GOP Email Sheds Light on Acosta Allegations

acosta2

As we covered yesterday, 38th Assembly District candidate and Santa Clarita Councilmember Dante Acosta has been accused of sexual harassment by a Republican campaign staffer.  What follows is a brief email exchange between Acosta’s accuser and then-staffer for the late State Senator Sharon Runner, Vanessa Wilk. These emails also cc’d Assemblyman Scott Wilk and Congressman Steve Knight.

This email came in the days prior to the June primary election, in which Acosta (R-Santa Clarita) would end up finishing 2nd and advancing onto the general election against Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita). All parties to these emails have been contacted for comment, and all have either declined or have not responded. Portions of these emails have been redacted.

If your browser cooperates, you should be able to view the emails below. If not, try this this link instead.

 

emailexchange-1

 

 

Candidate Dante Acosta Accused of Sexual Harassment

acosta_mic

According to sources familiar with the matter, shortly before the June 2016 primary, Rep. Steve Knight and other Republican officials were made aware of credible allegations of sexual harassment involving a GOP campaign staffer, implicating Dante Acosta, the City of Santa Clarita Councilmember and candidate for California’s 38th Assembly District, who was an employee of Knight’s office at the time.

The alleged harassment took place over 14-month period and included unwanted advances by Acosta, including inappropriate comments and texts, as well as direct propositioning.

In mid-June, just a couple of weeks after a contentious 4-way primary election, Acosta abruptly announced his resignation from his day job with Rep. Steve Knight—ostensibly to spend more time with his campaign.

This surprised campaign watchers at the time, since it came after a frenetic run-up to the June primary, and at the beginning of a months-long lull before the general election season. Why resign in June and not March? Or August? These allegations may shed light on those questions.

For now, we’ll follow up with more information as this story develops.

Acosta did not respond to requests to comment for this story.

 

Malibu candidate pulls papers for the 38th

I’m really sorry to do this. It feels like (and might actually be) my eighth post in a row on the reshuffling of the 38th Assembly district race. But it keeps getting weirder.

This morning, the registrar’s website was to show that another candidate, Chris Garcia, entered the race, listing an address in Saugus.

But there’s one little thing…

garcia_fb

As of last night, his Facebook profile listed his current city as Malibu, and the domain registration for the website provided to the county was registered by Garcia last year with a Malibu address.

Apart from that, his resume seems impressive and he has some history with Tony Strickland who may or may not have something to do with this. Time will tell.

 

Dante Acosta files with SoS in newly-crowded 38th race

38th-field

Last Thursday brought us the news that Sharon Runner (R-Palmdale) wasn’t seeking re-election in Senate District 21. On Friday, Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) of Assembly District 38 decided to run for SD21 instead of AD38, leaving Christy Smith of the Newhall School District board (D-Santa Clarita) as the only candidate in the 38th.

Yesterday brought the news that retired cop Tyler Izen (R-Granada Hills) joined the race, and earlier today we learned that Jarrod DeGonia (R-Simi Valley) of Mike Antonovich’s office was running as well.

And it just got a little more interesting. According to the Secretary of State, first-term city council member Dante Acosta (R-Santa Clarita) has filed a Statement of Intention to run in the 38th.

For his part, Acosta says he’s “taking a serious look at this under a very compressed timetable,” and will make a final decision in the morning after talking with his family. Nominations must be filed by 5pm tomorrow.

Acosta was elected to the council in 2014, coming in 3rd place the top-3 election with 12% of the vote (appearing on 31% of ballots). He currently works as a District Representative for Steve Knight. He previously ran against Buck McKeon in the 2012 congressional primary and briefly considered running in the special election for SD21 last year.

If the field holds (there’s still a few hours for others to file, and each of these three new candidates still need to file their nomination papers), this puts a Republican challenger in each area of the district — Simi Valley, SFV, and SCV. Christy Smith is the only Democrat in the race for the seat, which should be competitive in November with a smallish GOP advantage and higher-than-normal expected turnout among Democrats.

Antonovich deputy DeGonia joins Assembly fray

jar

With tomorrow’s filing deadline for the suddenly-vacant 38th Assembly seat fast approaching, multiple sources report that Jarrod DeGonia (R), a resident of Simi Valley and a San Fernando field deputy for outgoing LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, will be a candidate for the seat.

DeGonia joins Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita) and Tyler Izen (R-Granada Hills) for the race to replace Scott Wilk, who is running in the 21st Senate district.

