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  • Thursday, September 28, 2006

     

    SPECIAL REPORT: The ROCCO CENSURE REPORT

    OUSD Trustee John Ortega
    Confronts OUSD Trustee Steve Rocco
    The Image OUSD doesn’t want you to see and the words they didn’t want you to hear.

    In a Greater Orange Community exclusive, Orange Net News is publishing this photograph of the Censored September 14th Orange Unified School Board meeting where Orange Unified Trustee John Ortega confronted Orange Trustee Steve Rocco over Rocco’s remarks during the meeting and the complete transcript of the confrontation between the two.

    In the photograph shown here, Ortega is seen standing facing off over the seated Rocco. The entire ten minute Rocco rant in the last part of the meeting was censored on orders of OUSD Superintendent Dr. Godley. The censored parts included: the one minute statement that Rocco would have voted to fire former VPHS Ben Rich instead of transferring him to Richland H.S. (that statement is now the subject of a vote of censure, sponsored by Trustee Kim Nichols and Wes Poutsma who was absent from the September 14th meeting); a rambling mostly incoherent complaint about Fred Smoller’s call for Rocco’s resignation; the Ortega confrontation; and the hastily made motion to end the meeting. Nothing in the censored broadcast informed the community that the broadcast they were watching had been censored. Orange Net News broke the story that the broadcast to the community was censored on Godley’s orders on Saturday September 23rd. An Orange County Register story on Monday September 25th confirmed that Godley said he cut out the last part of the meeting.

    In the early part of the meeting that was broadcast to the community, Rocco is seen objecting to OUSD Board President Kim Nichols allowing herself and Kathy Moffat to speak to the Villa Park High School situation, but not him. Nichols earlier in the meeting spoke about the credentialing situation of Villa Park High School teacher Dr. Linda Bartom and her ability to teach the Fine Arts designated TV Media Class. While not supporting Rocco, many in the community see Nichols’ move to censure Rocco on Brown Act violations over a letter he received concerning the reassignment of removed VPHS Principal Ben Rich to Richland as hypocrisy given the lengthy personnel comments Nichols made about Bartom. Long time board watchers attribute the move by Nichols and Trustee Wes Poutsma (who was not even present at the meeting) as more of a personal matter. In the only original motion Poutsma has made since being on the Board, his efforts to cut short a meeting during another one of Rocco’s frequent end of meeting rants was voted down by the other Board members. Nichols, unlike former Board President Kathy Moffat, has been unsuccessful in controlling Rocco during Board meetings this year as her lack of leadership in allowing the confrontation between Ortega and Rocco at the Censored September 14th Board Meeting during the Ortega/ Rocco confrontation bares witness to.

    The following is the transcript of the Rocco/Ortega confrontation at the Censured September 14th
    Orange School Board Meeting:


    As OUSD Trustee Steve Rocco rambled on about his reaction activist Fred Smoller calling for his resignation the following occurs:

    Trustee J. Ortega: (as he begins to rise out of his chair) “I’m leaving.”

    Trustee S. Rocco: “That’s, fine. If you’re bored, if you’re bored, you’re welcome to leave Mr. Ortega. Someday tell us about your brother who was employed here”

    (Ortega stands to face Rocco. Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Cohen lets yells out a loud “Oh” as Trustee Melissa Smith covers her face and turns away).

    Ortega: “Mr. Rocco I think you need to be quiet. O.K.”
    Rocco: “No I think I need to keep going.”

    Ortega: “You know you’re not here for the children.”

    Rocco: “I’m not?”

    Ortega: “Don’t personalize it. Now you have employees. Now you’re talking about a brother of mine who passed away.”

    Rocco: “Yes, Wasn’t it of drugs?

    Ortega: “You have no heart”

    Trustee M. Smith: “Mrs. Nichols.”

    Rocco: “Wasn’t it of drugs?”

    Ortega: “O.K. enough.”

    Smith: “Mrs. Nichols.”

    Nichols: “Yes Misses…”

    Smith: “I would like to make a motion to adjourn.”

    Ortega: “Yes.”

    Nichols: “Thank you Mrs. Smith. Is there a second to that motion?”

    Trustee Kathy Moffat: “Second.”

    Nichols: “Thank you Mrs. Moffat.

    Ortega: (looking at Dr. Godley) “Doctor…”

    Nichols: “It’s been moved and seconded to adjourn this meeting…it’s a….it’s….not debatable…not…disss…any…all those in favor…all those in favor say aye.”

    (Moffat, Ortega, Trustee Rick Ledesma, Smith and Nichols all say “aye”. )

    Nichols: “All those opposed, no.”

