoors of correctly seen conferences.
But it surely solely applies to trustees after they’ve been elected. Barrett’s abstract of the findings says that her dialog with Gordon occurred earlier than Barrett was elected. Thus, there was no quorum communication and, therefore, no violation of the legislation.
The ultimate allegation, the one one Gordon acknowledges, is that she made some calls to different workers and board members whereas intoxicated. She says that she did make some calls that she regrets and has apologized for. It was throughout a time of some household difficulties, she mentioned.
Whereas she did step over the road, we recognize her contrition. For us, the findings aren’t sufficient to undermine the effective work she has finished.
In the meantime, as we strategy Election Day, the district has stonewalled for practically three months on launch of the complete investigation report. Huff, who oversees responding to information requests, lastly mentioned Thursday that the report is topic to attorney-client privilege.
And, he mentioned, it’s as much as the board whether or not to waive that privilege. Barrett, who has been copied on all our requests for information, controls the assembly agenda as a result of she is board president. She has not introduced the matter to the board. The subsequent scheduled assembly isn’t till eight days after the election.