DeGonia’s entrance doesn’t necessarily rule out any other last-minute candidates, so stay tuned. The deadline for completed nomination papers is tomorrow at 5pm.

 

Retired cop from Granada Hills jumps in the 38th

Tyler Izen (R), a name I never heard of until five minutes ago, is a retired cop and a former president of the LAPD Officer’s Union who lives in Granada Hills. This morning he announced that he is running as for the 38th Assembly District. Here’s the text of his press release.

TYLER IZEN, RESERVE POLICE OFFICER AND
RETIRED LAPD OFFICERS UNION PRESIDENT TO RUN FOR ASSEMBLY.

Granada Hills — On Monday, March 14, 2016, Tyler Izen (R) will file his declaration of candidacy for the 38th Assembly District.

Tyler Izen retired from the Los Angeles Police Department after 30 years of distinguished service. During his LAPD career, Tyler was President of the Los Angeles Police Protective League (“LAPPL”), the union that represented 10,000 sworn members of the Los Angeles Police Department. Izen joined the Los Angeles Police Department on February 4, 1985. He worked patrol, vice investigations, detective, administrative and supervisory assignments as a police officer, Sergeant, and Detective.

Throughout his career, Izen has received numerous commendations and letters of appreciation from judges and supervisors, pointing out the exemplary and noteworthy performance of his duties.

“I will use my 30 years of experience as a police officer to ensure that the legislature passes laws that are smart on crime and do not jeopardize the safety of our families, homes, and property,” stated Izen.

The 38th Assembly District includes Castaic, Santa Clarita, Agua Dulce, Simi Valley, and Los Angeles communities of Porter Ranch, Chatsworth, Northridge and Granada Hills.

Wilk to run for State Senate

Scott Wilk, the two-term Republican Assemblyman of the 38th district, will be a candidate for the 21st State Senate district. This follows yesterday’s news that incumbent Senator Sharron Runner will not seek reelection, and it opens the question of who may join Newhall School District board member Christy Smith in the race for Wilk’s current Assembly seat.

I spoke to Wilk briefly this evening, and he described the decision as an emotional one, as the seat would give him an opportunity to also represent the Antelope Valley, where he grew up.

Today was the filing deadline for candidates in the June primary election, but Runner’s retirement and Wilk’s decision to not run for Assembly automatically extends the nomination deadline for those seats until Wednesday. At present, Smith (D) is the only candidate for AD-38, while Wilk joins the current field of SD-21 candidates: Johnathon Ervin (D), Steve Hill (D), and Star Moffatt (R).

This probably means Tony Strickland won’t be entering the race, but it remains to be seen whether others will join the fray. And the picture for the 38th looks murky, with no clear Republican candidate to take Wilk’s place.

Breaking: Runner will not seek Senate re-election, Sacramento looks to Strickland

cd21-shakeup

According to several high-placed sources within the California Republican Party, State Senator Sharron Runner of the 21st district will not be seeking re-election this year, citing health concerns. GOP Senate leadership is reportedly urging former Senator and Congressional candidate Tony Strickland to run.

According to the LA County Registrar, current candidates for the 21st are Democrats Johnathon Ervin and Steve Hill, and Republican Star Moffatt, who previously ran as a Democrat for this seat against Steve Knight. The filing deadline for the seat is tomorrow, and Runner is presently listed as a nominee. If Runner withdraws her nomination by tomorrow, the nomination period will be automatically extended to Wednesday, March 16.

The 21st District includes the Antelope and Victor Valleys, and much of the Santa Clarita Valley. The Antelope Valley has a clear plurality of the district’s population.

Elected last year to complete now-Congressman Steve Knight’s remaining term, this is Runner’s second partial term in the Senate, having previously been elected to fill her husband’s unexpired term in 2011 after George Runner was elected to the State Board of Equalization. Because she hasn’t served a single complete term, the current term limits law would allow her to serve a full three terms in the Senate after the current term.

Strickland doesn’t currently live in the district, and if he were to run, he’d be entering a large district that only slightly overlaps his previous Senate seat that included some of the eastern Santa Clarita Valley. It’s still unclear whether another Republican nominee will emerge by next Wednesday.

Although it’s widely considered a Republican seat, especially with an incumbent, Democrats now have a slight (+1.4%) registration advantage. No matter the leading Republican nominee, this seat is now much more competitive.

I’ve reached out to Senator Runner’s campaign and Tony Strickland for comment, but neither could be reached. I’ll update as I hear more.