    Rocco: “No.”

    Nichols: “Mr. Ledesma did you vote?”

    Ledesma: “Aye”.

    Nichols: “Thank you. Five yes. One no.”

    Rocco: (simultaneous with Nichols above): “By the way, I have more.”

    Rocco: “I’ve got more. I’ve heard…”
    Nichols: “Where adjourned.”

    Rocco: “This is a very dysfunctional board meeting here…”

    Ortega: (to Godley who has walked over to him) “Call the District Attorney, cause this is crazy here”.

    A complete uncensored DVD of the Censored September 14th Board meeting can be purchased for $10.00 at the Superintendent's Office at the Orange Unified School District.

    The ROCCO CENSURE REPORT
    a special news series from Orange Net News /O/N/N/
    produced by the Orange Communication System /OCS/

    Comments:
    It's "bored" not board.
     
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
     
    I never called Trustee Steven Rocco a “criminal abstentionist.” I did say that since he takes a taxpayer stipend, that he should attend the closed door meetings of the Board, where much substantive work should be done. If he is not willing to do the job, then he should resign. I hope the board goes forward with a censure motion. This man is a train wreck waiting to happen.
     
    If you ask me the entire school board needs to be replaced.
     
    Our school board is composed of individuals from our community. Most of them just want to do their civic duty and fill an important role in guiding our school district. The disruptive influence of Mr. Rocco -- who was elected by a "fluke" -- is an irritant which distracts from the mission of the Board. If there are procedures in the law which allow a dismissal, a recall, or whatever, the community and/or Board should take those steps.
     
    It seems that Mr. Rocco is just a product of the City of Orange voters' mindset. Dare I say "predjudiced"? At least Santa Ana voters didn't elect Rocco mayor when he ran against someone with a Latino surname.
    Perhaps Phil Martinez should have changed his name to "Phil Martin" on the ballot and none of this pathetic drama would have played out. I'm almost sure there is nothing Latino about Mr. Martinez other than his last name. Apparently he did very little to inform the voters of this fact. He apparently needs to convey this fact to the current voters if he ever wants to get elected in this town.
    Perhaps the voters of this fine city need to re-examine their decision making process and vote for the best candidate not the most appealing name to them.
    By the way, being a teacher has very little to do in actually serving on a school board. Voters, next time look at community involvement and you'll find these type of folk do a lot better job representing you on a school board.
     
    My biggest question is why now? It seems that this is either a big political move by the three presidents slate, or Rocco really did hit a nerve. I don't now that much about the nepotism issue and would not have cared but why would they try and cover it up. I know that Capo got in trouble for a nepotism related issue. Based on the way the situation was dealt with I know that I no longer have what little trust was left in the trustees and think it is great that Greater Orange News eBlog is keeping the public informed.
     
    I do not think anyone is "picking" on Mr. Rocco to gain political advantage in November--certainly not Mr. Ortega, who was obviously deeply wounded by Rocco's thoughtless comments, yet managed to maintain his composure.

    The simple fact is that Rocco is doing real harm to the district, and his desire for attention will likely result in a costly lawsuit, further embarassment to the district, or something worse.

    The fact that Rocco got elected in the first place raises important questions that should be addressed, including voter apathy, the failure of the local press to cover "low ballot" races, and the difficulty recruiting qualified candidates for local office.

    However, the question now is how do we get him off the Board, without inflicting further damage to a district that has seen more than its share of controversy?

    If he were recalled, I would hope that Mr. Martinez would be appointed to replace him. He would follow in the footsteps of a reasonably long list of individuals with Latino surnames--Perez, Vasquez, Alvarez, Ortega, Ambriz-- who've served in public office in Orange. It is time for this charade to be over. The question is, how do we end it?
     
    Put Martinez on the school board because he's Hispanic?

    Fred, we're fortunate the great majority of Orange residents don't think like you -- that skin color is a qualification for office.

    And please try to recall Rocco -- it would be amusing to watch he quickly your effort fizzles out.
     
    It is so sad that you are giving Rocco the attention that he craves rather than paying attention to the fact that the majority of the school board is composed of good, solid citizens that want the best for our children. Thanks to them we don't have teachers leaving in drones nor the petty self-serving objectives of the previous board. This election gives the citizens of Orange a true choice to make: We can continue to go forward and make headway into the great district we could become, or we could move back into the nightmare from whence we have come since they took control. It's up to you!
     
    Smoller, learn election law. In a recall, the voters elect the replacement. The replacement is not appointed.

