Ocean View School District to Vote on Censuring Trustee Westwell — Again


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You may have missed it, or forgotten about it, as it happened nack during the Paleolithic Era of early March. as Covid-19 was just showing up in the U.S. and Super Tuesday was eating up all of the rest of the news oxygen — but Ocean View School District Trustee Norm Westwell was censured by his own School Board in early March for “inappropriate conduct” at both open and closed board meetings.

To refresh your memories (or let you know about this for the first time), Westwell’s speech and actions were (collected and reported out by Chair John Briscoe) were largely aimed at fellow Trustee Gina Clayton-Tarvin, but some were also aimed at District Superintendent Carole Hansen, and still others at the entire Board.

  • told Clayton-Tarvin to “keep your pie hole closed” (May 2017)
  • emailed Clayton-Tarvin and Hansen telling then “don’t get your panties in a bunch (April 2018)
  • sexually harassed Clayton-Tarvin by “repeatedly pucker[ing] his lips with visual and audible kissing gestures”
  • flipped off board members at the same meeting with, and I’m reading between the lines here, some flavor of “fuck you!”
  • and more!

As the Daily Pilot reported in the linked article, Briscoe — who has some low level explosive nickname I can’t quite recall, something like “Stink Bomb” — got his, um, let’s say “got his underwear knotted”:

Briscoe said in an interview before the meeting that Westwell’s behavior needed to be called out and that he hoped the resolution would encourage Westwell to change his ways.

During the meeting, Westwell repeatedly questioned Briscoe’s leadership of the board and unsuccessfully tried to delay the vote on the resolution.

He also pounded his hand on the dais, repeatedly interrupted Clayton-Tarvin and Briscoe and expressed frustration because Briscoe wouldn’t acknowledge him to speak unless he stood or raised his hand high.

“Lies, lies, lies and more lies,” Westwell said, asking for evidence of the allegations. “This board has become a circus. The beginning of this censure is the first step in trustee Tarvin’s attempt to silence my speech. Trustee Tarvin has established a pattern of doing this to people when they take a position contrary to hers.”

He cited Clayton-Tarvin’s unsuccessful attempts to get restraining orders against vocal critics Raymond Herrera, an illegal-immigration activist, and Chuck Johnson, a local blogger.

“It is well-known that trustee Tarvin and I are on the opposite sides of many issues,” he said. “This is step one in her attempt to control my speech. Next will likely be some sort of lawsuit, maybe a sexual harassment one. Make no mistake, she is laying the groundwork. It’s a setup.”

Clayton-Tarvin said the incidents in the resolution are only a few illustrating Westwell’s behavior. She asked her colleague to stop his actions so the board could return its focus to the district’s students.

“We can disagree with one another as colleagues, as professionals, as elected members of this body, but to do things like this are so dishonorable, disrespectful, unprofessional and, frankly, shameful,” she said.

Westwell also called for a grand jury investigation into the Board’s action!  (Maybe the nickname was “Popgun”?  Cap Pistol?  I’ll have to look into that….)  OJB will bet that that didn’t happen.

Well, that’s all old news by now — Clayton-Tarvin and Westwell were re-elected without a challenger in August. just like OJB warned you could happen if people don’t step up and run! — and it wouldn’t be worth bringing up now except for one thing: this Tuesday, it will be happening again.

Ocean View School District Trustee Norm “Stink Bomb” Westwell (not sure about the nickname, but it’s something like that) is up for censure a *second* time this year for stinking up the joint.

Here’s the resolution being put forth, in Stink Bomb purple:

 

RESOLUTION OF THE GOVERNING BOARD

OF THE OCEAN VIEW SCHOOL DISTRICT OF ORANGE COUNTY REGARDING CENSURE OF TRUSTEE NORM WESTWELL

Resolution No. xx:xxxx

WHEREAS, Board Bylaw 9005, “Governance Standards,” states that the Board’s “primary responsibility is to act in the best interests of every student in the District;”

WHEREAS, Board Bylaw 9005 further states that, “To maximize Board effectiveness and public confidence in District governance, Board Members are expected to govern responsibly and hold themselves to the highest standards of ethical conduct;”

WHEREAS, Board Bylaw 9005 further states that, “The Board expects its members to work with each other and the Superintendent to ensure that a high-quality education is provided to each student;”

WHEREAS, Board Bylaw 9005 further states that, “Each individual Board Member shall… ‘Recognize and respect differences of perspective and style on the Board and among staff, students, parents, and the community;’”

WHEREAS, Board Bylaw 9005 further states that, “Each individual Board Member shall… ‘Act with dignity, and understand the implications of demeanor and behavior;'”

WHEREAS, Board Bylaw 9005 further states that, “Board Members shall assume collective responsibility for building unity and creating a positive organizational culture” and “Govern in a dignified and professional manner, treating everyone with civility and respect;”

WHEREAS, Board Policy 0150 sets “clear expectations for civil behavior that support a safe, welcoming, and nurturing environment on school property and at school-related activities,” noting that “Expected behaviors include, but are not limited to,

  • Respect and courtesy in language, demeanor, and actions
  • Moderate tone and volume of voice, and
  • Respect for the personal, civil, and property rights of others.”

WHEREAS, Board Policy 0150 further states that, “Unacceptable behaviors include, but are not limited to,

  • Rude, insulting, or demeaning language and/or actions
  • Displays of temper
  • Harassment and intimidation; and
  • Threatening and/or abusive gestures or behavior.”

WHEREAS, Robert’s Rules of Order for parliamentary procedure calls for “decorum” as a fundamental underlying tenant of meeting conduct, and

WHEREAS, the Governing Board of Ocean View School District of Orange County makes the following factual findings:

  1. That adherence to the Board Bylaws and appropriate Governance Standards are primary responsibilities of the Board and in the best interests of every student in the District;
  2. That each Board Member must act with dignity and understand the implications of their demeanor and behavior;
  3. That the following conduct by Board Member Norm Westwell falls short of the Board’s expectations and supports the issuance of this Censure Resolution:

The Ocean View School District (“District”) has completed its investigation related to an incident involving Trustee Norm Westwell on November 19, 2019, of which complaints were filed by parent Emily Anderson, Board Member Gina Clayton-Tarvin, and Board Member Norm Westwell.

The investigation was conducted by an independent Investigator, Scott Danforth, attorney with the Law Firm of Atkinson, Anderson, Loya, Ruud & Romo.

The Investigator discovered evidence that the claimed interactions and statements occurred in some form, during the November 19, 2019, incident. 

The Investigator found the following evidence supported a conclusion that Westwell violated the Board Policies and Bylaws pertaining to civility and unacceptable behavior for Board Members:

  • A Board of Trustees meeting took place on November 19, 2019, in the Ocean View School District Board room. When the meeting concluded, all of the Board Members began packing up their belongings.  Most of the attendees quickly left the Board room when the meeting concluded, leaving Clayton-Tarvin, Jack Sounders (“Souders”), John Briscoe (“Briscoe”), Westwell, Patricia Singer (“Singer”), Emily Anderson (“Anderson”) and her two children in the Board room. 
  • While Westwell was packing up behind the dais, Anderson approached and said something to the effect of “I am tired of your negative comments during Board meetings and you never have anything nice to say about teachers or students.”
  • After packing up, and while inside the Board room, Clayton-Tarvin and Souders had a brief discussion about parliamentary procedures. While Clayton-Tarvin and Souders spoke, Westwell positioned himself inside the Board room, near the northwest entrance/exit. 
  • As Clayton-Tarvin and Souders were walking to the northwest entrance/exit of the Board room, Clayton-Tarvin noticed Westwell in the hallway between her and the northwest exit.

(There are only two exits that are regularly used for the Board room, both are at the north side of the building.  The northwest exit leads directly to the parking lot in front of the building.  The other northern exit requires additional walking to reach the parking lot.)

  • While approaching the hallway to the northwest exit and after seeing Westwell, Clayton-Tarvin made a comment to the effect of, “I’m afraid of you Trustee Westwell, you have to leave,” and Westwell responded, “I don’t have to leave.” Clayton-Tarvin then requested that Westwell move out of her way, saying that he was blocking her way. Westwell was approximately 5 or 6 steps from the northwest exit to the Board room.  Westwell responded by saying words to the effect of, “I’m not blocking you, there’s a door behind you, you can leave,” referring to the second northern exit.  Clayton-Tarvin requested that Westwell move out of the way 2-3 times.  After being asked to move on more than one occasion, Westwell moved and gave Clayton-Tarvin room to pass.
  • After exiting the room, Anderson made a comment to Westwell to the effect of, “Just leave her [Clayton-Tarvin] alone.” In response, Westwell made a comment to Anderson that your kids were “rude and disrespectful.”   At this point, an argument between Westwell and Anderson erupted.  Anderson and Westwell began raising their voices.  Anderson responded “Excuse me?” and said something to the effect of, “you were elected to represent these kids” and “you work for me.”   Westwell continued by saying something to the effect of, “other parents have come to me to complain about your disgustingly disrespectful children.”

During the argument, the distance between Anderson and Westwell ranged from
inches to 2-3 feet and lasted between 1 and 5 minutes.)

  • While the argument was still occurring, Clayton-Tarvin began looking for her cell phone to video tape the incident. Before any video recording occurred, Westwell began walking away from the altercation.  As Westwell was walking away, Clayton-Tarvin started videotaping and narrating some of what she recalled happening.
  • On the video recording, Clayton-Tarvin reiterated that Westwell had called a 5 year old and 8 year old rude and he had gotten in the face of a parent. She said “You’re out of control. You need to be taken away.”  Westwell responded “get over it” and also “Someone’s gonna drop a house on you Gina.”  Clayton-Tarvin then suggested that Anderson should call the police, to which Anderson responded, “Oh I’ll be doing something,” and yelled, “Get out of here Norm.”  Westwell responded “Bite me” and then got in his car and left.

WHEREAS, the Investigator concluded that Westwell violated Board Policies and Bylaws when he temporarily blocked Clayton-Tarvin’s exit and also by making inappropriate comments about Anderson’s children and/or her parenting.  Accordingly, the Investigator concluded that while there was insufficient evidence that Westwell’s actions were threatening, there was sufficient evidence that his conduct violated District policies and that a censure of Trustee Westwell, directing him not to engage in such behavior in the future, was a viable option in response to the findings. 

WHEREAS, the Governing Board determines that Trustee Westwell’s conduct is unacceptable, unprofessional, and a violation of the Board Bylaws cited above.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED AND ORDERED that the Governing Board of the Ocean View School District of Orange County hereby finds that the foregoing recitals are true and correct.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED AND ORDERED that based on these recitals, the Governing Board of the Ocean View School District of Orange County hereby censures Trustee Norm Westwell and proclaims publicly that this Board disapproves of the aforementioned conduct and finds it to be a violation of the Board Bylaws and unacceptable behavior that shall not be tolerated.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED AND ORDERED that Trustee Norm Westwell not engage in such behavior in the future, and shall treat fellow Board Members and the Public with dignity and respect at all times.

[PASSED AND ADOPTED by the following vote of the members of the Governing Board of the Ocean View School District of Orange County, State of California, this ____day of _____ 2020:]

We’ll keep an eye out for what happens Tuesday night, if and when the Stink Bomb explodes!

(Seriously, you would think that someone in charge of maintaining a proper environment for school children would understand the importance of  modeling good behavior.  But I guess that some people who really can’t behave really do need to be held back.)

UPDATE:  Aaaaand … he was censured.  You can check out the meeting video if you wish; I’ll try to come up with a more definite time stamp in the fullness of time.  (A huge procedural tempest in a teapot raised by Westwell is resolved at the 1 hour 30 minutes point.  That’s as far as I’ve gotten….)


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 (in violation of Roberts Rules) when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Expelled from DPOC in October 2018 (in violation of Roberts Rules) for having endorsed Spitzer over Rackauckas -- which needed to be done. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. One of his daughters co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)