Del Mar Union school board member resigns after arrest during human trafficking operation in Florida

Scott Wooden was arrested Feb. 11 on suspicion of soliciting another for prostitution; he’s been on the school board for more than a decade


A longtime Del Mar Union school board member resigned Thursday, Feb. 16, hours after officials announced he had been arrested in Florida on suspicion of soliciting prostitution.

Scott Wooden, 60, was one of 213 people arrested during a seven-day operation — dubbed Operation Traffic Stop — that aimed to crack down on human trafficking in Polk County.

During a Thursday, Feb. 16, news conference, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd highlighted Wooden’s arrest.

“Where would we be with a human trafficking operation without an elected official,” Judd said, holding up a mugshot of Wooden.

Del Mar School Board member Scott Wooden.
(Hayne Palmour IV / For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

He was reportedly in the area to assist his parents, the sheriff said, when he “decided he would come up here and engage in sex.” Wooden is suspected of soliciting sex for $200 dollars.

The Del Mar board member was arrested on Feb. 11 and released on Feb. 13 after paying his $500 bail, Florida jail records show. Wooden did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Wooden was elected to the Del Mar Union School District board in 2010 and was re-elected in November. While campaigning, Wooden told the Del Mar Times in October that he had been married for 23 years and that he had two children. He’s lived in San Diego for two decades.

He told the paper that when he was first elected, his goal was to bring stability after several years of turmoil by “providing mutual respect, trust and leadership principles that put all children first every time.”

Judd said Wooden has a doctorate from the University of Southern California and was a molecular biologist before he retired. An election biography from 2014 said Wooden spent 20 years in the science and biotechnology industry and that he used to run a massage business in Carlsbad.

“This guy knows better,” Judd said. “He’s supposed to be a leader in the community. He’s an elected official. He’s making decisions for our children, and he’s out soliciting prostitutes.”

Del Mar Union school district officials said they learned of the arrest Thursday morning, Feb. 16.

“While we do not yet know all the details and circumstances of this incident, the allegations are shocking and extremely concerning,” the district said in a statement.

The district released a second statement Thursday afternoon, Feb. 16, saying that Wooden had resigned from his post, effective immediately, and that the board was exploring options to fill the vacancy.

During the Florida news conference, Judd provided additional details about the Polk County operation, which ran from Feb. 6 to Sunday, Feb. 12.

Of the 213 people arrested, 89 were suspected of solicitation and 111 were suspected of engaging in prostitution. Another 13 suspects were arrested on other charges, including 10 accused of either deriving proceeds from prostitution or aiding and abetting prostitution.

Detectives screened all of the individuals accused of providing prostitution services and identified 24 possible human trafficking victims.

Judd said the department does human trafficking operations several times a year, and the number of people arrested and the trafficking victim total seen during Operation Traffic Stop was the highest officials had seen.


4:08 a.m. Feb. 17, 2023: This story was updated to reflect Wooden’s resignation.

3:29 a.m. Feb. 17, 2023: This story was updated to include a statement from the Del Mar Union School District.