    Anon at 12:56 PM, I assume you are referring to the board that voted to put a tax hike back on the ballot less than a year after the voters rejected it. Of course, the voters rejected it again the second time. School board members should obey the will of the people. While putting it on the ballot the first time is debatable, that second time was just an outright insult to the voters.
     
    It's possible to ignore Mr. Rocco.

    As a Board member, he's got more lattitude to ramble on. The Board Chair must curtail Rocco, and the fact that he's disruptive or ignorant should not affect the rest of the Board.

    I know, it's not easy, but the voters will detect and correct.
     
    I read many of the comments about why Mr. Rocco was elected, and it has nothing to do with racism. If racism has anything to do with it, why did Ortega win? He was unopposed. Ledesma also sounds like a hispanic surname and he was elected, and Viviano was a Board member elected multiple times. The reason why Mr. Rocco won is because many of the opponents of the twice failed bond attempt voted for the candidate not supported by the Union. This voting block was the key in Rocco's election, even though he did not spend a penny on the campaign. One might ask, well why did Wes Poutsma win while being supported by the Union? The real question is why did Wes Poutsma only get 54% of the vote. He was backed by the Union, had name recognition, and was running against a political novice at best who hardly campaigned at all, and only spent a few dollars. There were many protest votes against Wes Poutsma, just not enough to cost him the election.
     
    I read many of the comments about why Mr. Rocco was elected, and it has nothing to do with racism. If racism has anything to do with it, why did Ortega win? He was unopposed. Ledesma also sounds like a hispanic surname and he was elected, and Viviano was a Board member elected multiple times. The reason why Mr. Rocco won is because many of the opponents of the twice failed bond attempt voted for the candidate not supported by the Union. This voting block was the key in Rocco's election, even though he did not spend a penny on the campaign. One might ask, well why did Wes Poutsma win while being supported by the Union? The real question is why did Wes Poutsma only get 54% of the vote. He was backed by the Union, had name recognition, and was running against a political novice at best who hardly campaigned at all, and only spent a few dollars. There were many protest votes against Wes Poutsma, just not enough to cost him the election. And won more thing, my last name is of German heritage, but I am of hispanic descent, and I voted for Rocco. Let's face it, people actually vote on issues some times.
     
    Two points:

    Does it really matter why Rocco was elected? The issue today is that he is obviously a loose cannon who can do real harm. He should not be ignored, and the Board should put principle above electoral politics, and censor him. This would spotlight to the community that we have a serious problem with one of our trustees and his colleagues are doing everything they can to deal with him, given the limits of the law. This would be the first step toward a recall, should he not resign, which is unlikely.

    Anyone who says things about Ortega's brother from the dias is a lawsuit waiting to happen. What, for example, would happen if he were to reveal private information about, say, a disciplinary action being considered by the Board against a student, or other confidential information about an employee that he, as a Board member, might be privy to?

    This is not a debate over policy--since he does not articulate any coherent set of ideas or principles--but of mental competence. This is more serious than an "odd duck" who can be isolated and ignored.

    Second, according to the the "Procedure for
    Recalling State and Local Elected Officials" prepared by the Secretary of State, (p.26, paragraph, "C")

    "At the election, voters will decide whether or not to recall the officer and, if there is a candidate, will choose a successor if the recall is successful." The decision to recall an official is separate from the decision of whether and how to replace him.

    In 1994, Orange County had another incompetent individual in a position of power. His name was Bob Citron, and the press, the public, and his colleagues ignored him. The result was the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. I think there is a parallel situation at OUSD, which is why Ortega said to Godley, “Call the District Attorney, cause this is crazy here”.
     
    Nice try Smoller.

    You quoted the Procedure for
    Recalling State and Local Elected Officials
    booklet from the Secretary of State: "At the election, voters will decide whether or not to recall the officer and, if there is a candidate, will choose a successor if the recall is successful." This actually means that the voters will vote to recall, and on the same ballot, the voters will elect a successor. For precedent, see the 2003 Gubernatorial Recall or the 2001 OUSD Trustee Recall.

    Also, California Elections Code Section 11385 says, "If at a recall election an officer is recalled, the candidate receiving the highest number of votes for the office shall be declared elected for the unexpired term of the recalled officer."

    Both clearly state that should an election to recall Rocco take place, then the voters will simultaneously vote as to whether to recall voter and as to who his replacement should be.

    Of course, the Elections Code takes precedence over the Secretary of State's handbook when they conflict since the Elections Code is state law while the handbook is just a guide. Nevertheless, they both agree with my interpretation.
     
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