As Resignation Pressure Mounts, Beiser Hunkers Down - Voice of San Diego

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As Resignation Pressure Mounts, Beiser Hunkers Down

Aside from an initial denial, San Diego Unified Trustee Kevin Beiser hasn’t made any public appearances or statements since four men accused him of sexual misconduct. The Board of Trustees plans to vote Tuesday on a resolution formally calling on Beiser to resign. But if Beiser continues to ignore calls for him to step down, the board won’t have many other options.

San Diego Unified Trustee Kevin Beiser takes part in a 2017 school board meeting. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

It has been three weeks since four men accused San Diego Unified School District Trustee Kevin Beiser of sexual misconduct.

Beiser responded the day of the allegations by declaring his innocence, promising a vigorous defense and calling the accusations politically motivated. He has not been heard from since.

As Beiser has hunkered down, his fellow board members and activists from across the political spectrum have started to get restless.

John Lee Evans, a fellow trustee, has called for the board to vote Tuesday on a resolution to formally call for Beiser’s resignation. Within a day of the accusations, each of the four other board members called on Beiser to resign, but the resolution represents an official board action.

But if Beiser continues to ignore calls for him to step down, the board won’t have many other options.

“I wanted to publicly and in a united way call on him to resign so that people could see what we’re doing,” Evans said. “Part of the resolution would be to let people know that this is the limit of what we can do. We don’t have the power as board members to remove a person from office.”

Protesters are planning to assemble outside the meeting Tuesday, demanding Beiser’s resignation. The local Democratic and Republican parties have both already called on him to do so.

“Join us and call on the San Diego Unified Board to banish Beiser,” reads an image prepared by the protesters and that has been shared on social media.

Evans said he has referred to the district’s code of conduct for board members and sees ways in which Beiser’s actions have violated it, though it is not a legal document that could force his removal. He said the code of conduct calls on board members to protect the district’s image and integrity, not to embarrass each other and to respect the decision of the full board, which could come into play if the board passes its resolution Tuesday.

“I’m not sure what will happen. I don’t know if he will resign. But I also think it would be very difficult for him to show up at a board meeting,” Evans said. “These are serious allegations. He needs to resign and we need to move forward. I want to focus on our job as trustees and the mission of the district, which is why I’d hope he’d resign sooner than later.”

The San Diego Education Association, the union that represents teachers in San Diego Unified and which has endorsed Beiser in the past, is likewise expected to consider a formal resolution calling for Beiser’s resignation at the next meeting of its representative council, on April 17.

In her initial response to the allegations against Beiser, SDEA president Kisha Borden called for an investigation, along with committing to vote on a resolution calling for his resignation.

“Any allegations such as these should be taken serious, and they should be investigated by the proper authorities,” Borden said in an email. “SDEA is neither capable, qualified, nor would it be appropriate for us to dictate what would be the most appropriate jurisdiction – whether that be SDUSD, the police or through the courts.  But we do believe the survivors deserve to be heard and that their accusations are taken seriously.”

The primary process to remove an elected official from office is a recall campaign.

But it turns out, it isn’t all that clear how that process would play out.

Michael Vu, the county registrar, said his office would oversee any recall drive, but that it is the city’s municipal code that outlines the relevant rules.

But the section of the municipal code he pointed to does not explicitly refer to school board members.

Instead, it says that officials elected citywide and City Council members can be recalled as long as they’ve been in office for six months. To qualify a recall for an election, proponents need to collect signatures for 15 percent of all registered voters in the city (for citywide officials) and within a Council district (for Council members).

But it says nothing about how many signatures are required to recall a school board member. That’s especially tricky because board members are not elected in the same way as city officials. In a primary election, school board members are selected only by voters in their subdistrict. The top two then proceed to a general election before voters of the entire school district. But the school district does not have the same jurisdictional boundary of the city.

It’s not clear, then, whether recall proponents would need signatures from 15 percent of registered voters in the city, in the school district or in Beiser’s specific subdistrict.

“After reviewing this further, I’m going to need more time,” Vu said. “I’ll work as quickly as I can to get you a response, but this is multi-layered and I want to make sure I give you an accurate response.”

Beiser did not respond to a request for comment.

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