As you may know, Hilda Guzman was wrongfully fired by The Accelerated Schools in July 2019. Her union, SEIU Local 99, organized a powerful protest at the last board meeting in August and was poised to do so again last Thursday, October 24. You can read more about Hilda’s situation and the Union’s response here. You can also watch the whole meeting, only about 40 minutes, here on YouTube.1
And as you may also know, TAS has an illegal policy of requiring members of the public to sign in prior to attending their Board meetings,2 though, and it took the SEIU members so long to get through this process that president Juli Quinn had closed public comment by the time the SEIU members made it into the room where the meeting was being held.
Quinn tried to make this idiotic decision stand in the face of righteous outrage by the protesters, until she couldn’t bear the shame any longer and said “I’d like to ask the board if you’d like to take a quick recess.” Then she idiotically hit the table with her idiotic gavel3 and they all left the room. Which is so illegal. It’s jaw-droppingly illegal.4 All business of the Board must be conducted in public except for a short list of specific reasons, none of which apply here. Even if any of them had applied it’s not allowed to meet in private without agendizing it first.5
After about five minutes the Board came back in and Juli Quinn6 admitted that she and her stupid colleagues had made a decision while they were in the back.7 And the decision that she admitted that they had made is that they were going to reopen public comment for 15 minutes only. But, like the totalitarian martinet she is, Dr. Quinn decided to read the public comment policy out loud first.
And I know it’s irritating to watch video clips, but maybe watch this one where Quinn explains the 15 minute rule, just to see the appalling level of condescension, of barely suppressed rage, of unhinged disdain Quinn has toward the people that she, according to herself, wants to help. Before the comments began, SEIU organizer Jorge Roman tried to explain to Quinn that it was the Board-imposed sign-in policy that had made them late and that therefore it wasn’t reasonable to limit the total speaker time.
Quinn smacked her gavel and hissed that she wasn’t having it. Which was too much for one member of the public, who explained exactly what was happening before all of our eyes: “You’re a racist. In a Black and Hispanic community and you white people take advantage. I taught here for fifty years and the children need to be heard.” Quinn had nothing to say to that. Because there’s nothing true she can say against it. She pretended it didn’t happen. But it did.
And despite the fact that it was the Board’s fault that they’d been late the protestors, being more reasonable than the situation would warrant, agreed to the conditions. And after a few minutes of organization combined with the patented Dr. Quinn death stare, the comments began:
★ Ms. Diaz — A mother of children who attend TAS. She protests Hilda’s firing and says that the Board does not speak for parents, who love Hilda. She explains that the food they serve the children is awful and they claim they don’t have the money to serve healthy food. She says they should let everyone speak. The parents are waking up and they won’t be silenced. The board has robocalls for many things but they don’t have robocalls to remind parents of board meetings. Don’t think, she tells them, that just because we’re Latinos we’re going to be quiet. Those days are over.
★ Martha Sanchez — A member of the neighborhood council. She says that the NC opposed construction of the school’s new building. She says that they’d received many complaints from parents about TAS’s practices and that those are confirmed by the Board’s treatment of Hilda. She says the school is not serving the community. The community demands Hilda’s reinstatement because she is part of the community and advocates for the community.
★ Stephanie Guzman — Hilda’s daughter Stephanie gives powerful testimony in favor of her mother’s reinstatement.
★ Jorge Roman — Reads a letter reminding the Board that it is illegal to terminate employees in retaliation for union activity, and that that’s what they’ve done with Hilda.
★ Justin Guzman — Hilda’s son Justin gives powerful testimony in favor of his mother’s reinstatement.
★ Joe Stringer — “Good morning to the Board. I’d just like to say one thing before I get started. This reminds me of 1953. I was down in the deep South. And was carried to a kangaroo court. That’s what this reminds me of. That kangaroo court. I thought we had got rid of the kangaroo court, but I see we haven’t. One day kangaroo courts will not exist any more. I want all you board members to get that in your mind. And I’m looking at this board. I don’t see no parents that got some kids around in here. Or anybody that’s got some family members on the board. I don’t see nobody that looks like them. Or them. I would like to know ‘where are they?’ I think this community would like to know ‘where are they?’ This community would like to know ‘where are they.’ Just like you all sitting on that board, [unintelligible] so their family people sitting there too. Why not? No justice. There’s no justice. And there ain’t no [unintelligible] with you sitting there. I want you to take that home and sleep on it. I want you to do that. Think about it. Think about what you’re looking for, what you want to do. You sit here and talk that talk, ‘we want to do for the kids. We want to do this and that.’ You want to do for the kids? Let the kids see a mixed board. Let them see a mixed board. That’ll do something for them. That’ll give them courage. I could stand here and talk all day but I’m going to stop.”
And then, because she is a rule-bound fascist, Juli Quinn closed public comments. Jorge Roman quite reasonably mentioned that there were only three speakers left. But Quinn smacked her gavel down and said “NO! I am the president of the board and we have reopened public comments for fifteen minutes and given you the opportunity and public comments are now closed.”
Jorge Roman very sensibly points out that even though they gave Ms. Diaz double time since she was speaking in Spanish and needed a translator,8 they shouldn’t have counted the extra two minutes against the fifteen minutes total. He’s right, but fascists don’t care about that. So, amazingly, Quinn called another illegal recess. Roman pointed out that Hilda Guzman hadn’t spoken yet.
Guzman started speaking and Quinn lost it. She flipped out. She dropped her barely convincing attempt to appear human, smashed her thin lips together, and unleashed a positively unhinged torrent of gavel smacks while Guzman began to speak. Quinn chanted “STOP. STOP. STOP.” in a robotic monotone while Guzman spoke. Then the board left the room, breaking the law yet again, accompanied by vigorous boos and disdain from the audience.
