School Board’s Action a Danger to Democracy
On June 11, when the Laguna Beach School Board decided by a 4-1 vote to create a subcommittee to deal with confidential information and exclude Dee Perry, they institutionalized a lack of transparency. They also violated voter’s right to representation (since Perry was the No. 2 vote-getter in this past election), and violated Perry’s right to free speech and her right to due process. This is important because the board is setting a precedent that can be followed by any local, state or federal board that does not like a particular member. Think about that—if four city council members don’t like a fifth member, they can create a subcommittee and exclude that voice seemingly without violating the Brown Act if this holds up in court. The only recourse that Perry has now is to sue the district to make sure this doesn’t happen.
Let’s look at the trail. District lawyer Mark Bresee is the counsel advising Superintendent Viloria in the disastrous race relations case that lost in court and is now in appeals. His law firm represents Viloria, happily billing the hours. Bresee was previously involved in a dispute regarding closed meeting rules and exclusion of a board member in San Diego and not only lost that case, but was asked to resign, according to the VoiceofSanDiego.org. He advised our School Board to create the subcommittee instead of seeking an injunction against Perry or refer it to the District Attorney. If they think she did something so wrong, why were they afraid of legal action? Could it be that it’s all made up and they knew it and decided to just take her out internally? Basically, they accused and convicted her without a trial all in lockstep with each other. This would guarantee that the only action Perry has is to sue. And who gets paid to represent the board and Viloria? Oh right—Mark Bresee and his firm.
But make no mistake about who is behind this. It is Superintendent Viloria and the board. I still can’t figure out why they need to leave out Ms. Perry. Why not just let her be—she is only one voice on the otherwise SchoolPower-picked board, and they can ignore her. But instead, they have chosen to make this a war exposing their lack of transparency and their iron grip on what your children experience as education. As a board, I find them rude, arrogant and unwilling to listen to what parents really want while totally ignoring the students (think calendar and grade bump issues).
I see so much subterfuge in their actions. A Public Records request turned up a Jan. 21 email from Perry to Viloria and board president Vickers. In less than 10 minutes Viloria forwarded this email to board member Normandin. She replies an hour later with: “Jason, My suggestion of how you reply.” And he does, on Jan. 22, verbatim to Ms. Perry. In yet another email Perry sent only to Viloria on Jan. 21, he forwards it also to Normandin who replies, “I would not reply or reply with thank you for your email.” I have to question whether there was a violation of the Brown Act, in addition to a superintendent who is working hand in glove with a board member, seemingly in secret.
When Bresee’s April 17 email to Perry (telling her to stop speaking out on public policy matters to avoid personal and legal financial problems) becomes public, residents will see exactly why Perry sought out advice and why this email is not confidential. For the board to use this as an excuse to exclude her and form a “subcommittee” seems to me to be a “gotcha” moment. Perry has to sue. They forced her hand, are using our tax dollars in a most ill-advised way and could set a disastrous precedent for other boards to silence voices they don’t like or agree with. Take note of who these SchoolPower board members are and vote them out of office. Voting in lockstep and silencing a dissenting voice is not democracy.
Michèle Monda has lived in Laguna Beach for 15 years with her husband, Emil, and three sons. She is secretary of Laguna Beach Republicans and treasurer of Laguna Beach Sister Cities.