Paid Lobbyist An Issue in School Board Campaign?

Fernandes-Alan-HSA letter to the editor in the paper suggested that school board candidate Alan Fernandes is a paid lobbyist, as the Enterprise described, in their profile of the candidate, that his job is “representing the county of Los Angeles in matters pertaining to state government.”

In fact, this is not that unusual.  Richard Harris and Tim Taylor, both presently on the board of education, could be characterized similarly, as could former board member and current County Supervisor Jim Provenza.

But that has not stopped at least some from raising it as an issue.

Wrote Paul Jacobs, “Fernandes is a paid lobbyist and has registered as such with the state of California for many years.”

He does not particularly disparage it, noting, “Over the years, I’ve known many lobbyists. I’ve found some to be disreputable and others to be highly principled. A lot of them like to be known as ‘legislative advocates,’ a euphemism that they find easier bear than that dreaded word that has such a spotted history in American politics.”

He adds, “But, like it or not, they are lobbyists and ought to be referred to in print as such when their occupation is relevant, as it is when discussing candidates for public office.”

Others have been more pointed, noting links that show his list of “Represented Clients” which include specific amounts related to Philip Morris ($36,291,366), PG&E ($16,690,053) and Altria ($1,167,300).

The commenter writes, “People can have any day job they want, but that doesn’t obviate the concern of a conflict of interest if issues related to tobacco control, energy savings, etc. come before the school board.”

Alan Fernandes defends his record, “Here are the facts. I have NEVER represented tobacco interests of any kind on any matter. While it is true that I once worked at a large law firm with many diverse clients (like many of our other locally elected officials)…”

He added, “I, personally only represented local government entities (including cities, counties, and school districts) and non-profits interacting with government. Indeed, it is precisely this experience which I believe makes me a highly qualified school board candidate and one who will be able to recognize solutions to our existing challenges.”

“I was endorsed by Supervisor John Gioia who is the Chair of the Cities Counties Schools Coalition, a statewide organization of all local governmental entities working together in search of solutions to our fiscal challenges and reforming public service for the future,” Mr. Fernandes wrote in a comment on the Vanguard in response to some of the questions.

“He supports me because I worked closely with him and he knows me to be honest, ethical and hard working on behalf of the public good, he continued. “I am proud of my professional background and believe my knowledge and experience would be of great benefit to our school district and all our students here in Davis. Again, thank you for your collective interest and for the opportunity to provide the facts about my background.

The contribution list came out this week and it showed Alan Fernandes and Nancy Peterson leading the way on contributions.

Several people pointed out to the Vanguard that two contributions in particular stood out – $500 contributions to Alan Fernandes from Davis Firefighters Local 3494, and Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 447.

You might recall Local 447 – they were one of the sponsors of the infamous mailer: “Paid for by Citizens for Better Government in Davis 2012, Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 447, IBEW Local 340, Operating Engineers Local Union 3 in Support of Stephen Souza and Opposition to Sue Greenwald.”

Bob Dunning wrote last spring, “Because Davisites tend not to like pink slime with their breakfast cereal and also don’t like outside groups like the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 447 attempting to influence local elections…”

It seemed at that time that the unions, heavy into the building trade, were attempting to elect a council more receptive to the water project and thus providing well-paying union construction jobs.

The connection to the school board is obviously a lot less clear – the same applies to the Firefighters Local 3494 – a group that has been criticized both for pressing past councils for unsustainable employee contracts as well as bundling $100 contributions in city council races to purchase influence.

Last spring, Alan Fernandes would get up before the Davis City Council to defend the work of the firefighters.

He cited, as his reason, “a growing concern” about the “tone and tenor of our debate in this community about the value of public service” and specifically, “I want to address our first responders, because I don’t think you hear much from the public.  But there is wide public support for our firefighters and first responders.”

He touted the record of the firefighters in the community and added, “The point is that we have a part of our community that is often times part of a negative conversation; I’d like to see that change.”

In particular, he criticized decisions by the council to set the MOU for the vacant Division Chief position which would become a boilerplate for future labor negotiations.

He said, “The council has recruitment and retention policies that really talk about reinforcing community involvement and I think that we need to consider those things as we deal not only with firefighters and first responders, but frankly, all public employees that the city is responsible for.”

Nancy Peterson has raised $13,215 in the school board election to date.  Alan Fernandes is second at $10,529.  Incumbent Susan Lovenburg raised $8339.  Neither Jose Granda nor Claire Sherman reported donations, and the Measure E campaign raised $16,108.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. wdf1

    Vanguard: [i]Neither Jose Granda nor Claire Sherman reported donations…[/i]


    Jose Granda’s campaign reported contributions of $50 from Janet Zwalhen and $25 from Kumar Sah. The candidate also donated $642 to the campaign.[/quote]
    The Enterprise article goes on to say that the No on E campaign didn’t report any donations.

  2. SouthofDavis

    David wrote:

    > Alan Fernandez defends his record…

    I’m pretty sure his last name does not end in a “z” (unless all his campaign signs have a typo)…

  3. Mr.Toad

    What does any of this have to do with running for school board? All of this defamation by association is so sleazy.

    The most interesting thing in the article is the donation to Granda by my friend Kumar Sah. I will need to ask him about what made him do it.

