The attorney representing embattled Fresno Unified trustee Terry Slatic says that Superintendent Bob Nelson is trying to tarnish the trustee’s reputation because Slatic’s aggressive efforts to improve the district are “ruffling feathers.”
In an interview with GV Wire on Friday afternoon, attorney Charles K. Manock said that Nelson prematurely approved the release of a security-camera video depicting a confrontation between Slatic and a Bullard High School student on Jan. 11.
The video didn’t include audio of the incident, which has received prominent media attention and sparked much public debate about the actions of Slatic and the student.
Manock further said that a letter written by Nelson to the district board, which was leaked to The Fresno Bee, “cherry-picked” email correspondence between the superintendent and the trustee to cast Slatic in a bad light.
Attorney: Video ‘Doesn’t Speak for Itself’
“It is unfortunate that the video was released without a full investigation,” Manock said. “If you are releasing a video, along with that, you are speaking to the public and allowing the public to view a case before you have all the facts. I believe once all the facts are known my client will be totally exonerated.”
Following the video’s release, Nelson said, “I think that video speaks for itself, I encourage folks to watch that video so that they can draw their own conclusions from what they see, right there.”
Countered Manock: “Because crucial to any video evidence is audio … by its very nature, it doesn’t speak for itself.”
District Won’t Comment Again Until Probe Is Finished
District spokeswoman Amy Idsvoog said Friday that Fresno Unified officials would have no further comment about the confrontation “until the investigation is completed.”
A request for comment left on Nelson’s voice mail wasn’t returned prior to publication Friday.
Slatic: Family ‘Crushed’ by Social Media Attacks
Slatic accompanied Manock to Friday’s interview and spoke about social media attacks on himself and his family.
“I’m the father of four. My daughters are twenty-three, twenty-two. My boys are 19 and 18 as of tomorrow. Been married for decades to my wife. And they’re all crushed by this stuff on the internet. Because, as with any kids of that age they’re quite internet savvy.
“When they see some of the things that are out there and the accusations that are out there, it has broken all of them. And that’s why counselor Manock and I have decided to speak. There can be no more one-sided narrative (on what happened) because of the damage that this has done and is continuing to do to my family.”
Manock Doesn’t Address Slatic’s Actions During Incident
Manock declined to speak about the confrontation, saying that “everybody’s entitled to their privacy and given that a minor is involved, we can’t speak to Terry’s actions or the minor’s actions.”
However, three days after the confrontation in which the trustee pulled the student’s backpack from his back, Slatic told GV Wire that the student swore at and threatened both the trustee and his aide, Michelle Asadoorian.
“Based on my training, when somebody says they will kill me and shoot me, I take those threats seriously,” Slatic said at that time.
The lawyer representing the student, Roger Bonakdar, has said that his client didn’t trigger the confrontation. Slatic’s version of the incident, Bonakder said, “is just completely illogical and unsupported by what is depicted in the video.”
Attorney Says Nelson Asked Slatic to Mentor Him on Leadership
Manock cited contents in the leaked letter as evidence of Nelson’s efforts to control the public narrative about Slatic, a retired war-service Marine and business executive.
The attorney said that Nelson mistakenly attributed to Slatic phrases of a famous essay on leadership written by William Bennett, the former Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan and a conservative pundit.
According to The Bee, Nelson wrote, “In the e-mail, you describe yourself as a sheepdog, a person who you say ‘has a capacity for violence. The email was – and is – very disturbing to me.”
Manock said that Slatic sent Nelson the Bennett essay because the superintendent has asked the trustee “to mentor him on leadership.”
2007 Grand Jury Report Cited by Nelson
Other evidence of Nelson’s attempt to smear Slatic, the attorney said, was the superintendent’s reference in the leaked letter to a 2007 Fresno County Grand Jury investigation into the relationship between then-Superintendent Michael Hanson and two trustees. The grand jury concluded that the board president and board clerk at that time engaged in “micromanaging” to the detriment of the district.
As reported by The Bee, Nelson’s letter took Slatic to task for making “excessive demands on staff for information, research and justification for actions taken” as well as scheduling meetings, setting agendas and purporting to represent the district.
Said Manock of the grand jury report: “It was a sad period in grand jury history that had to do with pushing back against trustees with oversight of Michael Hanson. And during that period it was open warfare on trustees (by Hanson’s supporters in the community).”