While Saugus Union School District officials have filed a lawsuit seeking to legally remove board member Stephen Winkler from office, he indicated plans to fight the suit Wednesday.
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“We filed the quo warranto lawsuit in late February, we are waiting for a response and that’s all we can do at this point,” said Paul De La Cerda, board president for the Saugus Union School District.
De La Cerda declined to comment further on the status of the proceedings, noting it was an ongoing legal matter for the district.
SUSD board members voted 4-1 in July to vacate Winkler’s seat, after a private investigator hired by district officials were provided with evidence proving Winkler violated the state’s rules of residency, officials said.
Related article: Saugus Union School Board Votes 4-1 To Vacate Winkler’s Seat
Following that move, Saugus Union officials were told by the Los Angeles County Office of Education they would need to request permission to initiate quo warranto proceedings against Winkler.
Saugus Union officials requested permission for quo warranto proceedings in October, and Attorney General Kamala Harris’s office OKed the move in February.
The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court shortly thereafter, De La Cerda said.
Winkler, who works as a part-time instructional aide in Antelope Valley, noted his term has been marked by controversy and opposition to the board, especially with respect to charter school votes.
SUSD board member Judy Umeck said that absolutely wasn’t the case.
“Any board member is entitled to a diverse opinion, no matter what the issue is,” Umeck said. “When it came to us that Mr. Winkler truly did not live in the district, by the definition of residence, we had to act accordingly.”
Winkler voted against his fellow board members nine times when charter schools were on the agenda, he said, which was the reason SUSD board members are seeking to remove him.
In June, Saugus Union officials voted 4-1 to censure Winkler in front of a standing room only crowd at the Saugus Union School District’s special hearing, in response to allegations that he posted inappropriate comments through several different online accounts.
“I think they were looking for things to embarrass me,” Winkler said, denying knowledge of the comments posted to accounts registered to his email address.
At several points during the June meeting, Winkler acknowledged the accounts were his, although his defense when confronted with parents who were upset was that he didn’t know about the comments.
Winkler felt the odds were stacked against him, he said, likening himself to Hubert Humphrey during Humphrey’s 1960 attempt to get the presidential nomination eventually won by former President John F. Kennedy.
“I’m an independent merchant going against a chain store,” Winkler said, adding, “I’m a poor man, I don’t have those resources (for a legal fight),” he said.
But he also wasn’t a quitter, he said. He was seeking guidance from a man he called a prophet, Rudy Garcia from Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, he added.
But so far, his conversations have led him to believe he should not resign.
Saugus Union School District officials said there has been no official correspondence from Winkler since his seat was vacated, and he has not attended any meetings since June.
Los Angeles County Office of Education officials did not have an immediate answer for whether there was a time period in which Winkler’s absence would constitute an official abandonment of his board seat.
The next date in the matter is a case management hearing June 25, according to Winkler.
“We feel that we’re moving forward within the lines of the law, De La Cerda said, “that we have within our legal responsibilities to the district.”
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Source: Santa Clarita News