BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Fairfax School District trustee accused of “abusive, or bullying conduct” was the subject of a proposed resolution to formally censure him during last week’s board meeting.
Not only did the resolution fail to pass, but Palmer Moland was named board president in a 3-2 vote, a decision that had some district employees shaking their head.
“Shock, disbelief, shame,” were the emotions felt by Kristina Budy following the Dec. 15 vote. Budy, vice president of the Kern Fairfax Teachers Association, said Moland accused her in a social media post earlier this year of breaking a voting law. He wrote all “all eyes are watching”, Budy said, and told her she didn’t want to become the subject of attention.
Budy said an investigation found she did nothing wrong. Moland never apologized for spreading the false accusation, she said.
An independent investigator hired by the district found Moland, among other things, monitored employees during the performance of their job duties, followed school buses, videotaped or photographed employees at work or reported employees’ alleged tardiness to supervisors. There was substantial evidence Moland engaged in abusive conduct toward district employees, according to the resolution.
“The investigator determined that Trustee Moland’s conduct was egregious,” according to the resolution. “Trustee Moland’s unusual behavior upset and distracted the bus drivers and, due to his position, reasonably intimidated them.”
If the resolution had passed, Moland would have been removed from any committee or leadership position on the board until completing training from a district-approved program on school laws and regulations, and “effective governance.”
Moland on Monday declined comment because of the possibility of litigation.
“It’s best to wait to see what is going to come forward,” he said.
The resolution contained a variety of concerns about Moland’s behavior.
Multiple employees told the investigator it seemed as if Moland tried to catch them doing something wrong. He was pushy and manipulative while other board members were positive and supportive, according to the resolution.
The investigator found Moland felt “animosity” toward the superintendent and the district’s maintenance, operations and transportation director because of an incident in 2015 where he was disciplined after taking a district bus to transport his basketball team without authorization, according to the resolution. It alleged he wanted to get rid of the superintendent, the MOT director and another district employee.
Superintendent Michael Coleman declined comment as statements made during the meeting touched on personnel issues.
The resolution called Moland’s credibility into question when asked about the complaints made against him. Moland “gave inconsistent and clearly inaccurate statements despite his agreement to tell the truth,” it said.
Data technician Jennifer Spaulding, who works in the district office, said Moland became more and more demanding after being elected a board member. The final straw, she said, was a Facebook post where he wrote he may have contracted COVID-19 from employees in the district office because they weren’t wearing masks. Spaulding said she and other employees then made a formal complaint against him.
Marisa Wood, a teacher on special assignment who worked with Moland when he was an aide, said Moland misled people when he first ran for the board in 2018. He said he was a teacher, but Wood said he only ever worked as an aide or with the maintenance and transportation department.
“I was completely astounded,” she said of the decision not to censure Moland, followed by the vote electing him board president.
Dave Walker, head of collective bargaining for the teachers union, said they are dissatisfied with the way the vote went, and Moland’s past practices run counter to what’s best for the students, the people who elected him and the “Fairfax family.”