Just when we thought it couldn’t get worse…

LBUSD office of Public Communications confirms email content sent under official seal and signature of Board member Peggy Wolff. Message recklessly accuses Board member Dee Perry of violating legally binding School District rules, without supporting evidence, facts or law.

Wolff’s bizarre message charges meeting by Perry and recent LBHS graduate for discussion including matters of public record breached enforceable Board rules. Perry’s meeting didn’t violate any rules, however Peggy Wolff’s email did.

Under state law and School Board bylaws, the School District’s rules of governance are “binding on the School District,” including Board members. Wolff’s email, a legally incoherent diatribe, cites Bylaw 9200, prohibiting individual Board members from acting in an official capacity on behalf of the Board to “resolve a complaint” or respond officially to a formal “information request” in the name of the School District.

Perry’s meeting with a constituent violates no rules, it’s part of her job as an elected board member. She referred the constituent to Superintendent if official action was proposed or official information was requested, consistent with Bylaw 9200. Perry’s meeting was requested by the constituent, well within normal constituent services and fact-finding for elected representatives. That’s her job.

In contrast, it is my firm opinion that Wolff’s letter was abuse of authority and menacing in tone. Where Perry met over coffee in public without secrecy, Wolff’s narrative is one of veiled “grapevine” informants alerting her to a supposedly suspicious meeting. Wolff fails to establish any linkage between Perry meeting and Bylaw 9200. Yet, she absurdly pronounces the meeting a prohibited gathering:

“…it is not the place of a Board member…outside of our scope [sic]…outside our bylaws…Board operates with all five members present…we do not work on granular issues…I’ve attached the bylaw showing limit of Board member authority…you can always attend a Board meeting and address ALL five Board members during public comment.”

Wrong, there’s no requirement for five members for Board meeting or discussions with constituents on school issues. Indeed, after many tens of thousands of tax dollars expended on Sacramento consultants for remedial governance training Wolff should know some member discussions with public defined as meetings under state law must be limited to no more than two members.

More to point, foreseeable effect and seemingly the purpose of this message is to usurp Perry’s authority and silence her, a chilling effect on freedom of speech, association and democratic representation. Without proof or even logic Wolff’s email accuses the parties of complicity in misconduct, seemingly intended to discourage a citizen from meeting with an elected representative, and vice versa.

It is clear to me this was a political attack on Perry by Peggy Wolff cloaked in the authority of her office. It is also extraordinary that a Board member’s accusation of wrongdoing against another Board member is communicated to a member of the public in the name of the School District.

Board bylaws required Wolff to direct her own complaint to the Board or Superintendent, but instead the falsely accused Board member was denied minimal due process before official communication of the charges to the public, without notice or a hearing, or even the courtesy of verifying facts before hurling accusations. 

It is entirely within the scope and place of an elected School Board member’s duties to meet at request of constituents. State and federal constitutions protect freedom to meet in public or private to discuss any issue that does not implicate legally privileged or restricted information.

In contrast, it is a violation of more than just Bylaw 9200 for Wolff as an individual Board member to manage her own complaint against Perry, purporting to intervene in the matter in her official capacity on behalf of the Board and School District. Bylaw 9200 prohibits Wolff from communicating unproven allegations to a member of the public.

Wolf’s action seemingly violated several other legally binding rules, including Bylaws 1009 (Civility, Community Relations); Bylaw 1113 (District School Websites); Bylaw 1114 (District Sponsored Social Media); Bylaw 1312.3 (Uniform Complaint Procedure); Bylaw 5131.2 (Bullying); Bylaw 5145.3 (Non-Discrimination/Harassment); Bylaw 9010 (Public Statements); Bylaw 9012 (Board Member Electronic Communications).

Thus, the most critical question now is whether Wolff acted without authorization, or, was the email approved by the Superintendent, President of the Board, or any other LBUSD official. In addition to the LBHS Principal, how any LBUSD officials enabled or knew of this message falsely accusing Perry and a constituent for meeting with an elected official? 

Jennifer Welsh Zeiter

Laguna Beach