Update: Runner announces she won’t seek re-election (Sacramento Bee)

Full letter of Newhall Water board member alleging serious Brown Act violation

Lynne Plambeck, a longtime member of the Newhall County Water District Board of Directors has alleged that the board violated California’s open meeting laws (the Ralph M. Brown Act) by voting in closed session to pursue a merger with the Castaic Lake Water Agency, which it is suing over its purchase of the Valencia Water Company. She points out that the matter was never agendized and results of the secret vote were never reported in open session. The Signal has more this morning, and we’ve got a copy of her full complaint to the LA County District Attorney right here (PDF link, full text is below)

Other members of the board claim that the discussion and the vote was covered under exceptions that allow closed session discussions over pending litigation. I’ll have to do some more research, (and who knows, this case might wind up setting its own precedent) but the Attorney General has regularly warned that the exception “is not to be used as a subterfuge to reach nonlitigation oriented policy decisions.”

My immediate thought upon hearing the news of the planned merger was that it sounded like a major policy decision (the NCWD is effectively seeking to end itself) and the litigation exception seemed like a stretch, unrelated to the case itself. But we’ll be keeping an open mind and watching this closely.

The full text of Playback’s letter follows:

Lynne Plambeck
PO Box 220516
Newhall CA 91322

2-11-16

Board Members and Responsible Staff
Newhall County Water District
23780 Pine St.
Newhall CA. 91321

Via Hand Delivery to the Newhall County Water District

Dear Fellow Board Members:

As a more than twenty year incumbent on this Board who has taken an oath of office to follow the law and who has regularly full-filled the requirements of AB1234 by attending the required ethics training classes to ensure that I am knowledgeable concerning the laws governing elected members of Boards in the State of California including the Ralph M. Brown Act, I now wish to file a formal complaint under this statue on behalf of myself and my constituents in Newhall County Water District whom I believe have been wronged by violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act by our Board.

The Ralph M Brown Act states:

“In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly. The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.

This chapter shall be known as the Ralph M. Brown Act.”

I firmly believe that this concept must hold true for our own water district and the people that have elected us not only because it is the law but also because it is a moral and ethical obligation to our constituents to act in an open and transparent manner. The residents of Newhall County Water District absolutely have the right to know what actions and discussions are being taken by their elected representatives.

Therefore, this letter is to call your attention to what I believe was a substantial violation of central provisions of the Ralph M. Brown Act, Govt. Code Sections as follow below, which may jeopardize the finality of any action or decisions made by Newhall County Water District (NCWD).

Approximately a year ago our Board formed an “ad hoc committee” to commence “settlement negotiations” with Castaic Lake Water Agency (CLWA) over various legal disputes including an illegal rate increase to Newhall County Water District, a Brown Act violation claimed against us by CLWA and the illegal acquisition of Valencia Water Company in violation of state law including the State Constitution, CLWA’s own enabling act and AB134, a law previously negotiated with CLWA to settle actions they took a decade earlier. Since that time, the Second Appellate Court has ruled for Newhall County Water District on two of these disputes, which are therefore settled.

What constitutes a “legislative body” under the Brown Act? According to section Section 54952 of the Brown Act:

As used in this chapter, “legislative body” means:

(a) The governing body of a local agency or any other local body created by state or federal statute.

(b) A commission, committee, board, or other body of a local agency, whether permanent or temporary, decision making or advisory, created by charter, ordinance, resolution, or formal action of a legislative body.

However, advisory committees, composed solely of the members of the legislative body that are less than a quorum of the legislative body are not legislative bodies, except that standing committees of a legislative

body, irrespective of their composition, which have a continuing subject matter jurisdiction, or a meeting schedule fixed by charter, ordinance, resolution, or formal action of a legislative body are legislative bodies for purposes of this chapter.

This “ad hoc” committee was established by the Board and held meetings for approximately a year and was therefore in fact, a standing committee. Discussions by this “ad Hoc” committee went far beyond discussions of settlement of a lawsuit into consolidation of all of this Valley’s water agencies, including how this would be accomplished, structure, public relations to persuade the public, what legislation might be needed, etc. None of these discussions were ever agendized or reported to the public during that time, although a vague summary has since been made public by means of a “workshop” held on February 4th, 2016.

 Section 54952.6 of the Act describes an action as:

“As used in this chapter, “action taken” means a collective decision made by a majority of the members of a legislative body, a collective commitment or promise by a majority of the members of a legislative body to make a positive or a negative decision, or an actual vote by a majority of the members of a legislative body when sitting as a body or entity, upon a motion, proposal, resolution, order or ordinance.

