San Dieguito trustee files cease and desist against teachers union, recall petitioners
As election day nears for San Dieguito Union High School District’s new Area 5 trustee, a recall effort of Area 4 Trustee Michael Allman continues to simmer.
Recently, Allman’s attorney filed a cease and desist against the recall petitioners who are out canvassing neighborhoods in Area 4, which includes portions of Del Mar, Carmel Valley and Rancho Santa Fe, accusing them of engaging in illegal signature gathering activities and defamation.
The cease and desist filed on Oct. 8 alleges that the San Dieguito Faculty Association and petition circulators are making repeated lies and falsehoods about Allman, in violation of at least California Elections Code and California Civil Code.
“These falsehoods include, among other things, misrepresentations and outright lies that Mr. Allman is under investigation by the police, has violated the Ralph M. Brown Act, is operating an illegal Facebook group, is a racist, and inappropriately touched signature gatherers,” wrote Allman’s attorney Matthew Alvarez.
“We believe you and your agents are acting with ‘actual malice’ - meaning that you have actual knowledge that your statements are false or you are acting with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity of the statements,” Alvarez continued. “Additionally, you could be subject to punitive or exemplary damages if a court determines that your actions are particularly egregious.”
Duncan Brown, president of the San Dieguito Faculty Association (SDFA), said the cease and desist was delivered at 5 p.m. on a Friday night, he believes purposefully so the California Teachers Association’s legal department wouldn’t be able to weigh in before a weekend of signature gathering.
“From the attorney that we’ve spoken to, there isn’t a claim that Allman can really hang his hat on,” said Brown, asserting that the allegations that they are lying to voters are not true.
Brown believes the cease and desist to be just an act of intimidation as the legal document personally names himself and Brian VanRiper, the founder of Method Campaign Services, a company that the SDFA has hired to assist in the signature-gathering effort.
According to Brown, 96% of SDFA members voted to spend up to $60,000 of their political action committee funds on hiring Method Campaign Services for paid signature gathering. Brown said so far $25,000 has been spent.
The recall proponents have until Nov. 16 to gather the required 5,008 signatures in Area 4. According to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, the recall election would cost the district between $300,000 to $500,000.
According to SDUHSD Interim Superintendent Lucile Lynch, the district won’t know the exact cost of the Nov. 2 Area 5 special election until the actual ballots are processed. The range they received from the county was between $450,000 to $650,000 but an all-mail ballot election is expected to save the district about $150,000.
In the signature-gathering process, Brown said they are not at the point where they would like to be but they have renewed motivation among the membership.
“We had a really good last week and now with a paid signature company we’re still optimistic that we will be able to meet our goal,” Brown said.
Just as Allman has accused Brown and SDFA of using dirty tactics, this summer Brown accused Allman and his supporters of following, harassing and intimidating parents and teachers who were out gathering signatures.
Allman has denied those allegations—he said he and his supporters walked with the teachers as they canvassed neighborhoods to try and dispel any claims that might be misleading but their actions never rose to harassment, verbal or physical attacks.
Brown said that both as a board member and during this recall campaign, he believes that Allman’s behavior has stretched the limits of proper governance and protocol.
“We really just believe that Michael Allman is not right for San Dieguito,” Brown said.
As his volunteer supporters canvass the neighborhood, Allman said they have gathered about 100 anti-recall statements that can rescind a signature to the recall petition or “inoculate” someone so that a signature will never count.
At the Oct. 14 San Dieguito board meeting, Allman said it has been good to be out talking to people and that the viewpoints he hears from voters is that they are unhappy about the recall and they are “angry about the underhanded tactics being used by the teachers union.”
He believes that the recall effort will be over soon and that the SDFA will not meet their signature goal.
“When that happens the leadership of the union owes it to our faculty to move forward and to work with the board in a constructive manner,” Allman said. “I know I’m going to do that, I hope they will too.”
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