Fair Political Practices Commission rejects complaint against school board member

Fair Political Practices Commission rejects complaint against school board member
West Contra Costa School Board board member Leslie Reckler.

The Fair Political Practices Commission has rejected a complaint against West Contra Costa School Board board member Leslie Reckler, who was censured by the board earlier this year.

James M. Lindsay Chief of Enforcement for the FPPC said the agency will not pursue enforcement actions against Reckler after reviewing the complaint and evidence provided.

“The complaint failed to establish that a contract or governmental decision was made or that the necessary financial interest was present that could have caused a violation of Government Code Section 1090 or Section 87100,” Lindsay wrote.

On January 10, the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board voted to censure Trustee Reckler for actions related to a fundraising application, failure to report violations by a coach, her responses to a financial audit request, and accessing documents after resigning as the treasurer of the Student Activities Fund.

West Contra Costa School Board votes to censure board member Leslie Reckler
The West Contra Costa Unified School District Board voted last week to censure Area 5 Trustee Leslie Reckler, following its decision to refer her to the District Attorney’s Office for alleged misconduct. Reckler called the actions a witch hunt intent on publicly embarrassing and silencing her independent and outspoken

The school board also removed Reckler from committees and appointments for the 2023-2024 school year and referred the matter to the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office. The resolution passed with Jamela Smith-Folds, Otheree Christian, and Demetrio Gonzalez Hoy voting yes, while Mister Phillips and Leslie Reckler voted no.

Reckler said the government code says that if a public official has a financial interest, they may not partake in governmental decisions, and because she had no financial interest, no Political Reform Act violation occurred. 

“I have said all along I had a noninterest (no financial interest) because I was a volunteer, non-compensated officer of a nonprofit organization,” Reckler said. “In order to have had a financial interest, I would have had to receive at least $500 in compensation, and I received none.” 

Reckler said it is very concerning that the Superintendent, the Board and the board’s attorney used seemingly flawed analysis to pursue this as far as they did.

“It is exceedingly common for public officials to hold board positions in local nonprofits, and a basic understanding of the law should be expected,” Reckler said. “With so many pressing problems, this was an unsound use of staff time, resources and money. The WCCUSD is in no financial position to squander any of them.” 

Last month, the WCCUSD School Board voted to eliminate $4.6 million in non-salary reductions and approximately 120+ positions valued at $14.2 million, Reckler said.

“On tonight’s agenda, there are another $4.7 million in positions that staff is asking us to eliminate. This batch of reductions is a little different. They are reliant on grant funding, philanthropy and other funding streams that are not guaranteed at this moment. By law, the district must notify employees by March 15 that they may not have a job,” Reckler said.

Contention continued at board meetings following the initial censure. Just before the end of the February 7 meeting, Board President Jamela Smith-Folds read a prepared statement admonishing Trustee Reckler for her behavior at the school board’s January 24 retreat, accusing Reckler of manipulation for requesting to speak at El Cerrito High School’s graduation ceremony—permission which is necessary due to the censure.

In her statement, Smith-fold said,” I want to let you know that I consider myself a lead in the anti-racist anti-racism push that we’re doing with the district. I would like to read the following statement that the action of listening when you are being called out and called in is the work of anti-racism.”

Smith-Folds told the board, “If you feel uncomfortable with my words, I invite you to call yourself out of privilege and call yourself into the space of learning from others.” 

Speaking directly to Reckler, Smth-Folds said, “Trustee Reckler, “Using your fragility to ensure your wants are secured is beyond bullying, its manipulation,” Smith-Folds said. “You live in a bubble of protection where an entrenched ranking based on race and emotional range has white tears trump everything else.”

Trustee Philips, commenting after Smith-Folds’s statement, said he’d wanted to say the meeting had been positive but could no longer do so.

“I was ready to say this was a good meeting, a well-run meeting. I can’t say that in this moment, Phillips said. “All of that could have been said in private, and to say it at the end of the meeting where she (Reckler) can’t even respond to it isn’t fair, Philips said.

In response, Smith-Folds said she’d done what was needed to address issues of “microaggression and fragility.”

“What I did tonight was exactly what needs to be done if we’re moving to an anti-racist district because if we don’t call things as we see them, then we will continue to do what we have always done, which is not address issues of microaggression not address issues of disparity not address issues of fragility, and not address issues of racism that run thick in our country, in our district, and in our country it may have been uncomfortable, that doesn’t mean it didn’t need to be said,” Smith-Folds said.

The Grandview Independent filed a public records request with the school district on January 14, seeking documents and communications related to the investigation. 

In a response from Dr. Camille Johnson, Interim Associate Superintendent, the district claims numerous disclosure exemptions, including stating the number of records to be reviewed is so extensive that it is “unduly burdensome.”

“The District is currently conducting a process of reviewing and redacting the report, its attached exhibits, and all related documents in order to produce all non-exempt, redacted records responsive to your request. Due to the extensive nature of the content contained in these documents, the review and redaction of these records has taken considerable time. The district is currently making a good faith effort to complete its processing in a timely manner,” Johnson wrote.

The school board meets at Lovonya DeJean Middle School at 3400 Macdonald Ave. at 6:30 p.m. and on Zoom at https://zoom.us/j/443916491

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