— By Peter Burrell, SDEA Board Member-elect and Serra HS CR
On Thursday, March 28 the current SDEA Board of Directors held a special meeting to hear a challenge of the recent SDEA election results.
SDEA Election Committee Co-chair Kandi Nieto brought the challenge to the Board along with packets that contained the challenge document, a copy of the alleged offending email, copies of the SDEA Standing Rules, and an Election Committee recommendation to the Board on which way the Board should vote. Nieto also stated that there were other challenges pending and that the Election Committee would be meeting again to determine their validity. Nieto spoke in generalities and in rather a hushed manner, seemingly not wanting to reveal much about the challenge in front Nancy Dosick (also just elected to the SDEA Board) or me, the only current non-Board members present.
I was expecting to hear a challenge brought by write-in candidate Stephanie Marble over the Seat 8 results. As a write-in candidate, Marble received 44 of the 87 ballots cast, which is clearly a majority of the votes. However, the Elections Committee has ruled that a run-off election must be held because Marble did not receive “fifty percent plus one” of the votes, even though the SDEA Standing Rules state that only a simple majority is required. On top of that, as many as 10 ballots were not counted because the voter didn’t bubble in the circle after writing in Stephanie Marble’s name. Our Standing Rules state that votes should not be counted only when the intent of the voter is unclear. In Marble’s case it would be reasonable to assume that someone who took the time to write in her name had clear intentions. However, this was not the challenge being brought before the Board. Marble apparently didn’t have the proper challenge form, which isn’t currently accessible on SDEA’s website or accessible anywhere else to members, and so her challenge will be heard at a subsequent meeting.
After a motion to hear the challenge and the ensuing discussion, it became clear that SDEA Vice President Lindsay Burningham was the challenger (and apparently received clearer directions from SDEA about how to file her challenge). Burningham lost the race for CTA Seat 15, to Emily Neidhart. In fact, Neidhart received more votes for her CTA seat than any other candidate on the ballot, including all SDEA, CTA and NEA seats. The basis of Burnigham’s challenge was an email sent by an SDEA Association Representative touting our slate of candidates. The AR emailed her members at their District email addresses. Burningham’s challenge states that this violates the SDEA Standing Rules prohibiting the use of District email for campaign purposes.
Current SDEA Board member Dennis Schamp, who just lost his reelection bid, spoke in favor of the challenge. He said he believed it was a clear infringement of the Standing Rules and must be treated as such. SDEA Board Secretary Michelle Sanchez clarified that the alleged email was sent by a rank and file member, and not the candidate. Neidhart had nothing to do with the email, and was not aware that it had even been sent until Burningham raised her challenge. Sanchez stated that, as candidates, we are made aware of the SDEA Standing Rules contents, because candidates sign-off in agreement of the election Standing Rules. Rank and file members do not do this, nor is there any training on our governance documents for ARs (let alone other union members). Sanchez pointed out that the SDEA Board can’t control the actions of 7,000 members. SDEA Board member Barry Dancher pointed out that it appeared that the member did this on their own accord. There was a little more discussion and then the Board voted to approve the challenge with only two dissenting votes. All of the SDEA Board members who just lost election bids supported Burningham’s challenge.
While I see the need for candidates to know and abide by the Standing Rules and Bylaws with respect to elections, I don’t believe it is a reasonable expectation that the other 7,000 non-candidate members should know them. In my limited knowledge of the incident in question it seems that the AR acted on their own, perhaps not even knowing the candidate, but felt compelled to encourage colleagues to support our slate. So I ask how are candidates expected to control people they don’t know? It is unfortunate that our current SDEA leadership is engaging in these kinds of last ditch power grabs instead of fighting for our raises (a topic that was not raised once, in spite of the passage of Shane Parmely’s March Rep. Council resolution that SDEA create an organizing plan to get at least the first two percent implemented this year).
It will be interesting to see how the general membership reacts after the Board overturns fair elections, wasting our dues on expensive do-over elections. Imagine if the wasted time and money was put towards efforts negotiating our fair share of the Prop. 30 money that we fought for instead of negating the membership’s will. They say Nero fiddled as Rome burned.
Let’s not allow that on our watch. Encourage your AR and CRs to tell leadership at Rep. Council not to fiddle our time and money away while we have very important fights on our horizon. Contact your Board member and tell them it’s time to work on restoring our raises instead.