Board President Addresses More Concerns Along with Other Developments in Volleyball Case

volleyballLate on Wednesday, the Davis Joint Unified School District called a “special meeting” for 5:45 today in which the board of education will meet with legal counsel to discuss existing litigation and the Julie Crawford-Rob Peterson Appeal Procedures.

While that may give the impression of a major development, Board member Gina Daleiden told the Vanguard that in order to have a late addition on the agenda, due to notification requirements in the Brown Act, the board must call a separately noticed public meeting and, as the title of the closed session agenda item indicates, the discussion will be about procedures.

In the meantime, questions arose on Wednesday about the impartiality of the independent investigation.  Alexander Sperry, who was the lead investigator into a 99.3 hour investigation that cost the district $22,000 and produced a 72-page report, is presently a partner at the Van Dermyden Maddux Law Corporation since 2013, according to his LinkedIn page.

Previously he had been a Labor Relations Consultant at the UC Davis Health System.

At the same time, the school district’s attorney, Eva Peek Fichtner, moved in October 2013 from her long-time firm Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo to the Van Dermyden Maddux firm.

There are a variety of different views on the arrangement.  One view suggested, “This is not independent, by any definition. Having someone whose employment is dependent upon BOE action doing the investigation of a Board member is a conflict of interest, a financial conflict, not the theoretical conflict we keep hearing about.”

On the other hand, another source told the Vanguard that, while it may appear to be a conflict, attorneys have all sorts of exemptions from what most would consider a conflict of interest and most of the time these conflicts are waived as long as it is a different person within the same office.

Complicating matters is the lack of clarity in terms of what is in the district’s best interest in this case.

In the meantime, Board President Gina Daleiden told the Vanguard, in addressing additional questions, that since “the School Board is now acting in a quasi-judicial role in a current appeal process, we each have to maintain impartiality until the conclusion.  This means I cannot answer specific questions about my opinions related to the matter.”

She added, “The Board does desire to be as transparent as possible.  In order to follow through with our role in the appeal, however, we must protect impartiality.”

One of the key questions is whether Nancy Peterson should have recused herself from weighing in on the issue of a volleyball coach with which she had not just a relationship with as a board member, but who was her daughter’s coach.

We asked Ms. Daleiden, “At what point should a board member recuse?”

Ms. Daleiden responded, “Government code prohibits voting on matters in which the member (or  spouse or dependent children, business, or source of income) has a direct financial or real property interest.  In these cases, the member must, by law, recuse his/herself from the vote. “

Since that clearly does not apply in this case, she added, “Absent these financial conflicts, elected officials must exercise their own judgment in deciding whether or not they can be impartial.”

However, she continued, “I understand the standard for these ‘personal conflicts’ commonly used to be that if an individual feels they cannot consider a matter in an impartial manner (a personal rather than financial conflict), they should choose recusal.”

She noted, “This is not defined by law, but rather left to individual judgment.  And it is not automatic.  Applied to DJUSD, it would not necessarily be dependent on whether or not a member has a child in a program, class, or activity.  It would be dependent on whether or not there is a real or perceived ‘personal’ conflict of interest in the mind of the member.”

“It is a standard I’ve seen delineated in other public agencies, and would support for addition to our policies if the Board considers revisions to conflict language,” Ms. Daleiden concluded.

One of the key questions is what recourse does the community have if they decide that Board Member Nancy Peterson needs to leave office.  She always has the ability to resign from office which would be a simple and clean process.  The public has the ability to remove any office holder through the recall process, which would require a signature-gathering phase and then an election to allow the voters to decide whether to remove the office holder and with whom to replace them.

However, one of the questions has been can the board of education itself sanction a board member whose conduct they believe breaches proper etiquette or otherwise crosses the lines of decency?

Gina Daleiden explained, “Censure is an expression of disapproval by a majority of a board, typically directed against one or more of its members.  It is an inherent aspect of a board’s First Amendment free speech right.  Other than a public expression of disapproval, however, a censure has no legal effect.”

“Censure is customarily invoked by resolution adopted by the board making specific findings of law and fact on which the board’s disapproval is based,” she adds.

