News

Palo Alto: Mysterious school policy proposal becomes hot potato

Unusual conflict-of-interest proposal bounces between school board and committee, despite superintendent's opposition

Palo Alto school board Vice President Melissa Baten Caswell is asking her colleagues to consider additional conflict-of-interest policies that would prevent a school board member from participating in any district matter that involves a campaign donor of $250 or more or an organization for which the member had previously worked as an employee or consultant.

Caswell, who suggested the policies in emails to Superintendent Max McGee on Oct. 14, said the idea came from multiple "constituents" who wondered why the limitations weren't part of the current district's conflict-of-interest policies. She declined to identify the constituents or their specific concerns, but she has pushed for it to be considered in spite of McGee's advice that there is no need and that it distracts from other important work.

The proposals put forth by Caswell were drawn from a federal executive order pertaining only to individuals appointed to federal executive branch positions and from a California state law that also applies only to appointed officials. Neither deals with the right to participate of an elected official, such as a school board member.

Existing conflict-of-interest law pertaining to elected officials is based on whether the official has a financial stake in the outcome of a decision he or she is making, and the California Political Reform Act spells out a detailed set of requirements for disclosing economic interests that could create conflicts.

A 34-year old court decision has already ruled the first part of Caswell's proposal unconstitutional. Any limitations on the participation of elected officials based on campaign contributions they received was found to be a violation of the First Amendment rights of the contributor by the California Supreme Court in 1980.

Caswell's Oct. 14 email asked McGee if the board's policy-review committee (BPRC) had discussed adding the provisions she referenced to the district's conflict-of-interest policy, which was on that evening's board meeting agenda for routine biennial approval.

McGee's assistant, Kathleen Ruegsegger, responded by email two hours later to Caswell stating she had called the County Counsel after receiving Caswell's inquiry and learned that "the federal and state codes apply to appointees, not elected officials," and that elected officials are covered by the Political Reform Act with regards to conflicts of interest.

But instead of dropping it, Caswell raised it anyway at the meeting that night and asked if "we could have somebody go and investigate this and maybe have BRPC talk about (it)."

Board member Camille Townsend, who chairs the BPRC, responded: "I'm aware of it, and I agree with you. We need to dive into that."

Without a vote or further discussion, board President Barb Mitchell referred the topic for further exploration to the policy committee, made up of Townsend and member Heidi Emberling.

The proposal has become somewhat of a hot potato since then, with no one wanting to explain its purpose or origins and also no one willing to kill it except McGee.

A special meeting of the board policy committee was set for Oct. 28, just days before the election and the same day as the evening school board meeting where the routine, mandated conflict-of-interest policy was set to be approved, but the BPRC meeting was canceled due to Emberling's absence.

That night, at McGee's urging, the board approved the routine biennial policy update but then proceeded, again without discussion, to refer the idea of expanding the conflict policy to the policy committee. This time the board took the unusual action of formally voting to refer the matter to the committee, but no one offered any clarity about exactly what was being referred, proposed or for what purpose.

The policy committee met to discuss the proposal on Nov. 12 but decided only to return the item back to the full board and ask for direction.

"There were some concerns from the community that our Conflict of Interest (policy) wasn't strong enough," Townsend said in opening the meeting.

McGee recommended against any consideration of the proposal.

"I don't see a need, and I haven't seen one," McGee said. "I think it's generally a good practice not to overextend our reach, and I think our reach in our current conflict-of-interest policy is appropriate."

There was no input or analysis from district lawyers, who were not present at the meeting.

Public speakers at the policy committee meeting asked for an explanation from Townsend and Emberling of what was motivating the proposal, but neither responded.

Instead, Townsend pressed to have the issue return to the full board for guidance.

"I'm not ready to drop this unless the rest of the board wants to drop it," she said.

Emberling expressed confusion at the meeting about Caswell's intention in raising the proposal.

