You Wouldn’t Want Anyone Critical on an “Oversight” Committee

Theresa Harrington from the Contra Costa Times re­cently wrote a story, West Contra Costa school board blocked well-known tax­payer rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Bond Oversight Committee, on the usu­ally silent process of keep­ing a com­pli­ant school dis­trict bond over­sight com­mit­tee in place. (I’ve been a mem­ber of this com­mit­tee since January 2011.) In this case it was not so silent. Although the story is much big­ger than that meet­ing, for now let’s walk through her story of the Feb. 1 meet­ing of the West Contra Costa County School Board. (I’ve posted the salient video clips on YouTube.)

Ramsey, who had been watch­ing the pro­ceed­ings on tele­vi­sion, asked the board to re­con­sider the mo­tion to deny a seat to Jungherr, which had died with a tie vote while he was at home.

Which is ex­actly the point. While Mr. Ramsey was at home, the mo­tion to refuse to ac­cept the nom­i­na­tion failed, and the mat­ter was di­rected to be taken up at the next meet­ing. All Ramsey had to do was wait till the next meet­ing, but that would have sug­gested he was a mere mor­tal.

In his re­port to the board, Superintendent Bruce Harter had rec­om­mended that Jungherr’s nom­i­na­tion be de­nied based on ac­tions when he had pre­vi­ously served on the com­mit­tee. Harter said Jungherr showed a lack of in­tegrity by writ­ing a let­ter to the county su­per­in­ten­dent on let­ter­head that Jungherr cre­ated him­self.

This was coaxed out of him dur­ing the meet­ing, but in the meet­ing ma­te­ri­als no rea­son was given be­yond:

Mr. Jungherr has pre­vi­ously served on the CBOC from 2004 to 2006 and again from 2009 to 2011. Based on those years of ex­pe­ri­ence, staff and the com­mit­tee lead­er­ship agree that re-ap­point­ing Mr. Jungherr will im­pede rather than en­hance the work of the com­mit­tee in meet­ing its statu­tory oblig­a­tions.”

By not spec­i­fy­ing the claims against Mr. Jungherr be­fore­hand, it de­nied him and the peo­ple who sup­port him a rea­son­able op­por­tu­nity to re­spond to the claims made against him. The will­ing­ness of Harter to put some­one on trial with­out any real state­ment of the claims against shows a lack of pro­fes­sional in­tegrity on his part.

As for the spe­cific item coaxed from Dr. Harter, it’s com­mon for in­di­vid­ual mem­bers of bod­ies to use sta­tionery in mak­ing state­ments. It’s also com­pletely within the rights of a body to reg­u­late how it’s sta­tionery is used. The CBOC, in all this time, has never de­vel­oped sta­tionery or any rules gov­ern­ing sta­tionery.

As al­ways, in cases like this, the ob­jec­tions to a member’s use of sta­tionery have noth­ing to do with ab­stract no­tions of proper sta­tionery use, but every­thing to do with what’s on the sta­tionery. In this case, Anton Jungherr pointed out that Bruce Harter had made some sort of er­ror in sub­mit­ting a bond mea­sure. The er­ror turned out to be sur­mount­able, but the af­front to Harter re­mained and the “smok­ing gun” for Ramsey’s lieu­tenants to trot out when­ever they feel in the mood.

The trustees were torn over Jungherr’s nom­i­na­tion. In Ramsey’s ab­sence, Madeline Kronenberg and Tony Thurmond voted to block Jungherr from the com­mit­tee, while Antonio Medrano and Elaine Merriweather voted against that mo­tion.

I think he’s been a dis­rup­tion to the process,” Kronenberg said.

The word “dis­rup­tion” evokes im­ages of slam­ming one’s fist on the desk like this. Yelling. Physically ob­struct­ing the com­mit­tee. None of this hap­pened.

Mr. Jungherr is cer­tainly not one to be cowed by bul­ly­ing, but ul­ti­mately he’s just one quiet, but per­sis­tent, old guy. Parliamentary pro­ce­dure over hun­dreds of years has de­vel­oped tech­niques for al­low­ing the bal­anc­ing of in­di­vid­ual opin­ion and group ef­fec­tive­ness. You just have to use it. Any item can be time-lim­ited and any mem­ber can make a mo­tion to end de­bate and move for­ward at any­time. The prob­lem is with the com­mit­tee leadership’s lack of in­ter­est in par­lia­men­tary pro­ce­dure. Mr. Jungherr’s crime was to “dis­rupt” by be­ing dif­fer­ent.

