Fairfax School District board approves hiring of LA law firm hours after release of critical grand jury report

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Passions ran high at a meeting of the Fairfax School District board last night, where you could clearly hear attendees yelling “shame on you” to some of the board members.

The meeting took place just hours after the release of a Kern County Grand Jury report calling the Fairfax School Board “divided and dysfunctional.” The report says the board has failed to allow public comment during meetings, violated its own bylaws and ethics laws and failed to take action regarding allegations of abusive behavior by the current board president, Palmer Moland. 

Last week, Moland backed a resolution to terminate the district’s contract with its legal counsel, but some board members said they were never given a reason why. In the end, Moland and fellow trustees Alma Rios and Jose Luis Tapia voted 3-2 to terminate the contract.

Last night, the same board members again voted 3-2 to hire another law firm out of Los Angeles. That decision enraged several members of the community in attendance, who argued that the trustees have not been transparent in their decisions. 

“I cannot believe that you have the guts to sit here and say you care about kids. You don’t care. You have your own agenda,” said Maria Hernandez.

“One person does not rule this district, never has, never will,” said Patsy Rowles. “I have been on the board for almost 30 years, and never in my life have I had to put up with something like this.” Several community members are launching a recall effort to oust Moland, Tapia, and Rios.

President Moland released a statement on Thursday, saying during his time on the board, he raised concerns about errors in financial records and claimed that he started to be targeted by others because of this.

“I have tried my best and will continue to be an advocate for the community for parents like myself and others. I hope for improvement and functionality of the Board moving forward,” he said.

Interim Superintendent Lora Brown also released a statement addressing the Grand Jury report.

“Because the contents of the report relate specifically to the district’s publicly elected board of trustees, it would be inappropriate for me to comment one way or the other whether I agree with the findings,” she said. “I will of course do what the community and board feel is best for students. What I can say is that my focus and commitment is on ensuring that the district is meeting the needs of our students and their families.”

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