"It would be beneficial for me to understand more about what (Caswell) would want to add to our current conflict-of-interest code," she said.

"I'm still unclear as to what we are to consider, like is it a certain paragraph or, did this other board member want us to develop an entire policy from scratch, do they want just to add one paragraph into our current code?"

McGee pointed out that the board had already referred it twice to the policy committee for its review and recommendation, but Townsend adjourned the meeting with the instruction to have the matter return to the full board for a third time.

Caswell, who is expected to be elected board president at next Tuesday's board meeting, told the Weekly Wednesday that she wanted Townsend and Emberling to study and make recommendations on the policy before it returns to the full board.

"The BPRC's purpose is to look at policy things and make a recommendation back to the board on whether it should be a policy or no policy, and they hadn't done that. The superintendent will be taking it back to BPRC for the BPRC to bring a recommendation back to the board," Caswell said.

Meanwhile, Emberling said there was a lot of confusion about why the matter was coming before the committee and that she felt it had not been fully thought out.

"Usually policy updates come from CSBA (California School Boards Association) or there is something that's been developed in house and then usually there is a sample policy, plus what we currently have," she told the Weekly. "This just seemed to come from out of left field."

Santa Clara County Counsel Orry Korb told the Weekly that he is unaware of any other school districts with conflict-of-interest policies that go beyond what is recommended by law.

"Our experience, at least here in the county with the various districts that submit their conflict-of-interest (codes) for review by the Board of Supervisors, is that they're consistent with the CSBA (California School Board Association) requirements," Korb said.

The school board association does not recommend adoption of any conflict policy other than what is set out in the Political Reform Act, but neither does it track the policies adopted by individual school districts.

The Palo Alto proposal's lack of clarity, unexplained origin and rushed timing just before the election has prompted speculation as to its purpose. After the Nov. 12 policy committee meeting ended, City Councilman Pat Burt, who was in the audience, was heard suggesting to McGee that the proposal was aimed at Ken Dauber, who was elected to the board on Nov. 4 and who is scheduled to take his seat Dec. 9.

One of Dauber's campaign contributors who donated more than $250, Gunn High School parent Karen Gibson, filed a complaint last year against the district with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. The case is still being investigated. Dauber also served as a data consultant to the federal agency's Washington office as recently as 2011, earning $5,872 that year. His consulting agreement with the federal agency was terminated in 2012.

Caswell denied the proposal was aimed at Dauber, as did Barb Mitchell. Townsend did not return repeated phone calls and emails.

"I'm not sure if it could or it couldn't (affect Dauber's participation) but it might or it might affect somebody else. We would never have a policy that was focused on one board member," Caswell told the Weekly. She said she would expect Dauber to recuse himself from discussion or action on anything he has a conflict on, "same as anybody else."

"When I get requests from constituents to look at things, I pass those on," Caswell told the Weekly Wednesday. "That's part of my job."

For his part, Dauber said he "hadn't heard any reason that we need to make changes to our conflict-of-interest policy."

The next meeting of the BPRC is set for next Thursday, Dec. 11, at 1 p.m. in Room A at district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave. The conflict-of-interest policy is not included on the agenda, which was posted online Monday, Dec. 8.

On Dec. 8, Baten Caswell said that she now supports McGee's recommendation.

"I support his thinking behind this," she said. "I do think it makes sense. I just wanted it to be considered."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that Caswell urged her colleagues to explore additional conflict-of-interest policies rather than to adopt them, and her current support of Superintendent McGee's recommendation.

Comments

9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2014 at 7:52 am

"When I get requests from constituents to look at things, I pass those on," Caswell told the Weekly Wednesday. "That's part of my job."

Caswell should be required to reveal who the "constituents" are who are pressuring her to try to create a new conflicts policy (one that would be contrary to state law and unconstitutional). That information should not be secret. If the board is taking action in response to public pressure, who is creating it? [Portion removed.] Should our school board be influenced this way by unidentified individuals who apparently can operate Caswell by remote control?