Clearly, however, any decision to censure would have to occur after the board hears the appeal.  Ms. Daleiden notes, “School District Counsel strongly advises that it would be in conflict with the requirement for the Board to remain impartial in a quasi-judicial role while actively involved in a complaint/appeal process that involves a member or member’s family.”

Gina Daleiden further explained that there is a formal complaint process, as she enumerated yesterday.  She said, “Usually, complaints filed are considered confidential by the School District, and, as previously described, details, or even the existence of complaints, are not known to the Board until an appeal reaches our level ( in order to preserve the impartiality of the Board acting in a quasi-judicial manner with possible appeals).”

She added, “The details on this specific complaint/appeal will be reviewed by the Board as part of the appeal process.  At this time, we do not have all of the details, nor do have we formed opinions.”

“At this time, the matter before the Board is an appeal of a specific complaint.  Formal complaints must be investigated at some level following Board Policy and Administrative Regulations previously referenced,” she concluded.

Tonight, in addition to the special item on the agenda, there is an open session item that will discuss DJUSD Athletics Policies and Administrative Regulations.  Right now that is not expected to specifically address this issue, the board has not heard the appeal yet, and so there will be little in the way of formal action.

However, it is expected that there will be substantial public comment and Ms. Daleiden indicated that she will not attempt to limit the overall time for public comment.

Moreover, Ms. Daleiden will address more of the Vanguard’s questions as time allows.

—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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60 Comments

  1. Stacia Langley

    I now believe it is possible that Nancy Peterson got on the school board for the sole purpose of taking over the DHS volleyball program. I almost want to thank her for the entertainment, as well as for helping to expose some of the non-so-nice aspects of small town politics. I doubt that Crawford will ever buy her own drink in this town again.

    1. SouthofDavis

      Stacia wrote:

      > I doubt that Crawford will ever buy her own drink in this town again.

      Despite the fact that she will probably get plenty of money from the district to buy her own drinks before this mess is over…

        1. Davis Progressive

          may. but that’s a road filled with potholes. talked to some employment law folks who told me the findings by sperry were actually a good deal stronger that we may have previously believed and that terms like “more likely than not” and “influenced in part” are actually just legal phrases that denote the standard of proof rather than nuance. bottom line with public entities increasingly relying on SLAPP and other statutes, it is hard to sue and harder to win especially as an at will employee who has a VSA rather than any real workplace protection.

          1. hpierce

            Are your sources privy to the actual report, or just going off the “letter”? If they are privy to the actual report, how did they get it, and why should it not be fully released to the public?

  2. PhilColeman

    Ms. Daleiden accurately and eloquently defined the legal parameters of the term, “Conflict of Interest.” Basically, no conflict is assumed or regulated except when money is involved.

    In public service, however, I’ll borrow a phrase from an old hot dog commercial: “We answer to a higher power.”

    Persons who serve the public, particularly public officials vested with power, generally accept the reality that their decisions must be totally free of “conflict” between their personal interests and professional. But there’s more.

    The relevant catch phrase here is “Caesar’s wife,” not only must public figures avoid factual conflicts of interests, but also any APPEARANCE of a conflict.

    Perceptions have no limits among certain persons, so completely avoiding the appearance of a conflict of interest for a public official is an impossibility. Should any person in public service feel the necessity to ask themselves if there is an inherent conflict of interest with a pending decision before him/her the mere posing the question usually means “yes.” The safe and prudent course of action to recluse, or at least have a trusted confidant critically review your thinking process.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        And he may have found in favor of Nancy Peterson in a previous harassment claim. When investigating the behavior of Nancy Peterson, was there a 72-page report and a Summary letter to the Complainant?

    1. SouthofDavis

      Michael wrote:

      Unless an investigation is paid or by a (truly) disinterested third party the “investigation” is really just a “report to find what the person paying for it wanted to find”.

      I’m wondering if Michael in his professional live as an aviation lawyer has seen even one “investigation” paid for my a plane manufacturer that said they were responsible for a crash…

  3. TrueBlueDevil

    A post late last night (previous article) asserted that attorney Alex Sperry investigated an earlier complaint regarding Nancy Peterson and her alleged harassment of a previous coach. (2009-2010??) The post claims a minimal investigation.

    I wonder how useful it would be to know the billing hours and time of that legal “investigation”, compared to this one. Does this previous investigation, if true, present any conflict?

