Resign voluntarily or get recalled.
That’s the dilemma that Manteca Unified Trustees Ashley Drain and Alexander Bronson are facing on the heels of a demand made publicly by Dale Fritchen during Tuesday night’s board meeting.
Fritchen “respectfully” asked the two newest members of the board who were elected in November 2014 to step down, but that if they don’t voluntarily do so, they will have to face a recall.
A recall petition has not been started yet, but it will happen if Bronson and Drain refuse to resign, Fritchen explained. There is also a legally specified time when a recall can be launched against an elected official following their election, and that time has not yet transpired, he pointed out. If the two trustees have not resigned by that time, the recall will be put in motion immediately, he said.
Fritchen, himself a former MUSD trustee, cited a number of reasons for giving the trustees an ultimatum all stemming from false statements they made in the election forms they filed at the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters before the November 2014 elections. To support his statements, Fritchen distributed a copy of the California Form 700 of the Fair Political Practices Commission – Statement of Economic Interests Cover Page – that Drain and Bronson filed.
That form shows the Manteca address – in the 600 block of Verda Drive – that both trustees used in their initial election filing. Drain’s form, however, showed that the address was crossed out and replaced with another address in Weston Ranch. The corrected address showed a penmanship different from Drain’s; Fritchen said the change was made by Trustee Sam Fant.
Other statements made by both trustees in their candidates’ papers which were questioned by Fritchen:
• Declaring zero income “in the last 12 months” but reporting that they were “educators,” the term both trustees used to describe their type of work. The “no income” information actually came from Bronson himself, Fritchen said in an interview during the break in the meeting. “We need to know where you’re getting an income,” he said, addressing both trustees from the podium, to make sure there are no conflicts of interest.
• The truth about their “educator” title. Bronson did not offer any explanation to that, but Drain later responded during the meeting by pointing out that she considers herself an educator based on her volunteer after-school tutoring program she runs from her home. In a telephone interview before the elections, Bronson said he was working as a tutor at the Stockton Boys and Girls Club.
• Fritchen said that elected officials must file another 700 form 30 days after election. “You didn’t do that,” he told Drain and Bronson. Failure to do so carries a $10 a day penalty, Fritchen pointed out.
Fritchen, who went on to become a two-term Stockton Council member, prefaced his demand for Drain and Bronson to resign by saying that “it was not an easy thing to do,” but that as trustees, they are expected to hold themselves to the highest level of ethical conduct.
“Character Counts – this is what we teach our children,” said Fritchen, a resident of Weston Ranch. “You’re representing this board to the children of this district.”
After Fritchen asked the two trustees to step down, the standing-room only boardroom filled with members of the Manteca Educators Association who were there to speak on their ongoing salary negotiations with the district, erupted in applause prompting board president Deborah Romero to gavel them down.
During the five-minute break at the board meeting, Fritchen and Bronson were seen in what appeared to be a heated confrontational verbal interchange inside the boardroom. Fritchen declined to address any specifics in the brief interaction. The meeting resumed before Bronson could be interviewed.
Fritchen did not limit his research on the election backgrounds of the trustees on just Drain and Bronson. Based on information culled from the Registrar of Voters office, he said he discovered that Trustee Sam Fant also declared no income in the last 12 months.