Napa Valley Updates

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

 
NAPA COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY EXONERATES SCHOOL BOARD AND FORMER SUPERINTENDENT OF ANY WRONG DOING

On June 18th of this year, recall leaders, Jean DeVincenzi, Kathy Zalazney, Sharon Harris, and (now School Board Candidate) Kevin Alfaro sent an 80 page "Bill of Attainder" to the Napa County District Attorney's office accusing the St. Helena School Board of being compliant in a "purported" felony committed by former Superintendent, Alan Gordon.

They accused Superintendent Alan Gordon of violating California Civil Code 1090 (a conflict of interest statute) which prevents public employees from engaging in any conduct in which they have a financial interest.

In a related action, former School board Member, Jim Haslip among others, claimed in writing that Alan Gordon's "Conflict of Interest" was a crime. He reported Mr. Gordon, Mr. Haley (the new Superintendent) and the entire school Board to the FPPC, claiming they had violated the California Fair Practices Commission's rules. Twice, the FPPC ruled in favor of the school board and Mr. Gordon--and twice they rejected Mr. Haslip's claims, in which the above mentioned leaders of the recall were named as potential witnesses to these "violations."

After an exhaustive 100 day investigation, Gary Lieberstein, the Napa County District Attorney, determined that no violations, either criminal or civil were committed by either Mr. Gordon or the St. Helena School Board: “there is no credible evidence to support the conclusion that any members of the Board of Trustees, including their management team, took any action that would constitute a violation of any civil or criminal laws within our jurisdiction.”

In an attempt to gather enough signatures for a recall, the recall leaders and their associates, went house to house and according to many citizens, verbally told them that a recall was necessary because Alan Gordon and the board committed criminal acts. Finally, after an unbiased investigation, the truth has come out.

KVON radio host, Jeff Schectman, called Alan Gordon a "Criminal" on air. The St. Helena Star tried to brush off the FPPC's denial of Mr. Haslip's claim as "a technicality."

Apparently, no one understood the law.

Today, a totally unbiased assessment by the Napa Valley's District Attorney's office has exonerated both Mr. Gordon and the entire school board. They specifically noted in their press release,

"Lieberstein indicated his office also reviewed specific allegations of Conflict of Interest in regards to the establishment of retirement options and subsequent later retirement by one of the management members who assisted in negotiating the contract. Lieberstein stated that Title 2, California Code of Regulations, section 18702.4(a)(3) specifically exempts “actions by public officials relating to their compensation or the terms or conditions of their employment or contract.”

Lieberstein added that his office’s conclusion is consistent with that reached by the California Fair Political Practices Commission last month."

"Legal Council told us every step of the way that we were following the law," said Board member Cindy Warren (She's my wife. I'm biased).

"We were so careful to follow the rules to make sure that everything was done right, and ultimately saved the district money, that it was extremely distressing that others would distort the facts, and try to claim that there was even a hint of under-handedness. We have always tried to do what's best for the children, and what is also financially prudent. Everything we did saved the district money and achieved our goals. It is true that we are hamstrung by lots of rules regarding privacy and confidentiality, but it was so frustrating to see our well meaning efforts distorted into something that was somehow wrong--let alone criminal."

This was not a simple case of "there was insufficient evidence to prove wrong doing." According to the law, NO CRIMES WERE COMMITTED.

Repeat: Despite the claims of recall leaders, NO CRIMES WERE COMMITTED by either the Board or Superintendent Gordon.

The recall leaders accused innocent citizens, elected for their integrity, of felonious activities. Even if the recall leaders intent was not malicious, their knowledge of the law was woefully lacking and it impugned the integrity of dedicated public servants.

It will be interesting to see if an apology ensues. Note Bene: The District Attorney's office did not refuse to pursue this because they were too busy with more important issues; because it would be a waste of tax payers dollars; because they were afraid it would be difficult to get a conviction. They didn't pursue it because THERE WERE NO VIOLATIONS OF ANY STATUTES.

On the issue of whether the recall leaders behavior (when they threatened two board members that they would "Go public with their (now proven false) accusations," the D.A. did not exonerate them by any stretch. He said "there is insufficient evidence to conclude that any violation of law occurred during this incident."

In other words, it came down to a "He said, She Said." Insufficient evidence, is not innocence. The Board members who were threatened (and myself who was at the meeting) offered to take a lie detector test, but the D.A. rejected the gesture.











The Following is a press release sent out by Gary Leberstein--the Napa County District attorney's office.






September 29, 2009



FOR IMMEDIATE PRESS RELEASE


Napa County District Attorney Gary Lieberstein announced today that his office has completed their review in regards to alleged improper actions taken by members of the St. Helena Unified School District Board of Trustees during the latter part of 2008 and 2009.

After a very extensive and thorough investigation, Lieberstein concluded “there is no credible evidence to support the conclusion that any members of the Board of Trustees, including their management team, took any action that would constitute a violation of any civil or criminal laws within our jurisdiction.”

Lieberstein elaborated that his office specifically reviewed allegations of violations of the Brown Act regarding open public meetings and found that personnel actions properly conducted in closed session were subsequently recorded in open session allowing for public comment.

Lieberstein indicated his office also reviewed specific allegations of Conflict of Interest in regards to the establishment of retirement options and subsequent later retirement by one of the management members who assisted in negotiating the contract. Lieberstein stated that Title 2, California Code of Regulations, section 18702.4(a)(3) specifically
exempts “actions by public officials relating to their compensation or the terms or conditions of their employment or contract.” Lieberstein added that his office’s conclusion is consistent with that reached by the California Fair Political Practices Commission last month.

Finally, Lieberstein reported that his office was asked to look into allegations that several private citizens had improperly demanded that Board of Trustee members resign.
Lieberstein stated his office’s conclusion is that there is insufficient evidence to conclude that any violation of law occurred during this incident.