      1. Davis Progressive

        legal conflict is a pretty high order, but reading through the lines of gina d’s comments, i think it’s clear that she does not agree with the path that peterson has taken here.

    1. SouthofDavis

      TrueBlueDevil wrote:

      > A post late last night (previous article) asserted that attorney Alex Sperry
      > investigated an earlier complaint regarding Nancy Peterson and her alleged
      > harassment of a previous coach. I wonder how useful it would be to know
      > the billing hours and time of that legal “investigation”, compared to this one.

      It would be interesting to see the “grand total” of ALL school funds spent “investigating” and paying legal costs for issues related to Nancy Peterson and coaches Nancy does not like…

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        BINGO!! I hope that an intrepid reporter gets us some facts… how many complaints have been filed against the school Board, how many against Nancy Peterson (or is simply the filing of a Complaint also confidential?), and how many has she initiated?

        When the cheer leading coach resigns due to parental meddling, we know there is a big problem.

  4. Ryan Kelly

    There is enough evidence for me to not vote for candidates who have children currently in the school system. I always thought that there were enough layers of management that meddling would be kept to a minimum, but apparently there are avenues that an obsessed parent can take to circumvent these barriers. That is how I would describe Nancy Peterson – an obsessed parent who overstepped her role as spectator. I think that Nancy’s behavior at games created a hostile work environment – or minimally a stressful one. I can understand the coach taking the step – incorrect, it may be – to release the player from the team. No player, no parent.

    Nancy should resign from the Board. She clearly cannot separate her personal life from her obligations as a board member. I believe she has lost the community’s trust.

    1. wdf1

      Ryan Kelly: There is enough evidence for me to not vote for candidates who have children currently in the school system.

      It is less common to find a school board candidate who doesn’t have a child in the school system. Usually it is having a child in the system that is a motivating factor to participate as a candidate. Right now the only board trustee who doesn’t have a child in the system is Daleiden. Her last child graduated more than four years ago.

          1. wdf1

            Allen, Daleiden, & Taylor. As far as I know, only Sheila Allen announced that she’s not running again. I haven’t heard anything about Daleiden’s or Taylor’s plans.

    2. Michelle Millet

      There is enough evidence for me to not vote for candidates who have children currently in the school system.

      I see nothing inherently wrong with school board members having children in the district. How is that different from having council members that live in Davis?

      I would say we shouldn’t elect candidates that use their position and power to unduly influence decisions, regardless if it effects their child directly or not.

  5. TrueBlueDevil

    Don’t forget that Gina Daleiden went along with Nancy Peterson last summer against Coach Crawford in a losing 3-2 vote. She later switched her vote, supposedly based on new information.

    Greenwald’s article last summer, “Vanguard Commentary: Nancy Peterson Owes Community an Explanation” (July 22, 2013), describes even senior DHS administrators being in fear of their jobs if they don’t follow the whims of Peterson’s vendetta.

    1. David Greenwald

      Gina Daleiden told me that she voted not to approve the contract last year because she was not given enough information after it was pulled from the consent calendar, not because she opposed Coach Crawford. She voted in the 3-1 majority to reinstate Coach Crawford last summer.

      1. Michelle Millet

        Gina Daleiden told me that she voted not to approve the contract last year because she was not given enough information after it was pulled from the consent calendar, not because she opposed Coach Crawford.

        Daleiden stated as much publicly at the school board meeting when she cast her no vote.

  6. TrueBlueDevil

    wdf1 posted this informative link above: A video piece from iSeeDavis.com: Peterson: Q & A

    This video clip has new information and quotes from both Peterson’s and Coach Crawford.

    Page 1 of the DJUSD Summary Letter to Dr. Peterson is pictured in the clip! Apparently, Dr. Peterson will freely pass it around. Allegations against Coach Crawford included “retaliation and intimidation” and “willful malice”.

    Rob Peterson, on tape, says that the earlier complaints (summer 2013) dealt with “irresponsibility and incompetence.”

    Davis citizens, Nancy Peterson tells you “TO CALM DOWN”!

    My take. These carpetbaggers just don’t get it. Further, how in the world did Coach Julie Crawford win league titles and Coach of the Year awards if she is “irresponsible and incompetent”??? Really amazing and actually delusional.

