School Board Member Prado Reprimanded by DA's Office
By Gazette Staff Writer — Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
And this week's Letter to the Editor from Mr. Prado
Fillmore Unified School District
Ventura County District Attorney's Office addresses possible Brown Act complaint against FUSD
OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY
Re: Brown Act Complaint
Dear Mr. Prado:
We have received a complaint regarding the Fillmore Unified School District Regular Meeting of March 18, 2014. You presided over at least a portion of the meeting. I reviewed the agenda for the meeting and an audio recording of the relevant portion of the meeting. I also discussed the matter with Superintendent Alan Nishino and Assistant Superintendent Deo Persaud.
Following the presentation regarding agenda item 1-2, “Fillmore High School Update on the WASC Process by FHS Staff,” a member of the public sought to address the Board. She informed me that she had completed a public comment card but had not been called upon to give her comment. On the tape, she asked, “Can I ask a question?” You responded, “1 want to caution you. Questions, yes. Comments or speeches, no.” She then spoke for several minutes, but it appears that your “caution” may have limited her presentation. At one you point, while she was attempting to answer a question you posed to her (why teachers would be afraid to come speak for themselves), she responded that she would not make a comment because you did not want any comments. An individual who attended the meeting (not the individual who sought to give public comment) brought the matter to the attention of the District Attorney’s Office.
Your “caution” that the speaker may only ask questions and may not give comments or “speeches” does not comply with the Ralph M. Brown Act (public meeting law). The Brown Act provides, “Every agenda for regular meetings shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the legislative body on any item of interest to the public, before or during the legislative body’s consideration of the item….” (Gov. Code, § 54954.3(a), bold added.) The Brown Act further provides, “The legislative body of a local agency shall not prohibit public criticism of the policies, procedures, programs, or services of the agency, or of the acts or omissions of the legislative body.” (Gov. Code, § 54954.3(c), bold added.) It further states that “members of a legislative body or its staff may briefly respond to statement made or questions posed by persons exercising their public testimony rights under Section 54954.3.” (Gov. Code, 54954.2(a)(2), bold adder.)
The Brown Act clearly does not allow a limitation that a member of the public may only ask questions but cannot make comments, and it is improper for the presiding officer to attempt to restrict public comment in that manner.
Very truly yours,
To the Editor:
Before I begin I need to make it clear, I am not speaking for the School Board or the District only as one Board Member of five.
Mr. Ashim and Mrs. Ashim, over the past few months have been writing in the Gazzette half truths and disinformation and have not been challenged. In his last diatribe this man is asking for an apology from me. In reality this man and that woman should be asking the Fillmore community for forgiveness. They have managed to recklessly damage the reputation of Mr. Mesfun the high school Principal, they have maligned the school board, they have distorted Dr. Nishino"s past and present record as a superintendent and they have brought embarrassment to the Fillmore Unified School District, shame on them! In his last letter to the editor, Mr. Ashim stated half truths about the board meeting which he was recording. This man accused me of not allowing his wife to address the Board. That fact is she had a request to address the Board and as acting President I was required to do so. There was never any attempt to deny her that opportunity. The mistake I made was to tell her not to make any speeches or comments, she could only ask questions to the Board.
When she began to ask her questions about the high school accreditation I stopped her and asked if she had put these questions to the Principal? Her reply was no. I told her that it would be more appropriate if she ran these questions to Mr. Mesfun before coming to the Board. In my estimation this woman was attempting to discredit Mr. Mesfun. At that moment Mr. Mefun asked to respond to this woman's questions. Part of his response was about a parent committee and his desire to ask parents to serve. At that moment Mrs. Wright, a high school parent spoke up that she had not been asked. That is when I asked her if she wanted to be asked. She said yes. So I told Mr. Mefun there you have a parent for your committee. If you read Mr. Ashim's version of what happened at the Board meeting , the reader would get half truths and a distorted version of what took place.
In past issues of the Gazzette this man and this woman have launched wholly unfounded inflammatory accusations, aimed at distorting Mr. Mefun's leadership of Fillmore High School. At best this woman has subjected Mr. Mesfun to character assassination or as some would say a "high tech lynching", shame on her! This woman has accused the Principal of showing a lack leadership when it comes to the accreditation process when in reality she failed Fillmore High School's Accreditation process six years ago. At that time she was a counselor and volunteered to lead the Accreditation Team. She accepted the position knowing there was another position of assistant principal available at the High School. When Mr. Wilbur, the principal, declined her request to be appointed assistant principal she also refused to continue as Accreditation Team leader. The High School, because of this woman's ego, was forced to ask for a one year delay on Accreditation. Lucky for the High School when they hired Ellen Green as Assistant Principal. She picked up the pieces left by this woman and wrote a report that gave the High School a six year Accreditation.
For some time this woman, Karim Ashim, has been referred as the "Gate Keeper", the counselor who decides which students will have the opportunity to take Advance Placement courses, Honors courses, College Prep courses or general courses. Many times this woman had denied students the opportunity to challenge themselves. Many times parents had to demand their high school student be given an opportunity to take the more demanding courses. Imagine the parents who allowed this woman to deprive their sons and daughters of a better education. This woman's belief was to graduate as many students as possible to keep the graduation rate high and the drop -out rate low. The excuse is some students do not have the skills to function in those higher level courses, but too often teachers want the best of the best in those higher level courses, in essence depriving opportunity, especially minority students and the advocate for those students should be the counselor. I have had parents speak to me about the "Gate Keeper" and their negative experiences and my response has always been do not give up! Unfortunately many Mexican parents rely on the integrity of the this women who on too many occassions has failed them.
I could go on and on about this woman and describe my own personal experiences when my children were in high school, maybe another day. I have no interest in a verbal battle with these two caricatures, but I will set the record straight. An apology no, unsolicited advise, it is time for the two of them to stay out of Fillmore, take your criticism to your home town of Thousand Oaks, make the best of your retirement and enjoy life!