Rush to Judgment? Fresno Trustees Want to Censure Outspoken Member ASAP
Fresno Unified trustees will discuss reimposing a censure of Bullard High Area Trustee Terry Slatic at Wednesday’s board meeting.
It’s unclear exactly why, however, since the Sept. 3 email from Trustee Veva Islas says only that she and Trustees Keshia Thomas and Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas “request an immediate censure of Trustee Slatic.”
It seems likely to be related to Slatic’s filibuster that shut down the Aug. 25 board meeting. Slatic continued to speak during the board-superintendent portion of the agenda, even after his microphone was shut off, about issues that he says he has been unable to discuss with Superintendent Bob Nelson because his time with Nelson has been limited by his fellow trustees.
When Slatic continued to speak nonstop, even after the board recessed twice and while parents were attempting to address the trustees, Board President Valerie Davis adjourned the meeting.
Related Story: Trustee’s Filibuster Shuts Down Fresno School Board Meeting
Incomplete Censure Request?
Section 2 of Board Bylaw 9005.1, which the board adopted two months after censuring Slatic for the first time in August 2019, outlines how many trustees may request a censure, and how they should request it.
The request may come from “not fewer than two nor more than three trustees” so as not to violate the Brown Act, the state’s public meeting law.
Section 2 goes on to say, “The request must contain a specific factual description of the alleged action, statement or other conduct of the board member at issue and a description of how that action, statement or other conduct constitutes a violation.”
Chief of Staff David Chavez acknowledged to GV Wire that Islas’ email does not contain the specific factual description as required by the bylaw. But he said the trustees may opt to suspend that section, or the entire bylaw, should they choose.
Board Bylaw 9314 permits the trustees to suspend any bylaw, he said.
Wednesday’s agenda includes a recommendation to suspend the censure bylaw’s section 8, which requires the trustee who may be the target of censure to have at least five business days’ notice of a censure resolution prior to a public meeting to discuss it.
The ad hoc censure committee — Islas, Thomas, and Jonasson Rosas — would have until Friday to complete the censure resolution and transmit it to Slatic, which would give him only three business days to review it prior to the following board meeting on Sept. 15.
Slatic did not immediately respond Tuesday to a request for comment.
Chavez said that while Islas’ email seeks an “immediate” censure, Thomas and Jonasson Rosas said they supported censuring Slatic “as soon as possible.”
Bylaw Details Censure Process
The board’s censure bylaw spells out the steps that are supposed to be followed, beginning with an attempt by the board president to informally resolve issues with the trustee in question.
Board president Valerie Davis told GV Wire on Tuesday that there has been no such attempt, adding, “I’m not sure we can informally resolve that.”
Section 2 says that if the matter cannot be resolved informally, a request for a censure hearing should be submitted in writing by two to three trustees, who also are supposed to include the specific factual description of the behavior, conduct, or incidents in question.
In Section 3, the board president would place the matter on the agenda of an upcoming meeting for an open session discussion.
A copy of the request for censure, “along with all background documentation,” would need to go to the trustees at least three business days before the public meeting at which the request would be considered, according to Section 4.
Section 5 then spells out the options available to the board at that meeting: Further investigate the allegations, verbally censure the board member, set the matter for a public hearing to adopt a formal censure resolution, or take no action.
Any further investigation would be conducted by the ad hoc committee, according to Section 6.
Section 7 dictates that if a formal resolution is required, it should be prepared by the ad hoc committee but not discussed by a majority of the board prior to the public hearing.
Section 8 — the section that is being recommended for suspension — says the public hearing may not be sooner than five business days following preparation of the proposed censure resolution, so as to give the trustee targeted by the resolution “adequate time to prepare a response.”
The new censure proposal comes only a month after the first two censures were lifted. In an Aug. 11 letter to Slatic, Davis confirmed that the restrictions imposed by the censures in August 2019 and August 2020 were being removed but reminded Slatic that he was obligated to follow board bylaws and policies: “Any behavior that distracts from the needs of our children will not be tolerated.”
The restrictions included in prior censure resolutions limited Slatic’s ability to visit school campuses without an escort and to take on leadership roles with the board, among other things.
The 2019 censure was adopted after a series of incidents involving Bullard students and staff and an Army recruiter at the high school.
Related Story: Fresno Unified Board Censures Trustee Slatic, Says He Needs Anger Management ...