Both of the Manteca Unified school board members who were charged last month with a host of felonies stemming from a voter fraud inquiry into registering to vote to run for trustee positions they were not legally entitled were notified days in advance by the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office that the charges were coming.
Both Alexander Martin Bronson – who has since resigned from his position on the school board – and Ashley Lynn Hampton (also known as Ashley Drain) received letters to homes other than those that they initially registered to vote at when they first sought their position on the Manteca school board dated April 22, 2015.
According to the letters, which are included in the copy of the criminal complaints on record at the Stockton Superior Courthouse, both of the defendants – who face many of the same election fraud charges with Drain having a few added for welfare fraud and theft-related crimes – did not initially have an arrest warrant issued before they appeared before Superior Court Judge Franklin Stephenson last week to answer to the charges.
Bronson pled not guilty while Drain’s attorney asked for a continuance, but both will have to report to the San Joaquin County Jail on Saturday to be booked, photographed, fingerprinted and then released. They will be allowed to fight their respective cases outside of custody.
And the matter has attracted a whirlwind of controversy and turned Tuesday’s board meeting – the first after the announcement of the charges – into a standing-room only crowd where some people even opted to watch the proceedings via television upstairs in an overflow area that had been set-up.
When school board President Deborah Romero had Superintendent Jason Messer announce that Bronson had resigned his position, thunderous applause could be heard from the capacity audience – most of whom were Manteca Unified educators that had gotten involved in the effort to recall the two, and may still set their focus on recalling two board members now that Drain has elected to, at least temporarily, dig in and fight.
And according to a statement made by Manteca Educators Association President Ken Johnson Tuesday night, the union might be partially to thank for at least part of the investigation that led to the charges.
When Johnson was approached by a trustee and was asked if the group could look into the allegations, he informed that person, he told the crowd, that too many things were currently up in the air concerning the membership, but the best thing that he could do is push it up the line to the California Teachers Association and see if any traction came out of it that way. Eventually, through the group’s lobbyists, it made its way to the State Attorney General, he said, and other independent investigations started concluding the same results.
And he also offered some comedic barbs while at the lectern.
“I’m taking a collection to buy Don Scholl a house in his old area that way we can go to the board and do the right thing and give Don his position back,” Johnson said to a mixture of laughter and cheers. “That goes back to a time when our candidates actually lived at their addresses.”
The Manteca Unified school board will meet again tonight at 7 p.m. to continue the business of Tuesday’s meeting which was cut short out of fears of violating California’s open meetings law when the website that contained the posted agenda went down over the weekend. The board meets at 2271 W. Louise Avenue inside of the board chambers on the district administrative building’s first floor.