SANTA MONICA—On Thursday, December 17, conflict broke out during a Santa Monica Malibu School District Board Meeting. City Councilmember Oscar De la Torre refused to step down as a member of the board.
The district believes that per Government Code Section 1099, which prohibits elected officials from holding “incompatible offices,” De la Torre forfeited his board position when he assumed a seat on City Council on December 8.
During the meeting De la Torre made multiple attempts to speak, which were halted by Board President Jon Kean. At one point, the board agreed to move the meeting into a closed session midway through the meeting to avoid further conflict.
Under Gov. Code Section 1099, De la Torre is intended to have a judge decide on whether his position is incompatible. De la Torre does not expect the judge to rule in his favor.
The SMMUSD believes that the code does apply in De la Torre’s case and that he is no longer legally a board member.
“Upon being sworn into the City Council, Councilmember De la Torre would be deemed by law to have forfeited any prior incompatible position, which would have been his position on the School Board. Therefore, by operation of law Mr. De la Torre is no longer a member of the Santa Monica School Board,” said Jay Fernow, legal advisor to the District, during the meeting.
Attorney Kevin Shenkman is a friend of De la Torres and represents De la Torre’s wife in the voting rights lawsuit against the city of Santa Monica.
Shenkman stated how the district doesn’t have the legal power to remove De la Torre from his position on the board. Shenkman acknowledged that the only way De la Torre would not be a member is if De la Torre submit a letter of resignation or an attorney general rules his elected position is incompatible.
“De la Torre repeatedly interrupted the meeting stating that he considered himself both a Council member and a School Board member, ignoring the fact that the two offices are not legally compatible and that he had been campaigning in public and private about his preferred replacement,” said Kean. “As our country lives through a non-peaceful transition of power in the White House, Mr. De la Torre brought the divisiveness of DC to Santa Monica last night and made a meeting intended to address the educational futures of 10,000 students all about himself and his ego.”
Back in October 2010, De la Torres was investigated by the Santa Monica Police Department for child endangerment while being the director and founder for Pico Youth and Family Center, located in Santa Monica https://www.smgov.net/uploadedFiles/Main/News_Tab/OIR%20Findings.pdf.
De la Torre is undergoing legal actions in order to retain his seat on the School Board, during this transition De la Torre said he would step down under certain conditions.
“So there’s a couple of ways to get me off the School Board. One: appoint Jason Feldman. Two: address the issues that I have brought forward around racial justice. Three: have a judge decide,” said De la Torre.