Thurmond ex­pressed con­cerns about Jungherr’s pre­vi­ous res­ig­na­tions from the com­mit­tee, but Medrano said it was im­por­tant to al­low dis­si­dent voices.

Jungherr was the Hercules nom­i­nee orig­i­nally. He re­signed in frus­tra­tion at the committee’s lack of ac­tion. He then came back on the com­mit­tee as a nom­i­nee of Audrey Miles. The School Board dis­cussed his pre­vi­ous res­ig­na­tion (ac­cord­ing to Charles Ramsey dur­ing the meet­ing) and ap­proved him.

The other “res­ig­na­tion” was Jungherr chang­ing his sta­tus as a Miles nom­i­nee to be­ing the se­nior cit­i­zens’ rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the com­mit­tee at the be­hest of Superintendent Harter. Read the agenda item. As a fur­ther sign of Harter’s lack of pro­fes­sional in­tegrity in this mat­ter, he re­fused to clar­ify this at all.

Merriweather didn’t state an opin­ion be­fore the vote but said af­ter­ward that she wanted to hear what Ramsey thought.

I would like to hear his opin­ion so I know that I’m vot­ing the right way,” she said.

Her wish came true when Ramsey sur­prised every­one by show­ing up and telling trustees he wanted to re­spond to Merriweather’s com­ment. By that time, all the mem­bers of the pub­lic who had come to ad­dress the is­sue had left, in­clud­ing Jungherr.

Charles Ramsey is the bond con­struc­tion pro­gram. The idea of re­ly­ing on him for ad­vice on who should be on the com­mit­tee to over­see what is ba­si­cally him is bizarre. But, this is just one ex­am­ple of the zom­bie-like re­la­tion­ship of the rest of the school board to Ramsey over the last cou­ple of years. In this meet­ing, my fa­vorite pa­thetic zom­bie mo­ment was when Tony Thurmond be­gan coo­ing over Ramsey like a star-struck school girl about his “pho­to­graphic mem­ory” in im­per­fectly re­call­ing the speak­ers dur­ing the ear­lier trial of Anton Jungherr.

Kris Hunt, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, which put in Jungherr’s name for nom­i­na­tion, said the board’s ac­tion vi­o­lated the spirit of the Brown Act. The pre­vi­ous rep­re­sen­ta­tive re­signed be­cause she was frus­trated by in­ac­cu­rate min­utes and a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment, she added.

Hostile en­vi­ron­ment” sums it up per­fectly. The con­stant bul­ly­ing and mil­i­tant lack of in­ter­est of some of the other com­mit­tee mem­bers has truly amazed me in my year and a quar­ter on the com­mit­tee. I truly feel sorry for not ap­pre­ci­at­ing the pain and sor­row of the pre­vi­ous taxpayer’s as­so­ci­a­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the com­mit­tee.

One nice thing about the ar­ti­cle is that it left the last word to the Great Satan him­self, Anton Jungherr

But Jungherr said Tuesday that he’s not go­ing away. He has pushed for ac­cu­rate records and com­pli­ance with the law.

He de­fended the let­ter­head he cre­ated, say­ing it iden­ti­fied him as a bond over­sight com­mit­tee mem­ber while the con­tent of the let­ter stated he was act­ing on his own.

They went to ex­tra­or­di­nary ef­forts to keep me off the com­mit­tee,” he said. “If you think dis­rup­tive is ask­ing to have the min­utes cor­rect and say­ing don’t have (for­mer) dis­trict em­ploy­ees on the com­mit­tee, I guess I’d plead guilty.”

More Stuff: Bond Oversight Committee Recordings

I’ve al­ways been an­noyed by the fact that, even though staff makes record­ings of our WCCUSD Citizens Bond Oversight Committee meet­ings, no one seemed to be able to get a hold of them. Then (sup­pos­edly) they are de­stroyed af­ter be­ing used to draft min­utes. Not very use­ful for the rest of us.

After a lot of work, I think can get them reg­u­larly now. As of to­day, I have record­ings of the last two meet­ings.

The next step was find­ing a way to make them avail­able. For this, I’m try­ing a ser­vice called Podomatic. It gives you 500Mb of free stor­age and pack­ages the sound files as pod­casts. Just use a spe­cial link to get to the pod­cast page:

From this page you can lis­ten to a record­ing, sub­scribe to the record­ings, or down­load them. A multi- or sin­gle-track play­ers can eas­ily be em­bed­ded like this:

I’ll see how this works out.