Dale Fritchen – a former two-term Manteca Unified trustee – believes that the school board has violated the Brown Act in at least three instances.
And he has forwarded his complaint on to the San Joaquin County Grand Jury for its review in the matter.
In a letter dated Wednesday, Feb. 18, Fritchen – who served on the board representing Weston Ranch from 2000 to 2008 and was then elected to the Stockton City Council – claims that the board has been discussing complaints against district employees in closed session without following the parameters of California’s open meetings law. The discussions, Fritchen alleges, either took place without the matter being agendized or it was placed on the agenda, happened without notifying the employee prior to the discussion. The law affords those being discussed in closed session the option to have it moved to open session.
No specifics were given, but a footnote to the complaint, which was also filed with the Manteca Unified School Board administration, included an excerpt of a complaint that classified employee Debie McLarty made against trustee Sam Fant after allegations over controversial Facebook pictures dominated local headlines and drew news cameras to a board meeting. In the complaint McLarty alleged that Fant had prearranged a television interview after pictures of her grandchildren’s “Dukes of Hazard” birthday party surfaced and Stockton activist Ralph White called for her immediate firing in a charged plea from the lectern.
The other two Fritchen complaints also appear to be linked to politically charged events as well.
In a meeting on Feb. 10 Fritchen claims that board president Deborah Romero improperly stated that the board had no obligation to report the results of a vote taken at the previous meeting regarding the transfer of an employee from an administrative position to the district office, and that Superintendent Jason Messer said that it applies only to “personnel matters.” But the Brown Act, Fritchen writes, states that any action taken in closed session that affects the employment of a public employee needs to be reported out, including failed motions.
It has been reported that an effort has been underway to remove Weston Ranch Principal Jose Fregoso from his position at the school. Supporters filled the board room after the back-and-forth politics and allegations of being apathetic to minority children became public. Fregoso, who has been at the helm of the school since 2009, was present at the meeting on Feb. 10, as were his supporters.
During that same meeting, as the third complaint states, a district employee was told that the board made a decision in closed session to have a matter investigated by an independent party. That matter was not properly agendized, he said, and the decision to approve an independent investigator led to another violation because it was never disclosed to the public – never giving the taxpayers a chance to determine how to properly spend their money.
Fritchen wrote that he is exercising his rights under the act to demand that the board cease and desist any further violations of the act, and that the board cure and correct their violations.
He is also requesting that the board make public any violations of the Brown Act so the public can seek appropriate solutions and that the board be properly trained on the law and the ethical responsibilities of being an elected official.
Fritchen is also requesting that an item be placed on the next board agenda or addressed at a special meeting to discussion the violations by the school board, and to have the 5-minute time limit be waived so the public can have adequate time to address the matter.
“Having been an elected official myself I know the great deal of time and energy that you put into your public service for the community,” Fritchen wrote. “I do appreciate your time and energy. I strongly believe, though, that any actions of the board that are unlawful or unethical do damage to the temporary offices you all hold and to the district and ultimately the children for whom we all care so greatly. It is for that reason I feel impelled to draft that letter.”