12 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2014 at 8:43 am

It's pretty clear what the current Board Vice-President and soon President is trying to do. Caswell is trying to neuter a newly elected board member who has been critical of the current board. Saying that a "constituent" tweety bird pushed her to do this is pure nonsense. Caswell might as well be "transparent" because it's pretty obvious what she's doing.


6 people like this
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 5, 2014 at 9:56 am

The article states that at least a portion of what has been proposed violates State law, and yet, the proposal continues to be discussed? Please tell me that PAUSD will not be incurring legal fees to evaluate Caswell's "left field" proposal! Haven't we learned from the debacle with Mitchell and Tom? The community wants PAUSD resources spent on education not lawyer fees to support the ideological and political panderings of Board members. Enough is enough! I call on Heidi to terminate this conversation in the BPRC.


3 people like this
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 5, 2014 at 10:25 am

[Post removed.]


13 people like this
Posted by Fairmeadow Parent
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Dec 5, 2014 at 10:33 am

Caswell said, "When I get requests from constituents to look at things, I pass those on," Caswell told the Weekly Wednesday. "That's part of my job."

Really? If I send Caswell a policy idea, she'll take my idea (stripping my name, of course, so I'm anonymous) and then turn it into an item on the school board agenda and send it to a policy committee? Cool!

Ms. Caswell, I am a constituent. Please begin deliberations on the following policy proposals:
1. Teacher advisory at Gunn
2. A neighborhood school at Ohlone
3. Getting rid of everyday math in our elementary schools
4. Better school lunch, rather than fried cheeses sticks and raw vegetables

Let's cut the BS, please, and get to work on "policy things" to use Caswell's phrase, that actually matter.


6 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2014 at 10:51 am

I'm a little tired of the cliquey nature of our school board politics. When Dauber was running, and there were few other candidates, there was a tremendous push to drum up other candidates. The reason stated was that Dauber was "disruptive" and would cause "dissension" on the board. News flash- that's what gets a dialogue going and GOOD policy made, not a bunch of same-minded people agreeing with each other and knocking down other ideas. If the board members are going to persist in spending time on a proposal which violates state law and is opposed by our superintendent, perhaps the city counsel should get involved now to investigate. Let's spend our time learning how to communicate and benefit from ideas which don't necessarily mesh with our own, rather than shutting them down. Embrace the OCR investigation as an opportunity to learn if we are doing the best job we can. Remember that the majority of constituents actually endorse Ken Dauber and voted him in- it's probably time to figure out why.


10 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2014 at 10:54 am

This exemplifies what's wrong with our current school board governance. Privileged insiders get their agendas advanced anonymously, while the rest of us have to go to school board meetings to get our views heard. But then citizens who participate in open government get criticized for speaking up. Why don't these people show up at school board meetings to advocate for their views? It's because they are enjoying the privilege of running a shadow government of our school district. That has to stop.


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 5, 2014 at 10:54 am

Before anyone gets their undies tied into a knot...what is the current conflict of interest policy for the PAUSD BoE? And if there is any weaknesses in that policy, what are they and how can they be remedied?


2 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 5, 2014 at 10:55 am

"And if there *are* any weaknesses in that policy..."


10 people like this
Posted by Who are you kidding?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 5, 2014 at 10:59 am

This really is beyond the pale and a sad devolution by the board from its proper responsibilities. It's now time for Emberling to abandon claims of confusion and step forward with real leadership to end this morass.
Thanks to the Weekly for bringing a semblance of clarity to this wasteful and devious effort. Hopefully, Caswell and Townsend will now realize that it's been exposed for what it is and allow this story to be sent to the obituary pages where it belongs.
The board needs to align with Dr McGee to address the real needs of our kids and stop shaming our district and our community.


