By Steven Tavares.
The controversy surrounding fired Hayward Superintendent Stan Dobbs moved from the school board to the city council Tuesday night after Mayor Barbara Halliday ejected two members of the public, including School Board Trustee Luis Reynoso, from the chambers.
Reynoso and several other public speakers excoriated the city council for supporter or staying silent over Dobbs’ dismissal. Reynoso again slammed the council for interfering in the school district’s decision-making process and admonished them for supporting Dobbs in the past. “Shame on you,” he told each councilmember by name.
Last week, a school district investigation included testimony from a former employee who had an affair with Dobbs that he once struck her. Reynoso told the council during public comment, “We cannot tolerate violence against women or corruption in the district,”
Few councilmembers escaped Reynoso’s wrath Tuesday night. He also charged the City Council with inaction over a rise in homicides in Hayward. “We have had nine murders and one of them solved. Eight of them were Latinos. And [Councilmember Sara] Lamnin and [Councilmember Francisco] Zermeno said in the press that we’re safe. I guess it’s only safe when Latinos keep dying.”
Then, in a comment that set off the explosive conflict, Reynoso suggested some members of the City Council have previously profited from the school district. “Some of you or all of you are making money off the district,” said Reynoso. “We don’t need your services. Please don’t make money off our children. Now I can see why you support our superintendent.”
The comment riled Halliday, who began a response to Reynoso’s explosive allegation. But, before she could finish a sentence, members of the audience shouted her down.
“Brown Act! Brown Act!” exclaimed Jim Drake, a Hayward resident and frequent public commenter. “You’re not allowed to talk!” (Listen to the audio below.)
While rapping the gavel on the desk, Halliday said, “I am the mayor! I am in charge of this city council and I am always allowed to talk.” Drake was later kicked out of the meeting, as was Reynoso, who also protested the mayor improperly responding during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Such interaction is not permitted under the Brown Act, the state’s government transparency law, since it is viewed as an non-agendized item. Public comment is reserved for citizens to speak on any issue not included on that night’s agenda.
In the recent past, Halliday and some council members have been called out for similarly skirting the Brown Act, especially when it has occurred in response to public criticism of the City Council.
Once Reynoso and Drake were escorted outside the council chambers, Halliday continued. “We were just accused of many things that we as a council have not done,” said Halliday. “I am not going to sit here and be accused falsely and have my councilmembers accused falsely of doing something that we have not done.”
A few speakers later, however, on an unrelated topic, Halliday and another member of the council appeared to acknowledge the prohibition on addressing public speakers and obliquely offered further information to the individual, rather than addressing the speaker directly.
The angry exchange, however, is another example of the controversial tenure and firing of Dobbs that has roiled the community and delved both elected city government bodies into uncommon chaos.
Councilmember Al Mendall said his support for the political action committee seeking to drive Reynoso and two other incumbents from the board this November was not predicated on Dobbs, but only a desire to remake the board. Councilmember Mark Salinas added that at no point during the past few months did he support Dobbs.
However, amid the sense of obfuscation by some councilmembers and their support past and present for Dobbs, Councilmember Marvin Peixoto said he did not participate in the push to defeat Reynoso and others on the school board because of a fear the campaign would further divide the council and school board.
“What’s the Plan B?” Peixoto said if two of the three incumbents win re-election and maintain the current majority that fired Dobbs. Peixoto, a strong opponent of special interest expenditures in Hayward elections after SEIU Local 1021 spent more than $100,000 in an attempt to unseat him in 2014, said he reasoned he could not support the same gambit being used against the school board this year.