By Augustine Evans, ALBA Counselor
On Wednesday, February 12, 2014, I attended a day-long counseling training. I must admit it was an excellent training. At ended of the day round table items were being discussed and paper items were given to all counselors at the meeting. When I received one of the paper items, I noticed that one them was an election leaflet with Lindsay Burningham, a candidate for SDEA president. On that same leaflet there were other candidates running for other positions within SDEA.
Once I received this leaflet, I waited for another election leaflet that had Shane Parmely, who is also a candidate for SDEA president. I knew there was another election leaflet because I had previously received one at a Rep. Council meeting at the SDEA headquarters. These two leaflets with Lindsay and Shane represent opposing view points and candidates within our Union.
When I did not receive the election leaflet with Shane Parmely on it, I became very concerned that the counselors, who were attending this training, were not receiving the full scope of this upcoming election atmosphere so I searched for the person who dispersed the leaflet. I discovered that Maureen Rice, the official CR for the Counseling Department of San Diego Unified School District, dispersed the leaflet. I asked her if she knew that there is another election leaflet opposing these individuals who were on the election leaflet with Lindsay Burningham. She responded apologetically she did not know there was another election leaflet.
I further inquired how she received this leaflet. She said that she received the election leaflet when she was meeting the SDEA UniServ Field Organizer, Jonathon Mello, at the SDEA headquarters. Maureen said that SDEA President Bill Freeman approached her and gave her the election leaflet with Lindsay Burningham’s picture on it while she with talking with Jonathon Mello about official union business. She further stated that Bill Freeman did not give her the opposing election leaflet with Shane Parmely. At that moment I announced loudly to the other people at the training that there was another election leaflet with other candidates competing for the same elections seats, but it was too late … most of counselors were out the door.
I was very concerned by this because I know that our Union’s governance documents prohibit the use of SDEA resources to support any particular candidate. As the President who is released full-time with our Union dues dollars, Bill Freeman has an office at the Union headquarters. He is the only SDEA member who can sit in his office and wait for ARs and CRs to show up at SDEA on official Union business and then approach them to campaign on behalf of the incumbents. When Bill Freeman uses his office in the SDEA building to campaign, he is clearly using SDEA resources (which no other candidates or members have access to) to campaign. That violates our campaign rules, and is unethical.
During the opening questioning session prior to the Rep. Council meeting on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 I stated my concerns of the above injustice as supported by our Standing Rules regarding SDEA Election Procedures for Nominations and Elections. Bill Freeman readily admitted that he had given the Counseling CR these flyers while the CR was at the SDEA office on Union business, but stated he believed it was not a campaign violation. (Note that SDEA Election Procedure section D #11 and section E #8, #10 support my point of argument.) When I was expressing my concerns, Kandi Nieto, a Co-Chair of the Election Committee, defended Bill Freeman, who appointed her, at the microphone. She said that there was a case that CTA just ruled on, and that the final results said that Bill Freeman has a right to express his individual wishes of selecting one candidate over another, even though he is representing all union members as the President of SDEA. This case involved robo-calling and not direct contact with a member. It also did not address whether Bill Freeman has a right to use his office in the SDEA building to campaign, which is what he is currently doing.
I was hurried away from the microphone when I tried respond to Kandi’s defense of the Bill Freeman. Privately I spoke with Kandi, and she insisted that CTA’s decision about the robo-calling gives Bill Freeman or any president of SDEA the right to blatantly influence an election to their liking. This is wrong and is an egregious act, and it severely limits my and other members’ confidence that we will have a fair election this time.