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Bullying by the Superintendent

Written By Kenneth Brooks on 02-19-2013 | in Government, Ethics, Vallejo, Human Relations, Critical Thinking,

Vallejo City Unified School District has problems with bullying on its campuses. Parents protested about it to Superintendent Bishop and the School Board without positive results. I don't expect much positive action from Bishop, because she is part of the problem.

Bishop targeted me for bullying over a trivial dispute about my August 22, 2011 public record request to see records of the Districts professional training for teachers and staff how to deal with students of color. Alana Shackelford directed me to the District’s website that had an outline and schedules of the training, but no records of completed training sessions. By email and telephone Shackelford insisted the District did not have any other records of the training.

On the telephone, Bishop also claimed the District did not have other records of training. I said it was unlikely the school district would not keep records of this type training. Then, she reversed herself and admitted the District had videotapes of the training and she was making CD production copies of it. She asked me to delay reviewing the videotapes until she completed this task. I agreed to the extension although I was skeptical about the reliability of the verbal agreement with a person that just lied to me.

Twenty days passed and the District had not delivered the videotapes for my review. The California Public Records Act (CPRA) requires the superintendent to write a request for extending the time to deliver records for a period of no more than 14 days. I petitioned Bishop to comply with the CPRA immediately. After that, the District did not communicate information to me about my requests or other matters from its Vallejo headquarters as required by law. DWK law firm in San Francisco communicated information to me about my record requests that it alleged was from the District.

DWK declared in an October 4, 2011letter that it represented the District regarding my August 22, 2011 records request. A DWK attorney asserted the District completed its duty regarding my record request when Shackelford directed me to the information on the website. He claimed the District did not have other records of the training. He warned that if I filed a lawsuit, the District would set out his version of the facts before the Court and probably it would find I filed a frivolous lawsuit. Therefore, Bishop was denying the existence of videotape records that she admitted having three weeks earlier.

I asked what legal authority permitted DWK to represent the District in this administrative matter. DWK responded, “With regard to your concerns regarding our representation of the District, I can assure you that our office has been retained to represent the District with regard to your Public Record Act requests and that we are authorized by the District Board and Dr. Bishop to speak on the District’s behalf in this matter.” They made a false claim, because the School Board does not have authority to approve a local public records policy that provided slower and less access to records than the CPRA prescribed or approve policy only for my record requests.

I sent a request to the District, “I request to see the public records in Vallejo City Unified School District files of the contract or document designating or authorizing DWK law firm to act as Vallejo School District’s public records agent for making responses to public records requests submitted by Kenneth Brooks.”

DWK/Bishop claimed my record request was ambiguous and impossible to answer. I repeated my request in more detail and they made similar evasive responses. Finally, DWK wrote, “As previously advised, the ambiguity in your request is with regards to the authority granted to DWK. Your request could be interpreted to imply that the District has delegated its obligation to respond to your PRA requests to DWK. If that is your assumption, then, there are no documents responsive to your request because the District has not delegated that obligation.”

DWK/Bishop's response confirmed an important fact no matter they confused it with irrelevant conjecture. The School Board had not published a local public record policy authorizing DWK to represent or speak for the District regarding my public record requests as previously claimed by DWK.

DWK/Bishop created another deception about the videotapes of the training to suggest they recently discovered evidence the videotapes may exist. October 14, 2011, they wrote, “As for the video, the District is still working on obtaining whatever recording(s) it may have.” Also, “The videographer for the training has been out of town for 7-10 days and has not responded to the District’s inquiry as to what video exists.” So, two months after the training sessions and ten days after denying any records of it, they casually mention knowledge of a “videographer for the training” who now is on vacation. Their changed position reeks of deception.

Later, they reported the District finished compiling the videotape records onto a CD and I had to pay $234.16, to receive a copy of the CD, to view the CD, or to view the videotapes. They were holding my right to view the videotapes hostage to a ransom equal to the money Bishop spent compiling the videotape records on CDs for use by the District. The money claim was more bulling than concern for costs. Bishop was paying DWK $255.00 per hour for communicating with me about record requests although managing public records requests is a duty in Shackelford's job description.

