LANCASTER — The Antelope Valley Teachers Association Representative Council voted unanimously Tuesday to support a proposed recall effort against Antelope Valley Union High School Board President Robert “Bob” Davis, Vice President Victoria Ruffin and Clerk Amanda Parrell.
Antelope Valley Teachers Association President Dan Shy invited Davis to the rep council’s May 1 meeting to address member concerns after a series of controversial decisions by the trio, including awarding lucrative contracts to friends and associates. Davis attended the meeting and answered the teachers’ questions for nearly two hours. The rep council postponed any decision on whether or not to support the recall until Tuesday’s meeting.
Shy talked about Davis’ May 1 visit to the rep council. He recalled how Davis said the Board’s role is not to involve itself in personnel matters.
Yet in an April 26 email to Superintendent David Vierra, which Shy obtained via a public records request, Davis wrote, “After further discussion during closed session regarding Mr. Brian Hawkins, assistant superintendent of Business Services, I am electing to not rehire and discontinue Mr Hawkins for the 19-20 school year. As board president I am requesting this item be placed on the next school board meeting agenda for May 9, 2019.”
Shy said, “The man stood right here and was asked a question that he didn’t have to lie about and he lied directly to our face.”
Shy added if Davis lied about that what else did he lie about.
The Board voted in closed session May 9 to extend Hawkins’ contract by one year.
Davis first joined the school Board in December 2015. Ruffin and Parrell joined the Board this past December. Since then, the Board has had 23 3-2 votes. In the three years after Davis joined the Board, there were nine 3-2 votes.
Davis, Ruffin and Parrell’s controversial actions include awarding a $75,000 contract for four month’s work with Davis associate Kathleen Van Antwerp’s Full Circle Consulting Systems Inc. for a pilot implementation of the group’s S.T.O.P. Educational model. They also approved a $48,500 contract with a newly formed security company led by Bruce Frank, a former co-worker of Davis, to conduct a security analysis of the District.
The Board majority also approved an open-ended contract with Los Angeles-based law firm Harris & Associates, led by $400-an-hour principal attorney John W. Harris, apparently in violation of state law. The District had longtime in-house General Counsel Bridget Cook, and also contracts with Fagen Friedman and Fulfrost, one of the state’s leading educational law firms.
According to the California Attorney General’s office, a Board may not appoint outside counsel to provide unrestricted advice to the Board when an in-house counsel has been appointed.
Harris attended two Board meetings in February, apparently falling asleep during one meeting. Davis conferred with Harris for two months before the Board took action at a special April 18 meeting to authorize him to do so. Ruffin has also conferred with Harris, though the Board has not authorized her to do so. She refused to stop seeking Harris’ advice when asked by student trustee Noah Sveiven at the Board’s May 9 meeting.
Davis, Ruffin and Parrell voted in closed session and apparently in violation of the Brown Act to fire Cook at the May 9 meeting.
The trio also voted on Jan. 24 to award an open-ended contract to D’Vacor Entertainment Group, a Northern California-based events and entertainment planning company led by Ruffin associate Rose Lyles to create individual websites for the trio, at an estimated cost of up to $5,000 each and $1,000 a month for maintenance. The illegal contract also included travel expenses. Cook deemed the contract illegal because it called for spending public funds on personal websites for the Board majority. Harris disagreed.
Lyles sent an email to Davis on April 11 announcing she’d withdrawn her contract with the District because she felt her company was no longer a good fit for the District.
Harris has essentially served as the Board majority’s own attorney. He has not shared the information they have requested with trustees Jill McGrady and John Rush, according to comments by McGrady at past Board meetings.
Davis apparently sought Harris’ services for a different opinion.
“My need for an extra counsel would be, it’s interesting how two attorneys can have two different interpretations for the same subject. So for me, I think it’s only fair for this Board to be able to say, ‘What’s your interpretation, and what’s your interpretation on the decision that we should be making on this?’ Then I think it’s up to either the Board or the president to make that decision, is that opinion right or wrong?” Davis said at the May 1 meeting.