HAYWARD -- Long-running tensions boiled over during Wednesday night's school board meeting, with trustees accusing one another of speaking out of order and the board president ordering one trustee to be removed from the chamber.
"You cannot censor a public official," Trustee Luis Reynoso -- who has had a number of recent run-ins with board members -- shouted to Board President Paul Frumklin III as he was led away by a noticeably uncomfortable security guard.
"This is illegal what you are doing," Reynoso said. "This is censorship. Is this going to happen every time I disagree with you?"
The confrontation stemmed from a Sept. 8 meeting, during which Reynoso brought up the issue of Trustee Jesus Armas' wife working for the district, as well as his adult children being hired as tutors during the summer.
Reynoso said a 1997 ruling by the state attorney general forbids such hirings, as do the district's bylaws.
At the beginning of Wednesday's meeting, Frumkin read a response from district lawyers that stated they found the ruling had to do with hiring a spouse when a trustee already was a member of the board, rather than the appointment of someone to the board after the spouse already had been hired.
They also rejected the claim about Armas' children, saying it's legal for family members to be hired as long as the board member recuses him or herself from related decisions.
The fireworks began when Reynoso tried to
Frumkin said Reynoso was out of line to be speaking, and they traded "You are out of order!" accusations. Then Frumkin ordered Reynoso's removal.
Outside the chamber, neither the security guard nor a uniformed Hayward police officer knew what to do. Reynoso said he refused to leave unless he was arrested, so he returned to his seat. A police sergeant was called to resolve the matter, and arrived with another officer in tow.
After a closed-session meeting between school officials and police, they reached an agreement: Reynoso would be allowed to make his rebuttal to the district statement.
Essentially, Reynoso said he doesn't believe the lawyers are right, and wants to see legal evidence. He compared them with attorneys for the city of Bell, where eight officials, past and present, face criminal charges in a municipal salary scandal.
The officers said there were no grounds to arrest Reynoso. They also said it was the first time they had responded to such a call.
Attendees were divided in their reactions to the disruption. One called Reynoso an "anarchist," while another said Frumkin violated protocol in trying to block Reynoso from speaking.
"The board president reserves the right to make a comment at the start of the meeting," Frumkin said Thursday. "It was not an agendized item."
He said the opening comment is usually something noncontroversial, such as accolades for a longtime school employee.
But Reynoso said that Frumkin opened with a district report, and comment on such a report must be allowed from other trustees.
"He's trying to shut down an elected official," he said. "They don't want to hear a different opinion."
Reynoso said getting police involved was "a cheap shot," and called Wednesday night "a big victory for the little guy."
"We have a community out there that wants to hear a different voice than what the rest of the board is telling them," he said.
Frumkin, who is leaving the board in December, said he hopes future meetings will be calmer.
"But if it continues to be the kind of stuff that occurred last night, I will continue to say, 'Look, we got to conduct this in an orderly fashion,' " he said.