The Saugus Union School District governing board members voted 4-1 to vacate the seat held by Stephen Winkler on Tuesday night.
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The move comes after more than two months of investigation, according to SUSD board member Doug Bryce. Winkler voted against his own removal.
“Well, you won’t have Winkler to kick around anymore,” Winkler said, after a Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputy escorted Winkler from the dais.
Bryce presented evidence that was found by an investigation led by an ad hoc committee formed by board President Judy Umeck. The committee was comprised of Umeck and Bryce.
The resolution to vacate his seat came less than a week after Saugus Union school board members voted 4-1 to censure Winkler.
The ad hoc committee was formed in response to allegations presented to the district in February anonymously.
It accused Winkler of living outside of the Saugus Union School District boundaries.
“The evidence was fairly overwhelming,” Bryce said. The evidence included testimony from a private investigator hired by the district.
The investigator, George Franco of Investigative Services Corp., provided a sworn statement that contained, at times, conflicting evidence on Winkler’s residency.
Franco’s investigation began March 1, according to his sworn statement.
Franco’s evidence provided no proof of residency at a Rio Prado address listed by Winkler, but there was evidence that he was living at a Sylmar address on Herrick Avenue registered to Robert Bradley, Bryce said.
“Why would Bradley build Winkler a bathroom if (Winkler) didn’t live there?” Bryce asked rhetorically, alluding to evidence presented by Franco.
In a conversation with Bradley reported to the board by Franco, the landlord said, “I had to build a bathroom in the back for (WInkler).”
And then later, Bryce read testimony from Franco who reported that the landlord said, “You want to see where Winkler lives? You can look but you can’t go inside.”
However, in another statement, Bradley reportedly said, “Winkler doesn’t live here,” and he hasn’t for 10 years.
Winkler, when given time to respond to the allegations and the resolution that was proposing that the board vacate his seat, produced an expired vehicle registration that was sent to a Rio Prada address in Valencia, as well as a Social Security check sent to the same address.
“I don’t know what else you need,” Winkler said.
Board member Rose Koscielny then questioned why Winkler registered himself to an address that didn’t exist on the documents he submitted to the district before his successful bid for a board seat in the November 2011 election.
Winkler said the Avenida Terrazza address was for a leasing office, and that he stayed in numerous units leased through the office, to which Koscielny replied: “Are you a squatter?”
Winkler denied the claim, and Koscielny then noted that Winkler’s registration on his vehicle was more than six months expired, and that a Sheriff’s Station deputy was present.
Winkler said he wouldn’t try to fight the board’s decision, but he added that he would consult with his attorney to determine whether he would take legal action against the blog that ran the first story about Winkler’s online activity, scvtalk.com.
The blog’s claims are what first drew much of the attention to Winkler and the Saugus Union school board in the first place.
The next step for the district, which is prescribed by state law, is to hold a special election for the seat in November, for a candidate who will hold the seat for the rest of Winkler’s term, which is set to end in 2015.
Rose Diaz, the incumbent candidate who was defeated by WInkler in 2011, was among the dozens of community members in the crowd.
When asked, Diaz didn’t comment one way or the other on whether she planned to run for the vacated seat.
“Maybe,” Diaz said. “We’ll see.”
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Source: Santa Clarita News