WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa school board to discuss legal challenge over Doyle Park vote


The Santa Rosa school board is scheduled to meet in closed session Thursday to discuss the ongoing threat of litigation over its controversial vote to close Doyle Park Elementary School to make way for a French-American charter school.

The latest challenge came late last week when a Santa Rosa attorney said that board members violated open meetings requirements under the Brown Act, California’s open meeting law.

Attorney David Grabill claimed that board members, including board president Larry Haenel, held a series “of private deliberative telephone conversations among a majority of board members” in violation of the Brown Act.

On Monday, Haenel rejected the allegations, claiming that he never spoke to more than two board members. Four members constitute a majority on the seven-member board.

Grabill, who is asking the board to rescind its decision to close Doyle Park to remedy the Brown Act violation, is working with a San Francisco-based legal group that previously claimed school board trustee Tad Wakefield violated conflict of interest rules when he cast the key vote to close Doyle Park.

That group, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Right of the San Francisco Bay Area, also has requested that the board reverse its decision to close Doyle Park.

Just prior to voting, Wakefield publicly acknowledged that he had expressed interest in having his two young children attend the French charter school and said he had been advised by the board’s attorney that he had no conflict.

Both the board’s legal counsel, Bob Henry, and the Lozano Smith law firm, which represents school districts across California, have concluded there was no conflict.

Last week, the Lawyers’ Committee submitted a public records request to both the school board and the Superintendent Sharon Liddell seeking documents and communications related to the closure.

Cecilia Chen, an attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee, said the public records requests are aimed at gathering more information about the public process surrounding the closure.

“We’re exploring all possible legal actions regarding the issue,” Chen said.

The closed session is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. at Santa Rosa City Hall. The regular board meeting begins at 6 p.m.

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