5 people like this
Posted by tweety bird
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 5, 2014 at 11:01 am

Maybe it's the same tweety bird that wrote 50 invisible emails to Council member Liz Kniss recently. She lamented none of them showed up at the council meeting.
Kniss has been challenged to show the emails but she "can't find them" or they are "private".


7 people like this
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2014 at 11:12 am

The timing of this is blatantly obvious. There is no need for it. State law already covers this. McGee is right on target.

Caswell and Townsend really blacken their reputations with this inappropriate actions. If in fact, they really DID listen to their constituents, there would be ZERO civil rights litigation. So this is clearly hypocritical.

[Portion removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Grown Up2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2014 at 11:14 am

This is so funny. Anything Caswell does to try to exclude someone who worked with the DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION office of civil rights is going to make it so PTA people, especially PTA Council, won't be able to serve. (If she's trying to make the distinction financial, she's on thin ice - did she pay for her trips to state PTA conventions? Celebratory dinners? Will she recuse herself from any matter involving PTA including our music programs and library programs that they pay for? Or just any matter involving parents who are members if the PTA or any matter where PTA Council exerts power or authority? ...)

If she's going to channel Barb Mitchell, we should do a recall.

Why don't we live by example and teach our children how grown ups take responsibility for their mistakes and misdeeds? Caught with their pants down, these guys are trying to blame the courts. McGee seems to be the only grown up in the room.


4 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2014 at 11:20 am

Good point tweety bird. Emails to public officials about public matters are public business, whether they're sent to public or private email accounts, and are subject to disclosure under the public records act. There's no such thing as a private email to a public official about public matters. Maybe the Weekly should ask for emails to school board members on this topic to investigate, as well as on the Kniss matter, although these people who really want to hide from public scrutiny for whatever reason will just resort to voice communications. Oh I remember the reason, they're enjoying the privilege of the shadow government they are running.


4 people like this
Posted by Grown Up2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2014 at 11:24 am

Does this mean parent who worked as aides and former teachers for PAUSD can't be on the board because of conflicts of interest making any decisions regarding PAUSD? What about people with children in the schools? Since it's any former involvement, will she be able to just give back the tens of thousands of dollars PAUSD spent on educating her children in order to resolve the conflict? ...

What's the name of that Jim Carrey movie again?


7 people like this
Posted by Game of Thrones: Keystone Kops Edition
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 5, 2014 at 11:34 am

The board's conflict of interest policy is here: Web Link
It follows the Political Reform Act, and bars school board members from participating in decisions that could have "reasonably foreseeable" effect on their personal finances.
As far as I can tell from the story and from the video, neither Caswell nor Townsend have ever given any reason why this policy, which is basically the same one that every other school board in the state uses, is inadequate. They just keep fumbling around pointing to "constituents" or "some people in the community".
[Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 5, 2014 at 11:53 am

So I'm unclear - if someone were a teacher, would they be barred from serving? Or voting on issues that concerned teacher contracts? It seems similar to the City Council where members with Stanford connections recuse themselves on those matters.

If Dauber works for the Dept of Education, or reasonably foresees doing so, it seems reasonable that he would recuse himself on issues that directly relate to the district's dealings with them. I would expect any board member to recuse themselves on issues dealing with their employer or client.


6 people like this
Posted by Misha
a resident of Gunn High School
on Dec 5, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Is election of Caswell as Board President a fait accompli? Given her history and this latest, one really wonders whether she is the right person to be heading our BOE at this time of critical change.

And good for Superintendent McGee for his courageous leadership.


2 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 5, 2014 at 12:30 pm

I don't even begin to understand all this, both the article and the comments.

Is this really an issue? Is this going to take up time that should be spent doing more important things such as homework limits, increases in school enrollment and how to use Cubberley?

I don't want to be a law student, but I do want our District to be governed properly with its prime concern educating our children and preparing them for their future lives.


3 people like this
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 5, 2014 at 12:44 pm

I'm a constituent and I have a lot of things I'd like Caswell to "pass on" or even look at herself. But, somehow many of my requests are wholly ignored.

