By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
School board tiff over cell phone use
Placeholder Image

A member of the Manteca Unified School District Board of Trustees is considering filing a complaint to the San Joaquin County Grand Jury over “possible” Brown Act violations involving Trustee Sam Fant.

The reason for the complaint concerns Fant’s reported use of his cell phone during board meetings. Trustee Nancy Teicheira said during board comments at the Oct. 6 meeting that she was “investigating possible Brown Act violations, and I do believe when the community has concerns it is our job to at least check them out.”

On Thursday, she said she was ready to move ahead and do the filing.

In her board comment, she explained that her investigation was being prompted by complaints brought to her attention by members of the community who reported seeing Fant using his cell phone during board meetings.

“It is my job to pass on the complaint. It is up to the district to review and bring back to the board the findings,” she further stated during her closing statement.

“I do believe when the community has concerns, it is our job to at least check them out, no matter how unpleasant it is, and I will continue to do the job our constituents want us to do. And with that I thank our service men and women for making that possible. It is with their sacrifices that we are able to speak freely, and for that I am grateful. This nation was built on rules and regulations and the public expects us to follow them. That is why they fight. And that is why it is always important to thank our veterans,” she added in the usual way she closes all board meetings, a verbal salute to all veterans.

Her actions apparently ruffled some feathers during the closed session that preceded the public meeting of the board, made evident by her opening statements in her closing comment: “Tonight, I was accused of attacking fellow board members for actions that have been done. But we were elected to represent the community, and when they have complained to us it is our duty to report the incidents. So, it is not that I am picking on fellow board members; it’s that the community has a concern.”

Teicheira, who is guaranteed another four-year term since no one is challenging her in the November elections, did not mention any names involving what had transpired during closed session. She also did not disclose during the telephone interview on Thursday the identities of the people who complained to her about Fant’s use of his cell phone during board meetings.

• • •

Turmoil behind closed doors

However, the Manteca Bulletin has learned from various sources that an ugly verbal altercation took place between Teicheira and Fant over the latter’s use of his cell phone during the closed-session meeting.

Fant reportedly got mad and yelled at Teicheira, using an expletive, when she asked board president Don Scholl if they are supposed to have their cell phones out during the meeting. Fant reportedly yelled, “I’m tired of this s—t!” and added that Teicheira needed to “grow up” and to stop picking on people.

 Fant’s four-letter word apparently shocked one board member who reacted to Fant’s outburst by turning to him saying, “What did you say?”

That scene ended reportedly with Scholl telling Fant that he needed to put his cell phone away.

“The rule is, we’re not supposed to have our phone out because we could come under Brown Act violations. Who knows who he’s on the phone with? If you have a rule, you follow the rule,” said Teicheira, commenting on the complaints brought to her attention by the concerned individuals.

• • •

Sam Fant responds; board president Scholl comments

Fant admitted that he does have his cell phone out during open board meetings but that he puts it on vibrate. “We all have cell phones. Sometimes you pick up your phone but you don’t make a phone call. To my knowledge, I haven’t seen any board member use it to make a phone call or anything,” he said.

“In reference to what took place in closed session, I can’t discuss that,” he explained. However, he commented about “a board member on a witch hunt” which is causing “internal turmoil.” He did not name names either.

He admitted to going online during the last board meeting but that he used not his smart phone but the district-issued tablet which is available to all board members during meetings. At that meeting, he went online to clarify that the minimum wage increase in California was going to take effect not in 2015 as it appeared in the board agenda report but in 2016, he explained.

Board President Don Scholl said he talked to Fant about his cell phone use after the concern was brought to his attention. Scholl said Fant assured him that he has not been making any outside communications with his smart phone.

Board policy No. 9012 states that, “as all communications during a public Board meeting are subject to the California Public Records Act, Board members will not use electronic communication devices during Board meetings to communicate either internally or externally.” 

Scholl said he is trying to monitor cell phone use during meetings, but added, “I can’t see everything.”

His role as board president is “to make sure I monitor that” and to address those concerns while abiding by the board policies and procedures.

“We have rules for a reason. That’s what we have to go by. The public expects us to do that and we have to live up to their expectations,” Scholl said.

Complaints filed with the Grand Jury are held confidential. Any citizen may file a complaint. The Grand Jury acts on complaints that deal with a county department, any city in the county, all school districts and “special purpose or taxing districts in the county.” Additionally, filing rules state that complaints should be submitted “after all attempts to correct a situation have been explored, and without success.”