School board members and school district employees from all over the state will gather this week in San Diego for the annual California School Boards Association’s Education Conference and Trade Show.
The attendees will include six Fresno Unified trustees, Superintendent Bob Nelson, and several other district staffers. Their expenses are covered by the district.
But if trustee Terry Slatic wants to attend, he’ll have to pay his own way — at a cost of several thousand dollars.
Slatic said he was told that board leadership is citing the censure resolution as to why the district won’t pay his expenses. The censure was approved in August on a 6-0-1 vote (Slatic abstained), which required him to attend anger management, threatened to remove his indemnification as an elected official in the event of legal claims, and suspended him “from representing the district and the board at public functions in any official capacity.”
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“Apparently if I’m attending a School Boards convention and learning governance, I would be somehow representing Fresno Unified School District,” Slatic said.
The Censure Resolution
The vote to censure Slatic came after a series of incidents involving the trustee, Bullard students, school staff, and an Army recruiter at the northwest Fresno high school. Slatic was accused of engaging in abusive and disrespectful treatment, including engaging in a physical altercation with a Bullard student in January.
Slatic told GV Wire on Monday that he thinks it’s ironic that the board’s stated goal is for him to improve his governance skills, but the district won’t pay for him to attend a conference that includes sessions on leadership and governance.
Slatic said he was informed several weeks ago by district chief of staff David Chavez that his conference costs would not be paid.
Censure Shouldn’t Be Punitive
Slatic, who maintains that his governance skills are already in good shape, said the refusal to pay his costs to attend the conference is punitive, which is illegal.
“Censures, in the history of censures in political bodies, are not punitive,” he said. “This obviously is punitive, it seems to be taking stuff away.”
By declining to pay his expenses, Slatic said, other trustees are saying, in effect, “You don’t get to go to the annual meeting … that teaches governance, which can be loosely defined as how to get along well and do the job as the trustee.”
No Objections Raised to Censure Language
Carol Mills, the board’s secretary, said that the district’s legal counsel stated that the censure resolution was not supposed to be punitive.
And, Mills added, the resolution still is subject to amendment.
“I think that if there are provisions in there that trustee Slatic feels are punitive, then that could have been addressed at the time of the vote, and it could have been addressed after that as well,” she said. “But there’s not been any requests to modify or change it.”
Mills noted that although Slatic’s conference costs will not be covered, he is not being prevented from attending the conference.
Board president Claudia Cazares could not be reached for comment Monday.
Slatic: Next Step Is Legal Action
Slatic said he is proceeding with legal action to have the censure resolution overturned. He said he has a new attorney, who he would not identify on the record, and hopes a Superior Court injunction hearing can be scheduled sometime in the first three months of 2020.
But in the meantime, after learning that Mills said the censure resolution is still subject to amendment, he has made an official request by email seeking board action to remove the resolution’s punitive language, which he maintains is illegal and disenfranchises his constituents.