  7. Michelle Millet

    Did an elected official really tell people to calm down over an scandal she is involved in? I would have gone in a different direction, like maybe expressing some regret over the incident and it’s negative consequences.

  8. David Greenwald

    ***UPDATE***

    District just released the names of the three attorneys on the billing statement:

    Eve P. Fichtner

    Alexander Sperry

    Justin H. Kochan

    “The district did not confer with any other attorneys on this matter.”

  9. TrueBlueDevil

    As an aside, Nancy Peterson is one of the school board members who believes that children who have an achievement gap will be put further behind by adding 10 extra minutes of homework a night. (This added homework would be primarily reading.)

  10. Michelle Millet

    David Greenwald
    ‏@DavisVanguard
    One parent spoke out that retaliation against a student wrong & all the speculation by bloggers & social media inappropriate #DavisVanguard

  11. Michelle Millet

    David Greenwald ‏@DavisVanguard 41s
    Robert Peterson: complainant, gotten a point with this process, the distortion, the lies, the blogs #DavisVanguard
    Collapse

  12. Michelle Millet

    David Greenwald ‏@DavisVanguard 34s
    Robert Peterson claims he has emails trails about threats and retaliation; complains that his kids photos linked on Davis Hub #DavisVanguard
    Expand

    1. SouthofDavis

      David wrote:

      > Dr. Peterson complains that his kids photos linked on Davis Hub

      When someone in the family runs for office they are going to have a lot less privacy. I can’t count how many times I have seen photos of the Wolk and Obama girls in the past year. Someone that knows the Petersons should (after calming down) tell them that they will reduce the chance of having their kids photos in the press if Nancy resigns (and stops trying to fire coaches she does not like)…

  13. Michelle Millet

    David Greenwald ‏@DavisVanguard 1m
    Craig Simmons -concerned about the money we’re spending to adjudicate what should be worked out with handshake #DavisVanguard

  14. yellow

    I just heard Rob Peterson speak during the public comment at the School Board meeting tonight, and as David tweeted above Rob referred to email trails and other information he has that he implies are damning to Julie Crawford’s reputation. He also said that the Board needs to “end this now.”

    Rob, you are obviously reading the Vanguard comments which you refer to as a “blog” and previously you gloated about how you are not bound by confidentiality like your wife is, so let me tell you what you need to do. Reply to this comment detailing what it is that you think Julie Crawford did over a year ago that was so horrible to warrant your wife to try multiple times to get her fired and then speak ill of her in her lone dissenting vote last June. Don’t bother saying anything about how you think she retaliated against your daughter, that’s after the fact. Convince us that you are in the right, because so far we have heard nothing to indicate that Julie Crawford did anything inappropriate to justify your wife’s actions last year.

    You have already attempted to ruin Julie Crawford’s reputation and get her fired, so back it up if you want this to “end now.” End the debate with your convincing evidence and shut up all the misdirected “bloggers.” Please.

    1. Michelle Millet

      Rob referred to email trails and other information he has that he implies are damning to Julie Crawford’s reputation.

      Unless he is willing/able to make public these emails public he should not be referring to them in public comment during a school board meeting.

  15. TrueBlueDevil

    1. If she did something wrong, then deliver the goods! It’s very simple. But then Dr. Peterson throws a lot of spaghetti, which always makes me very suspicious.

    2. Your new comment in your written complaint that Ms. Crawford is “incompetent” is laughable. My God, man, she has won 2 Coach of the Year awards and I think 4 league titles (out of 6). (Coaches often do a solid job with poor or average teams, so in this case it just made it a little easier for the reasonable citizens of Davis.)

    3. You apparently now claim to have an “email trail” that is damning. If you now are going to disclose confidential PERSONNEL information, you probably need to consider the repercussions. I can’t imagine this is legal, let alone ethical. Unless, of coarse, your wife got into an email pissing match (see Bob Dunning) with Coach Crawford.

    4. When I’ve gone to the Blue Devil HubExtra website this past week, I’ve seen nothing but promising young students. I would urge students to continue to be civil and respectful, but if they want to engage in some kind of protest or civil disobedience speaking “truth to power”, that’s their choice. In fact, one volleyball player tweeted about the poor behavior of adults and their “politics”.

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