The Baldwin Park Unified School District is less than pleased – to say the least – with a letter the City Council sent to board President Jack White last month.
The letter essentially asks that the board support the council in its call for Sergio Corona’s resignation.
Corona was Tased and arrested in an alleged vandalism incident in May.
Here’s the story:
BALDWIN PARK – Some school board members accused the City Council of overstepping its bounds with a letter calling for Sergio Corona’s resignation.
The letter, dated June 19, was sent to Baldwin Park Unified School Board President Jack White, and rubber-stamped with the signatures of all five council members.
It asked that the board “join the City Council in its request for school board member Sergio Corona
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“It’s one thing to be worried about the city but to actually send us a letter,” said school board member Blanca Rubio. “We don’t govern each other. I think they jumped the gun on it.”
Corona, 34, was arrested May 22 after allegedly breaking the windows of a home in the 13000 block of Sandstone Street.
According to a police report, Corona admitted to having smoked methamphetamine and marijuana earlier in the night.
Corona was booked on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, being under the influence of a controlled substance, felony vandalism and driving with an expired license.
He has denied any wrongdoing.
Charges have yet to be filed in Corona’s case pending confirmation of toxicology results.
Mayor Manuel Lozano said while he understands the council and the school board are two separate entities, he said the council felt the need to send the letter based on residents’ complaints.
“We’re concerned as an entity,” Lozano said. “That’s the reason it was sent out. I don’t want to turn this into a fight.”
In a rebuttal letter sent to Chief Executive Officer Vijay Singhal last week, White reminded the council that the board has no authority to ask Corona to step down, and Corona has not been convicted of any crimes.
White also pointed out in the letter that when misconduct has been alleged against other Baldwin Park officials – such as former council member Bill Van Cleave and former school board member Anthony Bejarano Sr. – the council had not called for their resignations.
“In the opinion of many, the alleged offenses of these public officials were far more egregious and were directly associated with the office each was holding,” the letter states.
“It should be noted that not one of these individuals resigned from office and, in fact, each ran for re-election.”
Councilman Ricardo Pacheco said Corona’s case is different because as a school board member, he should be setting an example for Baldwin Park children.
“I think the board is taking this too lightly,” he said. “We are dealing with kids here. One of the members is involved in drugs, has personal issues with possible alcohol and different types of illegal drugs. I think we need to look into that representative.”
White – who said he found it highly unusual the letter was sent only to him – also questioned the council’s conformity with state public meeting laws in drafting the letter.
Public meeting experts say the council may have violated the Ralph M. Brown Act – which governs open meetings – by not putting the letter on the agenda for approval before sending it to the school board.
“A city council or school board may not take action on a matter that was not on the agenda,” said Terry Francke, legal counsel for Californians Aware.
City officials say because the decision was made in open session at the June 4 council meeting, there was no need to place the letter on the agenda.
Singhal said after the letter was drafted that each individual council member was asked if they agreed with its contents, and if they would allow their signatures on the letter.
Francke said that is still a violation of the Brown Act, and the letter should have been placed on the agenda for approval.
“If council was saying the real action was taken publicly,” he said, “there where citizens that made comments, we reacted and we took direction … that is not sufficient.”
Singhal said staff members were acting in compliance with the city attorney’s advice.
“I don’t know what to do,” Lozano said. “The letter has already gone out.”
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Francke seemed pretty sure last week that the council did indeed violate the Brown Act with that letter. Since the letter was sent from the council as a whole, Francke said the issue should have been agendized and voted on before a consensus was reached on whether to mail the letter in support of Corona’s resignation.
He also took issue with the fact that the city manager contacted each individual council member about approving the final draft of the letter.
See all the letters for yourself: