TVUSD Board President Joseph Komrosky calls for the removal of half of the audience as Board Member Allison Barclay objects and Board Member Steven Schwartz starts packing up his bag.
TVUSD Board President Joseph Komrosky calls for the removal of half of the audience as Board Member Allison Barclay objects and Board Member Steven Schwartz starts packing up his bag. (TVUSD YouTube/Screenshot)

Wednesday night’s special meeting of the Temecula Valley Unified School District Board of Education came to an abrupt end after the board majority voted to end discussion on the second item of the two-item agenda and take a vote.

“You need a two-thirds majority to end discussion,” Board Member Allison Barclay said in response to the motion. “Excuse me, absolutely not. Robert’s Rules of Order say you need two-thirds of the board.”

Immediately after the motion was made, the audience began shouting at the board prompting Board President Joseph Komrosky to call for the removal of one entire side of the audience, creating even more outrage.

“You’re violating [California Education Code], Joe,” Barclay said, as Komrosky called for removal of the audience members. “This is a violation of Ed Code. You have to give individual warnings by person with a reason.”

While the audience members left, Board Member Danny Gonzalez made the motion to approve the agreement with the law firm Advocates for Faith & Freedom, which specializes in religious liberty cases, for a lawsuit filed against the district for its ban on critical race theory (CRT). The motion passed with Board Clerk Jen Wiersma, Komrosky and Gonzalez voting in favor.

“This is a complete travesty,” Barclay said following the vote. “This is not how a board works. This is not how a school district works. I am disgusted.

“They want to take us to the Supreme Court, and you will be paying for this for decades, decades to come,” she continued.

During public comments, the majority of speakers on this item called on the board to deny the agreement citing concerns about the faith-based nature of the law firm; connections between Inland Empire Family PAC — which endorsed Gonzalez, Komrosky and Wiersma — Pastor Tim Thompson and the law firm; the number of law firms the school board already has retainer; the hidden costs included in the agreement; and the negative attention being brought to the district because of the CRT ban and subsequent lawsuit.

“I think what bothers me the most is that this firm does not care about what’s best for our schools, our students, our community,” Jean Femia said. “They’re very clear that they make this offer for their own purposes only. You, on the other hand, should care intensely about us and about what is best for our students.”

Two speakers were in favor of the agreement, citing the lead attorney’s experience and the firm’s willingness to represent the district pro bono.

“I would like to express my strong support for this most affordable representation in defense of this ridiculous lawsuit,” Daniel Luna, who also accused the teachers’ union of wanting to indoctrinate the district’s students, said.

And while the agreement states that the firm will represent the district pro bono, the offer comes with a number of caveats.

While the district will not be responsible for attorney’s fees, it will be required to pay court filing fees and deposition fees. The district will also be charged for large inhouse printing projects; mileage; computerized legal research not included in the firm’s present computer-based library; courier service fees, federal express and other overnight delivery charges; telephone conference service charges; outside printing charges; investigator’s fees; expert witness fees; court motion and filing fees; travel expenses; sanctions; and other expenses traditionally passed-through to the client.

The agreement also states that if the district settles the lawsuit and agrees to pay damages, fees or compensation to the plaintiffs; decides that it no longer wants to pursue the litigation; or fires the firm while litigation is ongoing, the district will be liable for paying all attorneys fees accrued up to that point. Hourly fees for the firm range from $150 per hour for work done by a legal assistant to to $450 per hour for work done by Robert Tyler, the president of the firm.

The district will also be responsible to pay for the cost of representation if it fails to comply with any part of the agreement, which includes a clause that the district will not make any statements to media regarding the case without prior approval and that all media inquiries will be directed to the law firm.

The law firm is also allowed to change its fees with a 30-day written notice.

Schwartz pointed out that the district is part of a joint powers agreement (JPA) that would be activated once the district has been served with the lawsuit, which Komrosky said has not yet happened, and would provide legal support for the district at no additional cost.

“The JPA is the joint insurance group which covers our district four lawsuits,” Schwartz said. “If we receive notice of being served, the JPA will become involved and recommend a course of action. 

“We should follow these established protocols and not rush into hiring another law firm,” he continued. “Hiring another law firm at this point is ridiculous.”

Ultimately the board majority voted to approve the agreement with Barclay voting against and Schwartz abstaining from the vote, packing up his bags and preparing to leave the dais as the call for a vote was made.

Earlier in the meeting, the board voted 3-2 to adopt a new decorum policy despite concerns raised by board members Danny Gonzalez, Allison Barclay and Steven Schwartz. Barclay and Schwartz voted against the new policy.

“I completely think you’re within your rights to post that and still appoint [District Director of Safety and Security Jason Vickery], and maybe we can work on this language a little bit more, just to make it a little bit more clear,” Gonzalez said before ultimately voting in favor of the policy. “I wouldn’t mind possibly meeting with you and the attorney just to discuss the language to try and clarify some of it a little bit before the next meeting.”

Board President Joseph Komrosky said the new policy built on current state law and brought more specificity to the policy, thereby providing additional clarity on how the board will handle future disruptions. Speakers during public comment said the policy was so vague that it could lead the board down the road of infringing on the public’s right to free speech.

“You don’t need another policy that is vague and poorly defined and puts all of us at risk of being kicked out for being too loud,” Kristi McClure said. “Like, what does that even mean?”

This concern was echoed by both Schwartz and Barclay during board discussion.

“I think when you start getting into things that deal with speech and people’s speech, I think we’re putting ourselves in jeopardy of lawsuit number, I don’t know which one, at least number two,” Schwartz said.

Barclay recommended that the board could post the current state policy regarding disruptions, which Komrosky reads aloud before every meeting, while the particulars of the new policy were further discussed and concerns brought by him, Barclay and Gonzalez could be addressed.

Though Komrosky and the board majority seemed amenable to this option, with Komrosky calling it a “compromise,” Gonzalez made the motion to adopt the policy as is, which was seconded by Board Clerk Jen Wiersma.

The motion passed 3-2 with Barclay and Schwartz voting against. The policy will be in place ahead of the next regularly scheduled meeting set for Aug. 22.

The meeting comes days after One Temecula Valley PAC kicked off its recall effort with a standing room only event at the Maurice Car’rie Winery in Temecula.

A video of the meeting can be found here on the district’s YouTube page.

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