Watch the rest of Hilda’s comment. It’s a powerful indictment of the sins and omissions of this appalling board of directors. The board returned and Quinn resumed her unhinged gavelling. Jorge Roman tried once again to convince these stubborn little white supremacists to reopen public comment. Quinn, now in full fascist legal mode, refused, unleashed the disease metaphor on her opponents, and threatened to end the meeting: “Therefore if there are any more outbreaks we will close the board session and we will adjourn. I HAVE ALREADY RULED ON THAT AND THAT WILL NOT HAPPEN TODAY!!!!!”
And Hilda Guzman, fittingly, got the last word in: “The problem is that you’re not used to it. You’re not used to these voices. You always have your board meetings during the hours of instruction … this is not The Accelerated School model. This is not shared decision making.” And the board walked out and we were done.9There was a lot of action after, involving police and so on. No one got arrested and at least one of the dozen cops that showed up was friendly. But I don’t have time to tell the story. You can watch it beginning here.
And I have seen a lot of Brown Act violations over the years, and as much as I despise the weirdo little boards of directors I monitor, I will admit that mostly they violate the Brown Act because they’re stupid, because they’re arrogant, they assume the law doesn’t apply to them, or they assume, mostly correctly, that the laws are so written in their favor that they don’t have to think about whether or not they’re following them, and so on. Mostly they don’t violate the laws with the actual goal of hiding stuff from people. But this case is very, very different from the usual episodes.
In this case Juli Quinn brought her board of directors into a private room, where they held a meeting that the public was not allowed to attend, in direct violation of the law. And there’s really no discernible explanation other than to keep the public from hearing what they were saying, is there? And the thing about that is that the Brown Act, which mostly only allows for civil penalties for its violation, does contain one subsection making certain violations misdemeanors, and that is §54959, which states in its entirety:
Each member of a legislative body who attends a meeting of that legislative body where action is taken in violation of any provision of this chapter, and where the member intends to deprive the public of information to which the member knows or has reason to know the public is entitled under this chapter, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
I am told, although I don’t know for sure, that no one has ever been prosecuted under the Brown Act. But if someone were going to be prosecuted, this episode seems like a good place to start. It’s obvious that the Board violated the law. It’s obvious that at least Juli Quinn intended to “deprive the public of information to which the member knows or has reason to know the public is entitled,” and it’s obvious that Juli Quinn, even if she doesn’t know the public is entitled, certainly has reason to know that they are, given that she’s the president of the board of directors of a corporation which has entered into a contract in which, among other things, they promise to abide by the Brown Act.
So we’ll see what happens with that theory. And, if I had to guess, I would say that The Accelerated Schools, as wealthy and as powerful as they are, are actually in a very weak, very vulnerable position. I wouldn’t be surprised if, within the next 12 to 18 months, the school was either denied a renewal of its charter by LAUSD or else reshaped beyond recognition by the kind of pressure that activists are now putting them under. Stay, of course, tuned to find out!
Image of Supreme Commander Doctor Juli Quinn is ©2019 MichaelKohlhaas.Org.
- Or here on Archive.Org, where it is much easier to download, and also I put up the raw full definition files straight from the camera.
- This is a violation of the Brown Act at §54953.3, which says in pertinent part that “A member of the public shall not be required, as a condition to attendance at a meeting of a legislative body of a local agency, to register his or her name, to provide other information, to complete a questionnaire, or otherwise to fulfill any condition precedent to his or her attendance.” The galaxy brains at TAS think they can get around this requirement by claiming that signing the sheet isn’t required to attend the board meeting, it’s required to enter the school grounds on which the board meeting is held. You can listen to one of their flunkies explaining this idiotic theory to me right here. Obviously they’ve imposed a requirement to register one’s name as a condition to attendance, whether or not they say it’s not a condition. One moral to be drawn from this situation, although not by me, is that if one’s going to break the law one ought to hire smarter lawyers than these folks obviously have.
- I cannot imagine who thought it was a good idea for this delusional woman to bring a gavel to this meeting. It made her impotent fury appear even more buffoonish than it usually does. Just for instance, listen to her pounding it repeatedly during the chanting.
- Their nonsense about the sign-in sheet is illegal too, but it’s illegal in some ordinary way. A lot of these backwater agencies do this.
- The Brown Act defines meetings at §54952.2(a) as “any congregation of a majority of the members of a legislative body at the same time and location, including teleconference location as permitted by Section 54953, to hear, discuss, deliberate, or take action on any item that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body.” So them going in the back room to talk was a meeting. The law requires that at §54953(a) that “[a]ll meetings of the legislative body of a local agency shall be open and public, and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting of the legislative body of a local agency, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.” And without going into the details, whatever they were talking about back there, whether to allow public comment to go on, was not “as otherwise provided in this chapter.” And this isn’t even including the fact that their so-called “recess” meetings weren’t agendized. The quickest that a body subject to the Brown Act can give notice of their intention to discuss and/or decide on something is two hours, under the emergency meeting clause, and that takes very dire circumstances, none of which were met here. This violation is painfully stupid. What’s worse is that there were two of TAS’s lawyers at the meeting and they went in the back with the board.
- Who by the way has to be about the stupidest of all the very stupid villains I have covered since starting this blog. But then I tend to think that about all my villains while I am writing about their villainy.
- That is, she admitted that they were having a meeting as defined in the Brown Act.
- Double time for people not commenting in English is required by the Brown Act at §54954.3(b)(2).