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.”