 Using the statue’s description of an “action” our Board took an action in closed session at our Board meeting of January 14th as to whether or not the District should proceed with consolidation with the Castaic Lake. No report of the action taken was made after the end of the closed session.

54953 (c)(1) of the Brown Act states

No legislative body shall take action by secret ballot, whether preliminary or final.(2) The legislative body of a local agency shall publicly report any action taken and the vote or abstention on that action of each member present for the action.”

At the Board meeting of January 14th our Board took an action secretly in closed session as to whether or not the District should proceed with consolidation with the Castaic Lake Water Agency. No report of the action taken was made to the public after the end of the closed session.

Section 54954.2 describes when and what must be posted on public meeting notices as follows:

(a)(1) At least 72 hours before a regular meeting, the legislative body of the local agency, or its designee, shall post an agenda containing a brief general description of each item of business to be transacted or discussed at the meeting, including items to be discussed in closed session. A brief general description of an item generally need not exceed 20 words.

(2) No action or discussion shall be undertaken on any item not appearing on the posted agenda, except that members of a legislative body or its staff may briefly respond to statements made or questions posed by persons exercising their public testimony rights under Section 54954.3.”

At no time in the past year was the discussion of consolidation, a new governance structure, a public relations campaign or legislation or other related matters that are of vital interest and importance to our constituents ever posted on a Newhall County Water District agenda.

I make note to the Board that under Section 54963:

“(e) A local agency may not take any action authorized by subdivision (c) against a person, nor shall it be deemed a violation of this section, for doing any of the following:

(1) Making a confidential inquiry or complaint to a district attorney or grand jury concerning a perceived violation of law, including disclosing facts to a district attorney or grand jury that are necessary to establish the

illegality of an action taken by a legislative body of a local agency or the potential illegality of an action that has been the subject of deliberation at a closed session if that action were to be taken by a legislative body of a local agency.

(2) Expressing an opinion concerning the propriety or legality of actions taken by a legislative body of a local agency in closed session, including disclosure of the nature and extent of the illegal or potentially illegal action.

(3) Disclosing information acquired by being present in a closed session under this chapter that is not confidential.”

To cure and correct, Brown Act Govt. Code Section 54960.1, requires you to withdraw and disclose any commitments made. Govt. Code Section 54957.1 (b), (c) also requires copies of any contracts or settlements approved must be made available promptly. As provided by Govt. Code Section 54960.1, you have 30 days from receipt of this demand to either cure or correct the challenged action or to inform me of your decision not to do so.

Sincerely,

Lynne Plambeck
Board member, Newhall County Water District

CC: Public Integrity Division,

     Office of the District Attorney
     Los Angeles County

Private schools lead list of least-vaccinated SCV Kindergartens

Vaccine-Header_sclarita

The state’s annual report on Kindergarten vaccination rates is out, and because some people never learn, several SCV schools are reporting dangerously high rates of parents refusing to vaccinate their children.

Four SCV Kindergartens report exemptions in that danger zone (over 8%) where herd immunity for measles and whooping cough is threatened. Two schools, Trinity and SCVi, were also on this list last year, and SCVi has been on this list for three years in a row. Here are the schools:

School (District), Personal Beliefs Exemption Rate
Trinity Classical Academy (Private), 14%
Legacy Christian Academy (Private ), 11%
SCVi (Hart – Charter), 9%
North Park (Saugus), 9%

Overall, SCV Kindergartens are showing that 92% of kids are up to date with their vaccinations, but 3% of kids are not vaccinated under what’s known as a Personal Belief Exemption (PBE) which means their parents refuse to get the vaccinations required for Kindergarten. That’s up slightly from last year (2.7%) but better than two years ago (4.6%).

This is the last year that parents of Kindergartners will be able to claim a PBE. Under a state law passed last year, all children in preschool, Kindergarten, and 7th grade will need to show proof of vaccination. Only medical exemptions will be allowed.

The full dataset can be found here. Reports on 7th grade and childcare/preschools are expected in the coming weeks.

Herd Immunity
Apart from the obvious risk to their own children, the decline in vaccinations it threatens the “herd immunity.” The herd immunity is when nearly everyone in a group is vaccinated, and it prevents outbreaks from occurring. Without it, there is a much higher risk of infection for unvaccinated schoolchildren, younger children, the elderly and anyone with compromised immune systems. This video explains it really well.