  4. David M. Greenwald

    South of Davis: No offense but I don’t really need you to be the spell checker. I was up at 3:30 this morning after a very long day yesterday and you posted before our copy editor was able to correct spelling and grammar.

  5. Davis Progressive

    anyone else find it odd that the two groups who most wanted to take sue greenwald out the firefighters and the the plumbers and pipefitters are backing alan hernandez. even more interesting is that yesterday at the clinton event, there was 3494 as the color guard and bobby weist himself was hanging around in suit and tie. so it appears that while the city council won’t touch 3494, they own yamada, provenza, garamendi, saylor, and now … alan fernandes.

  6. Rifkin

    Because the unions giving that money to Fernandes do not stand to profit from any decisions he makes on the School Board, I don’t think there is a direct ethical problem* in these donations. But they do stand out as weird. They suggest that Mr. Fernandes has a relationship with them, though I don’t know what that relationship is. And I wonder if these two unions are thinking that, like a Don Saylor, Alan will be a candidate for a higher office they can back some time down the road?

    Apparently the DTA has not funded the Fernandes campaign. However, it seems to me that candidates for the School Board should be completely independent in all respects, when it comes to special interests that do business with the School District. I am not sure if that should include rejecting the DTA’s endorsement. However, if a school textbook company endorsed Fernandes, and later Fernandes powerfully argued that the District should buy the textbooks that company was selling, I would be suspicious, and I think a lot of people who are not suspicious of the DTA here would also find such actions with regard to a for-profit book publisher questionable.

    *My view is there is an indirect ethical problem in all campaign donations. I would like to see us move to publicly financed campaigns, where all the money is clean.

  7. Rifkin

    VANGUARD: [i]”… his list of ‘Represented Clients’ include specific amounts related to Philip Morris ($36,291,366), PG&E ($16,690,053) and Altria ($1,167,300).”[/i]

    A. FERNANDES: [i]”I have NEVER represented tobacco interests of any kind on any matter. … I, personally only represented local government entities (including cities, counties, and school districts) and non-profits interacting with government.”[/i]

    If the list of clients posted by the Vanguard (Philip Morris, etc.) were represented by his large law firm but not by Fernandes personally–and it sounds to me like that is the case–then listing them at all in this story is wrong in my opinion and quite unfair to Mr. Fernandes. My own view is that his legal work could be a big asset to the School Board. It is not dissimilar to what Tim Taylor and Richard Harris have done. And I think they have used that professional experience as Trustees, even if our Board has failed to negotiate proper contracts.

  8. Mr Obvious

    [quote]If the list of clients posted by the Vanguard (Philip Morris, etc.) were represented by his large law firm but not by Fernandes personally–and it sounds to me like that is the case–then listing them at all in this story is wrong in my opinion and quite unfair to Mr. Fernandes. [/quote]

    Clinton Parrish was crucified by the Vanguard for doing that. Just an observation.

  9. Michael Harrington

    I met Alan recently when he came to speak at a PTA function at North Davis Elementary, where my 10 y/o girl goes to school.

    Had a very good chat with Alan. He’s smart, and as trial attorneys say, he presents well and would make a good witness. I was impressed he came to our local school to meet people.

    Which means: if the average voters meets Alan, he will probably get their vote.

    The union contribution is troubling … after we all know what has happened in City politics, and the city budgets, as a result of overly aggressive efforts by 3494 to influence salaries and budgets.

    However, I don’t diss 3494 whatsoever for their success. Bobby’s job is to strategize and manuever and ask for big money from the electeds, and he has been very successful at representing his clients. I support public unions and the things they have done over the years to improve the lives of their members. Good for them, if they got access to the cash and benefits.

    No, I fault the CCs for giving in and giving so much money to the local 3494 and others so the city budgets are not sustainable.

    Which brings me back to Alan.

    He was the 2008 Campaign Manager for Don Saylor, a job that necessarily required Alan to support his candidate and the policies. This would include the big dollars going to the unions, and the surface water plant program that was well along by 2008. We all know that the water plant as it was originally proposed was hugely over-sized, and that extra capacity was for rampant sprawl in Eastern Yolo County. Alan, as Campaign Manager, had to have known all about the dirty inside part of that planning process.

    I would never vote for Alan for City Council for those reasons, as much as I personally liked chatting with him.

    As to the School Board, that is often a political stepping stone for other offices (like, Stan Forbes, Don Saylor, Susie Boyd, Ruth Assmundson, to name a few whom I know already). Any time I vote for the School Board, I always have in the back of my analysis: is this person likely to run for CC, and if so, would I support that person for the CC? If the answers are YES, and NO, then I wont vote for them on the School Board.

    Now, Alan is a bright young attorney deeply immersed in local and state politics through his job and volunteer efforts. Does he want to move up? Maybe. Don’t know, since I am not in his political inner circle.

    But Don Saylor clearly is his mentor, and the public union contributions to Alan are clearly a downpayment on what they hope to be good money and benefits in the future.

    I am not recommending pro or con, voting for Alan on the School Board. I just recommend that people look at the bigger picture, rather than just a political snapshot of a Board seat, and vote accordingly.

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