I wonder if any of the constituents, that are contacting Caswell and requesting this change be made, donated more than $250 to Caswell's campaign. That would be a bit ironic if the changes she is trying to make would have prevented her from supporting the change to begin with.

Or maybe she's just trying to keep actual information from being discussed in public.


7 people like this
Posted by Grown Up2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2014 at 12:45 pm

The thing that qualifies many of the candidates for office IS their service and work for various EDUCATIONAL agencies and non-profits.

There is a big difference between a decision that might enrich someone personally (decisions involving Stanford in this town usually involve development and $$), and an experience from working with a large nonprofit governmental educational organization that enforces the law and protects children when local agencies fail to do their job, and which many local parents reached out to for help.

Governmental organizations pay people for their work. It does not engender any kind of quid pro quo relationship. My paying the IRS so much money every year doesn't make them do what I say, anymore than my paying PAUSD a good fraction of a million dollars through my property taxes in the last 10 years has made anyone in the schools or school administration feel beholden to me (if their behavior is any indication).

A board member taking the side of ensuring our district families have the protections of the law and oversight of a governmental agency and the work that governmental agency does would be a part of doing their job for constituents, it does not constitute a personal conflict of interest, regardless of whether that person had worked for that agency at some time in the past or not.

Dauber was elected as the top vote recipient, in part because citizens want him to stop this insanity, to be blunt, in part because many parents side with the OCR. His work with a government educational agency makes him more informed about all sides of the issue involving that agency and is a check and balance on the corruption of local officials who are using our taxpayer money for their own personal petty political purposes.

His work on this particular issue now in our district would engender no future quid pro quo relationship with such an agency and thus wouldn't by any stretch of the imagination constitute a conflict of interest. Any influence he would be exerting is actually part of his job as an elected official here, and Caswell's attempts to exclude it is disenfranchising to all the people who elected Dauber.

Remember what a conflict of interest is. There is a legitimate concern in our town that the BOARD members have personal conflicts of interest in going after the OCR, especially when Skelly was still here (when all this began), because board members' own financial interests -- positions they may hold in education or even public office in the future -- may be at stake with the repudiation of the OCR for "embarrassing" them. Using taxpayer money for the purposes of personal CYA is a greater conflict of interest than past work with a giant governmental educational agency that exists to protect children and enforce the law. [Portion removed.]

Dauber has no financial stake in this at all, because the OCR is a government agency that enforces the law, with many employees who change over time — "embarrassment" for the agency is not tied to any financial incentives or quid pro quo. However, I can see a case for excluding any board members from a decision involving the OCR if their personal professional/financial ambitions are affected by the "embarrassment" they think they are trying to counter.


5 people like this
Posted by Dauber for Board President
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Under the state political reform act, salary, wages, and other monies received from the federal government (or any other government entity, as well as some non-profits) are excluded from the definition of income and are not gifts. They cannot create the basis for a conflict. Furthermore, the reporting period is 12 months.

Dauber received wages three years ago from the federal government. Under state law this is not even income -- it is excluded by definition.

This is merely an effort to prevent him from finding out what has been transpiring in the closed sessions. [Portion removed.] It's pathetic. There is no way Caswell should be board president after being part of this. The only question is who should? Not Townsend, obviously. Emberling has [portion removed] no idea that this is even happening. Nope.

I think the right outcome is to make Dauber board president. He got the most votes, and he hasn't done anything wrong. He's a boy scout. My vote is for Ken.


1 person likes this
Posted by Simple Issue
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 5, 2014 at 2:07 pm

It appears that the issue is very simple - should a recipient of substantial contributions from an entity with contracts pending or ongoing litigation with the school district recuse themselves from voting on such contracts or litigation.

Possible examples:
1. Contractors with major ongoing projects,
2. Litigants currently engaged in a case.

Seems pretty reasonable to me. Donations over $100 are all public record - easy to verify.


2 people like this
Posted by Legal beagle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2014 at 2:16 pm

@simple issue

It may seem simple and reasonable to you, but the Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional. And for good reason. Whether you like it or not, we are all free to financially support candidates who share our views without making them ineligible to participate on issues we care about or have a financial interest in. For example, if I give $100 to a city council member's campaign and later have a variance request, the Supreme Court says the city council member is not conflicted out. It's my First Amendment right to try to influence a legislator, including by making a campaign contribution. If this weren't the law, most elected officials would be unable to vote on many things.

Conflicts are based entirely on whether the elected official will gain financially from the results of their vote. The law is very clear on this.






Like this comment
Posted by Simple Issue
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 5, 2014 at 2:22 pm

Would you happen to have an actual case cite for that legal conclusion, or are you just quoting the reporter?


5 people like this
Posted by Jim H>
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 5, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Caswell is sending the board on a wild goose chase. She wants them to look at an issue without giving a reason to look at the issue. Is this who we really want to be directing the board meetings?

The only person that sees an issue is Caswell, but she's not willing to say why she thinks it's an issue. What is she hiding? What are her true concerns?

This is ridiculous. The voters want transparency and Caswell is trying to write new policy so the district can hide behind more walls. Caswell should either come clean or step down, and let someone who will truly represent the voters, join the board.


2 people like this
Posted by Info
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 5, 2014 at 2:29 pm

@Simple issue

Woodland Hills Residents Assoc. v. City Council of the City of Los Angeles (1980) 26 Cal.3d 938


1 person likes this
Posted by Grown Up2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2014 at 2:30 pm

@ Simple,
The issue is apparently not very simple if you think there can even be argued to be a conflict of interest here.

@Board President,
You are so right!


2 people like this
Posted by Grown Up2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2014 at 2:32 pm

@Jim H,
You bring up a really, really good point. Let's bury the era of subtext and subterfuge!


11 people like this
Posted by Legal beagle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Woodland Hills Residents Assoc v. City Council of the City of Los Angeles (1980) 26 Cal.3d938

Web Link

An excerpt from the decision:

"Political contribution involves an exercise of fundamental freedom protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 2 of the California Constitution. (Buckley v. Valeo (1975) 424 U.S. 1, 14-15, 22, 96 S.Ct. 612, 632, 636, 46 L.Ed.2d 659; Hardie v. Eu (1976) 18 Cal.3d 371, 377, 134 Cal.Rptr. 201, 556 P.2d 301; Citizens for Jobs & Energy v. Fair Political Practices Com. (1976) 16 Cal.3d 671, 674- 675, 129 Cal.Rptr. 106, 547 P.2d 1396.) To disqualify a city council member from acting on a development proposal because the developer had made a campaign contribution to that member would threaten constitutionally protected political speech and associational freedoms.

"Governmental restraint on political activity must be strictly scrutinized and justified only by compelling state interest. (Buckley v. Valeo, supra, 424 U.S. 1, 25, 96 S.Ct. 612, 637, 46 L.Ed.2d 659.) While disqualifying contribution recipients from voting would not prohibit contributions, it would curtail contributors' constitutional rights. Representative government would be thwarted by depriving certain classes of voters (i. e., developers, builders, engineers, and attorneys who are related in some fashion to developers) of the constitutional right to participate in the electoral process.

"Public policy strongly encourages the giving and receiving of campaign contributions. Such contributions do not automatically create an appearance of unfairness. Adequate protection against corruption and bias is afforded through the Political Reform Act and criminal sanctions. (Pen.Code, s 165; see also Pen.Code, s 67 et seq.)


4 people like this
Posted by Dauber for School Board President
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2014 at 2:40 pm

Woodland Hills Residents Ass'n v. City Council of the City of Los Angeles, 26 Cal.3d 938 (1980); see also, Citizens United v. FEC 588 US 310 (2010). Next time do your own research.