I refused to pay the ransom and they dropped the payment requirement saying I could view the CD, the videotapes, or both by appointment. I made an appointment to view only the videotapes. Nevertheless, they had only a CD available for my review when I arrived at the Superintendent’s Office. Shackelford dismissed my questions about the missing videotapes, saying the attorney's would contact me. A few days later, DWK asserted the CD was an exact copy of the videotapes as if his assurance satisfied the District's duty to deliver the videotapes.

Bishop and her aides directed me to make an appointment specifically to see the videotapes and drive to District headquarters to review videotapes when they had no intention of delivering the tapes for my review. I cannot describe the mindset and standards of morality that conviced them this was acceptable professional conduct. This behavior, false statements, arrogation of School Board authority, and bullying disqualify them for the positions they hold in the District.

The School Board damages the integrity of the District's regulations and policy if it excuses this conduct by the superintendent and the District's general counsel while punishing comparable behavior by students. Therefore, the School Board must remove them from their positions with the District.

Vallejo citizen public safety committee

Written By Kenneth Brooks on 02-02-2012 | in Government, Vallejo, Democracy, Critical Thinking,

Vallejo City Council’s proposed citizen public safety committee received unwarranted hostility from police officers. Perhaps something in the water or air here in Vallejo, California breeds hostility between factions. The hostility between Vallejo's public safety departments, council members and residents is extraordinary for public servants of free people. Past and current attitudes by some public safety officers asserting themselves as the people’s guardians and immune from observation or criticism by residents surprised me. They overlook that the city hired them as employees working in service for Vallejo residents no matter the nature of their work.

I find it difficult to reconcile the hostility I’ve witnessed by members of public safety department as a group against the council with my contacts with Vallejo police officers. Many years ago, my neighborhood was infested with open drug dealing. Vallejo's police department cleared away the infestation. They did so solicitous of residents’ concerns, without condescension and without the expectation hero worship. Some police officers’ remarks critical of the citizens public safety committee shocked me by the intensity of their anger and the disrespectful personal attacks against certain council members. The essence of their criticism was that people don’t like oversight from amateurs. They claimed that looking over police officers shoulders could damage relationships with them. Another assertion was that people who have not been police officers couldn’t know what their work is about. One officer suggested that citizens would involve themselves in the committee simply for "political leverage or as a hobby." He added, “As the city council, you should stop hostilities against the Vallejo police department. I'm asking you to let us do our job, free from the circus-type environment. . .” Those officers need to review their civics lessons. The United States of America and California are organized as constitutional republican governments where the people retain supreme powers. Those Constitutions create governments with limited powers controlled by the people’s elected representatives. The elected representatives in California are the State Legislature, County Board of Supervisors and city council members. Police officers are subordinate to the police chief, who is subordinate to the city manager that administers City of Vallejo according policy outlined by the city council.

The criticizing officers claimed to be professional in their duties. However, respectful conduct towards the people and their elected representatives is a fundamental characteristic of professionalism for government workers. Failing this requirement, an officer is unfit to exercise the power and discretion the people and their elected representatives entrusted to them. We hired them to protect our lives, homes and loved ones. The criticism that we as “citizen committee members would become involved simply for "political leverage or as a hobby," suggests police officers have more integrity and concern for public safety than Vallejo residents do. Worse, it suggests that elected council members lack the judgment to select responsible people for those positions or they lack leadership ability to replace a wrong choice.

The contemptuous amateur label a critic used for committee members is misapplied, because they will not be doing police work. Committee members will not be riding shotgun in police cars, supervising Special weapons and Tactic (SWAT) teams or investigating murders. They will search for ways to improve police services. If we accept the amateur status as a reason not to create this committee, then applying the same misapplied logic only former police officers could run for city council, serves as city manager or as jury members because all those positions exercise oversight or evaluate police work or conduct.

Complaining officers need to accept certain conditions of public service employment or look for new employment. Although the council says this is not a review committee, public safety departments are subject to oversight by the people and their elected representatives no matter how professionally or competently they perform. In a constitutional republic, the people have the right and duty to protect their freedom and assure the best use of tax revenue.

Naturally, I want the most qualified and best-staffed police force possible. Nevertheless, I prefer officers with less experience that understand the public servant role over those that are convinced that police work requirements elevate them over the people and answerable only to senior public safety officials.

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