Madera Unified Delaying Records Turn Over on Trustee's Taxpayer Paid Dinners Print
News - Opinion
Written by B|V|N Newsroom   
Tuesday, 04 March 2014 10:29
EDITORIAL - What is the Madera Unified School District hiding from the public related to the dinners the board of trustees receive before each and every meeting?

Last week Big Valley News issued a public records request for information about dinners which the district provides it's trustees before their twice a month meetings. This morning we received a call from the district informing us they are delaying our legal California Public Records Act request, wanting us to resubmit our request on yet another form.

According to Gladys Wilson, senior administrative assistant to MUSD Superintendent Ed Gonzalez, we weren't specific about which dates we were requesting information for. The following is the first paragraph of our request to Superintendent Gonzalez:

Pursuant to the California Public Records Act, Cal. Gov't Code Secs. 6250 to 6276.48, I write to request inspection access to any and all board policy, invoices, warrants, correspondence and requests for services regarding pre-meeting or closed session meals. Since you have indicated that you personally pay for your pre-meeting meals, I would also like to request access to any and all receipts for any payments from you or any other person the district has provided for those payments received in relations to those pre-meeting meals.

What is hard to understand about "any and all"?  Did our request catch Superintendent Gonzalez in a lie about paying for his meals? Why would the superintendent pay for his dinners if the rest of the board and staff do not? How long has the district been hiring caters? Is this a gift of public funds?

While we do not know exactly how much the district is spending for each of these 'free' meals, we do know that the catering service at Madera Community Hospital, one of the known district vendors, charges up to $30 a plate for the three course meals offered on their menu. And while the catering service offers many choices, just a few of them are salmon, tri-tip, New York strips and carved prime rib. How many of the teachers attending the board meetings eat this well before the open session?

The California Constitution calls for a legal authority to show that there is a public benefit to such expenditures, why won't the school district release this information? What is Ed Gonzalez hiding?

If you asked me if the school district should provide a dinner, I might agree. But I would certainly want to know how much this is costing the taxpayers. I might even question why the district is going out to a catering service when they have a department that provides thousands of meals a day to our students. If that department and the food they produce is good enough for our kids, shouldn't it be good enough for our board of trustees?

And if the district feels these cost are justified, then why obstruct a request to examine the costs and policies? What is Madera Unified and Superintendent Ed Gonzalez hiding?