Like this comment
Posted by Simple issue
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 5, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Thank you for the link. However, you might have read further. As part of the majority, Justice Tobriner stated:

"TOBRINER, Justice, concurring.

I join in the majority opinion upon my understanding that nothing in that opinion is intended to preclude the Legislature or a local governmental entity from enacting appropriately defined legislation providing for the disqualification of a decisionmaker in a quasi-judicial proceeding on the basis of the decisionmaker's receipt of campaign contributions from a party to the proceeding. "

Isn't this what is being discussed?


1 person likes this
Posted by Grown Up2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 5, 2014 at 2:55 pm

@Simple Issue,
"2. Litigants currently engaged in a case."

If the litigation is not over an issue that will enrich the public official personally, there is no relevancy here.

[Portion removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 5, 2014 at 3:03 pm

How much district time and money is being spent on researching this issue? Wouldn't it be better spent elsewhere?

Are we really to beleive that a school board member can be bought for $250?

This has only come up because there's something that Caswell does not want to be uncovered.

If the remaining members of the board do not call her out on this issue, they're only further contaminating their already murky image.


1 person likes this
Posted by Simple issue
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 5, 2014 at 3:07 pm

@GrownUp2

You do know this is about campaign contributions, correct?

So, were there substantial contributions by contractors or litigants?


1 person likes this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2014 at 3:17 pm

@ Simple issue

A concurring opinion is not binding legal precedent, it's the majority opinion that governs.


3 people like this
Posted by Info
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 5, 2014 at 3:18 pm

The concurrence that is being quoted refers only to the case where an official is serving as a decisionmaker in a "quasi-judicial proceeding". A school board meeting (unless perhaps we're talking about an expulsion hearing or employee discipline) doesn't qualify.


Like this comment
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 5, 2014 at 3:22 pm

[Post removed; off topic.]


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 5, 2014 at 3:33 pm

No, "simple" the school board acting in its ordinary capacity is not a quasi judicial proceeding. This is a completely clear matter of constitutional law. It is not in question. The fact that these board members went off chasing an idea that is unconstitutional on its fact just makes the whole thing more sad and more laughable and more typical of this board.

This is a very clear case of the current board members trying to thwart the will of the people and to undo the results of a democratic election. It is an effort to overturn the election. [Portion removed.]

These are the same board members who routinely holds closed sessions that are dubious at best. They are the same board members who have wasted district time and money throwing it down the legal fee rat hole (more than half a million dollars and the meter is still running). [Portion removed.]


8 people like this
Posted by SWE
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 5, 2014 at 4:14 pm

SWE is a registered user.

Oho! The old dirt is afraid of the new broom!

Quick, someone get them a handbook on how you make a good apology and move on. This is just embarrassing.


5 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 5, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Welcome, Sherif Ken:

Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by SWE
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 5, 2014 at 11:12 pm

SWE is a registered user.

Simple,
Your contentions have been repeatedly and solidly refuted by other posters, yet you persist in arrogantly and aggressively repeating your mistaken beliefs.

Do you work for the district?

Dauber should not recuse himself, he should and will do what voters sent him to do. Ha, ha, great video Mark Weiss!


4 people like this
Posted by George Orwell
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 6, 2014 at 1:47 am

George Orwell is a registered user.

This visual world is quite amazing. I watched parts of the meeting.

I am curious to know how much did it cost to prepare the printed material which was in front of the three participants?
It seems that some effort was put into this. Blue papers.
Who looked into the legal issues reflected in those those papers? Lawyers? What was the cost? Who authorized that?

PAUSD must be in great shape enabling the person in charge to spend this time. May I recommend to pass the script of this meeting to SNL?

[Portion removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by kludged
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 8, 2014 at 8:36 am

kludged is a registered user.

Wow. Watch the video for how elected officials waste time. Basic issue: I don't usually pay attention to the dysfunctional school board, but What Problem is being solved?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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