Fresno Unified appointee De La Cerda may face challenge

Pick to replace Tony Vang queried.

The Fresno BeeNovember 14, 2012 

County schools and elections officials said Tuesday that inquiries have been made about challenging the appointment of Christopher De La Cerda to the Fresno Unified School District board of trustees.

Trustees last week chose De La Cerda, a former teacher, to replace Tony Vang, who resigned in September after months of public scrutiny over allegations that he lived outside the school district.

De La Cerda, 47, is due to be sworn in at today's school board meeting and will immediately take his seat as a trustee. He was one of four applicants to fill Vang's seat.

But the appointment can be challenged, and Fresno County Clerk Brandi Orth and Fresno County Office of Education head legal counsel Linda Bacon both said people have asked about that process.

Both Orth and Bacon said they didn't know the people who sought the information, and Eva Ruiz, president of the Fresno Teachers Association, and Mai Summer Vue, who has battled Ruiz for FTA president, both said they had not inquired.

"Nobody's contacted me," Ruiz said. "I don't know what group it is."

However, Ruiz said if people want to pursue an election to fill Vang's seat, they are welcome to come before the FTA board to seek help.

Vue echoed Ruiz.

"The conversation I had with parents and students and teachers was they wanted a special election," she said. "They wanted an opportunity to elect someone who would put their best interests first."

And if there are people in the community who want to seek a special election, Vue said, "I will be right there to help them."

Already the clock is ticking.

Anybody who wants a special election can file a petition with Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Larry Powell no later than 30 days after De La Cerda's appointment.

That was seven days ago, and the 30-day deadline is up on December 7.

Powell would then have 30 more days to validate the petition, Bacon said.

It must have either the signatures of 25 registered voters from the McLane trustee area, or 1.5% of the people who voted in the last school board election, whichever is greater. That last election was in 2010.

Mary Beth de Goede, Fresno Unified's legal counsel, estimated at last week's meeting when De La Cerda was appointed that the 1.5% would be somewhere between 300 to 500 registered voters in the McLane area.

If Powell called a special election, De La Cerda would be removed from the board and the trustee post would be vacant until the election is held and certified.

Fresno Unified would have to pay for the election, and de Goede last week estimated the cost would be about $125,000.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6320, jellis@fresnobee.com or @johnellis24 on Twitter.

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