Last week an email whisper campaign unearthed a nine year old allegation against Jesse Ortiz, candidate for the Yolo County Superintendent of Schools. The allegation identified a report, dated April 14, 2005, that resulted in no charges, and as a result, an administrative investigation that concluded, “sexual misconduct involving Ortiz could not be substantiated during the investigation.”
However, the fact that Jesse Ortiz received an administrative reprimand that was placed in his personnel jacket, gave his opposition — in the form of Dino Gay, who runs a website in Woodland called the Woodland Record as well as others who have apparently been mass-distributing emails — enough fodder to press forward with an attack.
The core issue involved an alleged incident that occurred on April 14, 2005 in the parking lot of Woodland Community College, where a police officer spotted a man that he later identified as Jesse Ortiz, a counselor at the college, engaged in a sexual act in his vehicle.
For reasons still unclear, at the time of the incident the officer neither recorded the license plate, nor issued a citation. Both those steps would have required him to document the perpetrator’s driver’s license. When Mr. Ortiz was contacted five days later, he denied the report, and when the administration pursued an investigation, he obtained a lawyer.
As we noted, while “sexual misconduct” (a strong word for what police called a 647a, a misdemeanor) could not be established, Mr. Ortiz was issued a letter of reprimand in his personnel record by Woodland Community College. Mr. Ortiz chose to legally challenge this action by the College, which changed the private nature of the incident, and eight years ago thrust it into the public realm.
A court trial regarding Mr. Ortiz’s challenge was heard by Judge Kathleen White, who would rule against his allegation that the Community College violated the Brown Act when it considered disciplinary action against him. He would subsequently appeal and on December 30, 2013, it was reported that Mr. Ortiz did not prevail in the appeal.
However, the appeal was only on the issue of the Brown Act violation. In Judge White’s statement of decision on May 28, 2010, which the Vanguard recently acquired, in the course of ruling against Mr. Ortiz’ primary claims, wrote, “The uncontroverted evidence indicates that the District reprimanded the plaintiff because he refused to admit guilt, deeming his assertions of innocence a lack of “cooperation.””
Judge White writes, “The Court finds this troubling.”
“The District’s process at best echoes Alice in Wonderland (“first verdict, then trial”), and at worst, offends due process,” the Judge boldly rules but then adds, “the handling of plaintiff’s reprimand is not the issue before this court.” She writes, “The sole issue before Court is whether the District violated the Brown Act. Based on all of the above, the Court finds that the June 15, 2005, closed session did not violate the Ralph M. Brown Act. Accordingly, judgment must be rendered in favor of the District and against the plaintiff.”
Opponents of Mr. Ortiz have used his lack of cooperation as evidence of his guilt. But Judge White had access to the administrative files that these opponents did not. What becomes clear here is that while an incident did actually occur, the officer was sloppy (to put it extremely mildly) in his initial report, and the failure to obtain basic information like Driver’s License and Vehicle license prevented the police from pressing charges in this matter.
Jesse Ortiz, lawyered up when facing accusations, denied the allegations and neither the police nor the Community College could prove them.
The Community College, according to Judge White, apparently reprimanded Mr. Ortiz because he refused to admit guilt in the matter.
Opponents have argued that Mr. Ortiz’ suit was an effort to cover his tracks, but as we previously noted a reprimand would have constituted a private personnel matter and no one would have ever known of the reprimand if it were not for the fact that Mr. Ortiz chose to file a complaint against the college.
Finally, Mr. Ortiz’ opponent Sam Neustadt told the Vanguard this weekend, he knew nothing of this matter until the two met with the Davis Enterprise during the endorsement process that ultimately went in Mr. Neustadt’s favor.
Given his rather strong statement this weekend, we tend to believe that Mr. Neustadt was unaware of these allegation. We believe that the information from Judge White should put this matter to rest once and for all. The public should vote for the candidate they believe is most qualified for this position.
From the Campaign to Elect Sam Neustadt:
“I want to express my gratitude to those who support my campaign for the office of Yolo County Superintendent of Schools. We have generated significant momentum on the merits of my qualifications for this important job, including endorsement by The Davis Enterprise.
It has come to my attention, however, that information regarding my opponent’s past legal matters has been disseminated by people outside of my campaign team, as a basis to vote for me rather than him. While my campaign team and I respect everyone’s right to freely express their opinions, to the extent that this information was circulated with the intent to engage in negative campaigning, we do not condone this. I ask that supporters remain focused on highlighting my experience as a career educator and my plan to improve services for the students of Yolo County.
I would encourage that those of you who are still doing research look at the following articles:
My commitment from day one has been to focus my campaign on the role of the Superintendent of Schools and why I believe my background as a career educator best qualifies me for that job. I want to thank you for supporting constructive conversations that focus on the most important aspect of this campaign – who is most qualified to best serve the students, educators, and families of Yolo County.”
—David M Greenwald reporting