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Recall Target Calls Foes' Tactics Illegal

February 21, 1988|JEFFREY MILLER | Times Staff Writer

Embattled Bonita school board member Robert Green, facing a recall election Tuesday, went on the offensive last week, charging opponents with misleading and illegal campaign practices.

Joining Green in making the allegations was recently elected board member Sharon Scott, who was active in the recall movement at its inception last March.

Green and Scott said recall proponents spread false rumors about Green while circulating recall petitions last summer in La Verne and San Dimas, the two cities served by the district.

"They were out to mislead because they knew the reasons (for the recall) were so vague," Green said.

The two also allege that teachers backing the recall used school records to compile a list of sympathetic parents, a violation of the state Education Code.

However, leaders of the recall movement have denied both charges, dismissing them as a last-ditch effort by Green and his supporters to forestall a recall they believe is imminent.

"They're desperate," said Mel Hawkins, a Bonita High School teacher and co-chairman of the recall committee. "It's the last week, and they're going to lose. They're trying to discredit a legally constituted recall election. It's all tripe as far as I'm concerned."

Those who vote to recall Green on Tuesday will also be able to express their preference for his successor. Two candidates, William King, a financial administrator with General Dynamics, and Arthur Lopez, who teaches at an elementary school in Azusa, are vying for Green's seat if he is recalled.

Both the recall committee and the teachers association have endorsed King, 49, citing his business background as a decisive strong point.

Lopez, 37, received 938 votes in the November school board election, placing fifth in a field of eight candidates.

What had been a low-key campaign intensified last week with Scott's allegations against recall backers.

Kickback Rumor

Scott said she has received calls from people who said they were told by those soliciting signatures that Green benefited financially from helping to select a computer system purchased by the district in 1985.

"I had heard from different parents around the community . . . that one of the reasons they were recalling Bob Green was that he was receiving kickbacks," Scott said.

Hawkins said he knew of no petition circulators who had accused Green of receiving kickbacks. Parent Laurie Weiss, co-chairwoman of the recall committee, said those involved with the campaign had heard rumors of kickbacks but found no evidence to substantiate them and did not mention the allegations while canvassing for petition signatures.

"We heard that rumor when we started the recall movement," Weiss said. "We checked it out and decided not to make that an issue. . . . There was no mention of computers."

Green described the rumors as "absolutely false" and "slanderous."

Scott also said that while she was involved with the recall movement, Hawkins tried to give her a list of parents who might be sympathetic to the recall. She said the list apparently had been culled from school records.

'Handed It Back'

"I didn't even look at the list," Scott said. "I handed it back to him and said I wanted nothing to do with that."

Hawkins denied trying to give Scott such a list. He said that the possible use of school records was discussed at a meeting of the recall committee, which Scott attended, but that the idea was soundly rejected.

"We bounced a lot of things around," Hawkins said. "We as a group said there were a few things we could not do, (and) one was to go to the school records. We all as a group agreed that we wouldn't do anything against the law."

Scott also accused Hawkins of making a "threatening" phone call to her on Feb. 10 in which he allegedly promised retribution against her for supporting Green.

"He point-blank said: 'Robert Green is going to go down in flames, and you're going to go down with him,' " Scott said.

Hawkins said he was angered that Scott had "betrayed a personal phone call," adding that he had intended only to inform her that her position on the recall was unpopular with many teachers.

"I told her that she was hitching her wagon to a falling star," Hawkins said. "I told her that if she lines up with Robert Green, she'll be lining herself up against the Bonita Unified Teachers Assn., which quite frankly has been a very powerful political organization. I called to warn her, and she said I called to threaten her."

The final weeks leading up to Tuesday's vote have proven to be every bit as rancorous as the lengthy dispute between Green and the teachers association that prompted the recall effort.

'Act of Retaliation'

Green has said the recall campaign, begun last spring by a committee of teachers and parents, is "an act of retaliation" for the hard-line approach he took with teachers during contract negotiations. Green, who describes himself as the board's financial expert, said the district could not accede to teachers' wage demands without risking bankruptcy.

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