Joetopia

Paso school trustee looks like the latest case of elected officials behaving badly

Paso Robles High School.
Paso Robles High School. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Acrimony and sniping — or worse — seem to be on the rise on our local boards and councils, and it’s getting tiresome.

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors lost the moderating voice of Frank Mecham only to see it replaced by the heavy-handed John Peschong, who immediately was voted board chairman while taking control of the now three-person conservative bloc.

Among the trio’s first actions after disrupting the usual chairmanship rotation was to purge their two non-like-minded colleagues from various spots on state and regional panels.

Now the two sides are trading fire on a range of topics on a regular basis.

Similar pettiness occurred in Cambria after the November election, when the Cambria Community Healthcare District board couldn’t be bothered to wait for incoming member Shirley Bianchi to be seated before going ahead and assigning leadership roles. Then it passed over a member with four years of service for the position of board secretary in favor of a guy who’d been appointed two months earlier.

Even out in the California Valley, two community services district board members recently were accused of not living in the district and charged with election fraud and perjury, in a case that was called politically motivated.

Both were voted out of office, and neither case advanced after a judge dismissed the first and the District Attorney’s Office dropped the second.

Now the dysfunction is moving down to the school board level, where trustees in Paso Robles are considering censuring one of their members amid accusations of threats and intimidation.

I don’t want to ask, “Why can’t we all just get along?” But really, why are some of our elected officials so unable to work with other people in a mature and decent way?

The Paso school board case is actually one of the more head-scratching ones.

Multiple trustees say colleague Chris Bausch has a history of troublemaking on the board.

“He acts generally in a bullying, intimidating and threatening manner,” board President Field Gibson told The Tribune.

Another trustee, Joan Summers, listed a litany of complaints, including that Bausch made multiple references to guns and weapons.

And Trustee Kathleen Hall said he told her he would “personally destroy” her.

Oh yeah, and he freely admits to running background checks on his colleagues when they were running for office.

Hey, nothing builds trust and respect like snooping around in someone’s distant past, right?

Bausch seems rather unapologetic about the whole thing and says he’s being targeted as the “lone conservative” on the board.

“There’s no hard evidence of me making any overt threats,” he said.

If that’s not a sketchy defense, I don’t know what is.

If you’re accused of a misdeed, however large or small, the best way to make me question your innocence is to fall back on the old “there’s no evidence” saw.

Innocent people who’ve done no wrong say they’re innocent and have done no wrong. They don’t break out weasel words that leave gaps in believability large enough to run a fullback through.

So there may be “not hard” evidence of him making “not overt” threats? In which case there would still be evidence of him making threats? Which means he probably made threats? This isn’t good.

We’ll see what the board decides to do in this matter when it takes it up at its March 14 meeting.

In the meantime, memo to elected officials: Treat your office and your colleagues with respect and dignity. Please.

Joe Tarica: 805-781-7911, @joetarica

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