Financial complaints raised in two Fresno Unified school board races

A photo provided by Christopher De La Cerda showing FTA mailers in mailboxes.
A photo provided by Christopher De La Cerda showing FTA mailers in mailboxes.

Complaints over finances and fundraising have been filed in two Fresno Unified school board races, one against Sunnyside-area Trustee Valerie Davis and another against the Fresno Teachers Association.

In the Sunnyside Area, challenger Mark Ratchford filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission against incumbent Davis on Oct. 15, citing her failure to disclose all of her donations.

Campaign filings show several $1,000 donations from individuals and companies during August and September that were filed as Form 497 contributions, but not included on Davis’ Form 460 for July to September.

Form 497 contributions are donations of over $1,000 that must be reported within 24 hours of receipt. An FPPC spokesman said a Form 460 should reflect all campaign donations.

Ratchford said he believes that some of the construction companies that donated to Davis are subcontractors for Harris Construction, whose 2015 contracts with Fresno Unified are under federal investigation.

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“It’s just odd that none of this has been resolved yet and then you see the donations,” Ratchford said. “She’s been doing this for 14 years. She should know the election laws.”

Ratchford is self-employed, running a water quality business in Fresno. Filings show he has put $25,000 into his campaign himself, in addition to one $300 contribution from an individual.

Davis called the FPPC complaint part of Ratchford’s hit pieces against her campaign, which have included radio spots on KMJ.

“It’s unfortunate, because this is a school board, not the senate or another office, so it’s important to model good behavior,” Davis said.

She said she has sent the relevant documents to the FPPC and believes she reported all of her donations correctly.

She also said lots of community members have donated to her campaign, with individuals giving as little as $30 at a time. She noted she’s been endorsed by women’s and labor groups across the district.

McLane High Area 3

In the McLane Area, Trustee Christopher De La Cerda has filed an FPPC complaint against the Fresno Teachers Association.

De La Cerda said union representatives left flyers in teachers’ mailboxes promoting his opponent, Genoveva Islas, in violation of Educational Code policy 7054 that allows districts to restrict mailboxes to nonpolitical uses.

A photo provided by Christopher De La Cerda showing FTA mailers in mailboxes.

But FTA president Manuel Bonilla said the flyers were an internal communication to union members, and that De La Cerda has been lying about being endorsed by various labor groups like the Service Employees International Union.

“Voters should be more concerned that Chris De La Cerda lied about his endorsements, as he did during The Fresno Bee forum when he said he was endorsed by the California Teachers Association,” Bonilla said. “The CTA doesn’t endorse in local school board races.”

Bee opinion staff said De La Cerda clarified that he misspoke after the editorial board, which was streamed live on Facebook.

In addition to Davis’ and De La Cerda’s seats, two other Fresno Unified board seats are up for election on Nov. 6. In the Bullard High area, four candidates are competing to replace outgoing board member Brooke Ashjian: Nasreen Johnson, Terri Edwards, Terry Slatic and Amanda Karabian.

Robert Fuentes and Keshia Thomas are running for the Edison High-area seat currently occupied by Trustee Cal Johnson.

Aleksandra Appleton, @aleksappleton, 559-341-3747