Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates Responds to Censure Campaign: UPDATE

The calm before the storms
The calm before the storms
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UPDATE #2, 1:57 P.M.: Centralia School District Board of Trustees President Steve Harris provides this comment to Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates' comment about Harris and his crew censuring him:

Dr. Gates still never apologized for calling us and the other districts a "half-way house" (A halfway house is a venue that allows people with physical, mental and emotional disabilities to learn the necessary social and other skills needed to integrate or re-integrate into society. Walter Knott Elementary School could hardly be deemed a psychiatric facility during the time Oak View's staff and students were there for teaching and learning). Plus, he did not commend us for providing Oak View's students with a needed site while the removing of asbestos from Ocean View schools was talking place. He has freedom of speech to be wrong, but we, as a board, also have the freedom of speech to be right.

CRAZY!

UPDATE #1, 2:41 P.M.: In a statement, Michael Gates responded to the censure campaign being waged against him by Ocean View School District trustee John Briscoe.

His statement:

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It is unfortunate that an elected official on a School Board in Huntington Beach sees fit to mount these attacks and inject Huntington Beach issues in other districts. I was never contacted by Centralia School District and it does not appear that school district fact-checked the Resolution, which contains a number of errors, misrepresentations, and twists out of context. Had Centralia contacted me for my statement, the Board there would have quickly realized this is Mr. Briscoe's attempt to elevate a very local dispute based upon falsehoods and erroneous statements. I stand by my long-held belief that Huntington Beach, as well as all of Orange County, has the best schools. Nothing I have ever said suggests anything to the contrary.

ORIGINAL POST, 8:03 A.M.: There are scorched-earth political wars, and then there's the free-for-all happening in Huntington Beach between Ocean View School District (OVSD) trustee John Briscoe and HB's city attorney, Michael Gates. Who goes around asking other school districts to pass resolutions censuring and condemning Gates? Briscoe does. That's straight-up SAVAGE right there--but Briscoe has a hell of a case.

The bad blood dates back to late last year, when OVSD made national news when construction at three of its schools found asbestos. After a parent uproar, the district shut down Lake View, Hope View, and Oak View elementary schools, shipping off kids to schools in the Westminster, Savanna (which serves parts Anaheim, Buena Park, Cypress and Stanton), and Centralia (which serves sections of Anaheim, Buena Park, Cypress, and La Palma) school districts until all the asbestos could be eliminated. The move, coupled with the transfer-out of more than 100 kiddies from the district, cost OVSD millions of dollars in state funds and has trustee members scrambling to cover its budget.

The news was met with glee in Huntington Beach's notoriously bare-knuckles Facebook community pages, where some folks piled on the tomatoes at OVSD. One of them was Gates, who tagged Briscoe in a May 18 comment on one of the FB forums...oh, I forget which one. Huntington Beach Community Forum? The one set up by people banned from that one? The one set up by people banned from that one? Anyhoo, Gates blasted Briscoe for busing off "OUR children" to other districts, accused OVSD of "stick[ing] its thumb in the eye of the City" and referred to the Westminster, Centralia, and Savanna campuses as "'half-way house' schools."

The comment infuriated Briscoe, who endorsed Gates in the 2014 election. On June 9, he fired off a letter to Centralia School District Superintendent Dr. Diane Scheerhorn, and Board President Steve Harris asking them to place on their agenda a resolution to condemn and censure Gates for his "half-way house" comment that Briscoe claimed was "an intentional and planned attack without provocation on the districts that helped the Ocean View School District of Orange County, in its time of need." The resolution, helpfully offered by Briscoe, also gleefully claimed that Gates "has never sent even a single one of his five children to public school; instead preferring special private schooling in Orange County." It also asked that the Centralia School District ask "for an apology and retraction of the 'half-way house' aspiration against the District, to be delivered in writing directly to the Ocean View School District Superintendent for the public record."

Centralia School District unanimously passed the resolution last month; Savanna School District is scheduled to take up the matter next week. SAVAGE!

Email: garellano@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @gustavoarellano.

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