Members of the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees clashed Tuesday night during a marathon meeting that resulted in the censure of trustee Chris Bausch.
Board members spent about 2 1/2 hours discussing a resolution to censure Bausch, who is accused of intimidating and threatening trustees and district staff. Bausch himself spoke for about an hour, going through the resolution point by point and providing explanations for his alleged behavior.
Eventually, the discussion ended with a 6-1 vote in favor of censure, with Bausch as the only dissenting vote. The censure only serves as a public reprimand and doesn’t restrict Bausch’s participation on the board in any way.
The meeting followed a 4-2 vote on Feb. 28 to direct staff to draw up a censure resolution, which included allegations that Bausch “made comments to individual board members regarding him carrying his ‘cache of weapons,’ ‘a gun with big bullets’ and that he ‘aims for the head,’ as well as other comments that can be perceived as threatening.”
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Prior to the discussion of the censure, nearly a dozen people addressed the board, many speaking in favor of Bausch.
Randall Jordan said he knew Bausch personally and called him “very conservative” and “very outspoken.” He said he thinks Bausch’s opposition to “sanctuary schools” and his inability to “go along” is behind the censure.
“I think this board is using this as an excuse to shut him up,” Jordan said.
Some people might say that was taken out of context — baloney. I was there. I witnessed it. It happened.
Trustee Tim Gearhart, on alleged threats made by Chris Bausch
Cody Ferguson said he came to the meeting “as a taxpayer” and was certain the board had spent money drawing up the censure.
“Shame on you for letting things get to this point,” he said.
All of the board members were given a chance to speak during the discussion, which began with trustees Joel Peterson and Tim Gearhart saying they both had good personal relationships with Bausch, while adding he’d made “poor choices” in the past.
“This is why we’re here — to make the district better,” Peterson said. “We didn’t come here to put someone in a bag and say, ‘You can’t talk.’ ”
Gearhart emphasized the threats had taken place and urged Bausch to apologize publicly in order to avoid the censure vote.
“Some people might say that was taken out of context — baloney,” Gearhart said. “I was there. I witnessed it. It happened.”
Trustee Joan Summers said the censure vote was the last straw for the board: “It’s too bad that it had to come out in the public, but it wouldn’t stop.”
During his lengthy review of the censure, Bausch said the motion was “short on specifics.”
“There’s a lot of generalities and innuendo,” he said.
Yes, I ask uncomfortable questions of the board. If you take this as aggressive behavior, I would respond that I’m doing my job as a public trustee of taxpayers’ money.
Trustee Chris Bausch
He said many of the statements attributed to him were actually not threats, but were made during discussions on potentially inappropriate yearbook quotes, rules on carrying concealed weapons and whether an invocation should be given at board meetings.
Bausch also described heated interactions with trustee Kathleen Hall and board President Field Gibson outside board meetings. He alleged Hall was intoxicated during one such interaction and said Gibson had yelled profanities at him during another.
Although Bausch said he apologized if he caused offense, he said his primary goal was to make sure taxpayer money was being spent efficiently.
“Yes, I ask uncomfortable questions of the board,” he said. “If you take this as aggressive behavior, I would respond that I’m doing my job as a public trustee of taxpayers’ money.”
After Bausch concluded his comments, other trustees called his version of the story “delusional” and “a litany of false statements.”
When a vote was called, every trustee voted in favor of censure except Bausch. Gibson said the purpose of a censure was to correct a board member’s behavior.
“I’m prepared tonight to take a stand and say what is right and what is wrong,” Gibson said. “It’s wrong how people are being treated.”