Cease-and-desist letter prompts district to meet with legal counsel

SIGNAL FILE PHOTO: Former-Saugus Union School District governing board President Chistopher Trunkey and Clerk Paul de la Cerda listen to a speaker at a prior district meeting.

A cease-and-desist letter has been sent to the Saugus Union School District, but district officials are refusing to release the letter until the end of next week and declining to comment on whether the letter focuses on an ongoing dispute between the SUSD board president and the president of the Saugus Teachers Association.

District leaders met in closed session during a special meeting of the governing board Tuesday, when they conferred with legal counsel to discuss the district’s “significant exposure to litigation,” according to the district’s agenda.

SUSD Superintendent Colleen Hawkins and board President Chris Trunkey refused to comment after The Signal requested a copy of the document in a California Public Records Act request. Jennifer Stevenson, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources, said in an email that the district is unable to release a copy of the letter until on or before Nov. 9.

Trunkey is seeking re-election in the Nov. 6 election.

“We have a policy and protocol that we follow when we receive a public information request,” board clerk Paul De La Cerda said. “Board members do not turn over information. Our information is turned over to the district and the district then follows their policies. We’re subject to the district’s ability to turn around the information in a timely manner.”

De La Cerda added that legal counsel has informed board members not to speak about the letter, so he could not confirm if Trunkey was the subject of the cease and desist letter.

However, since the school year started, attendees at district meetings have spoken multiple times about Trunkey’s conduct as a spokesperson of the board, which is governed by Article 9 of the board bylaws.

At an Aug. 7 meeting, De La Cerda asked that all trustees receive advance notice of interviews with the media after learning that a meeting with The Signal was organized by Trunkey without De La Cerda’s knowledge.

Saugus Teachers Association President Debbie Rocha revisited the issue at a Sept. 4 meeting, when she mentioned a similar incident involving Trunkey and a local political representative.

“I’m sorry to hear that the school board president had the opportunity to speak with Sen. (Scott) Wilk regarding a potential bill and the entire school board was unaware of this conversation until tonight’s public meeting,” Rocha said. “It is our belief that the five elected trustees work collaboratively and have transparency while making the children and staff of Saugus a priority.”

Rocha addressed Trunkey after the meeting to ask if he had looked into records that date back to her time on the Acton-Agua Dulce board.

The STA president confirmed the conversation took place, but would not reveal the details of the discussion.

“We will be following up on the information that was given to us,” De La Cerda said.

As of Friday, Hawkins and Trunkey have refused to comment, but an email from district counsel to the superintendent, which was forwarded to board members, said, “On Friday, Oct. 26, the district received a complaint from CTA. Consistent with district policy and procedure, the district will investigate the allegations and respond appropriately. Pending the outcome of the investigation, the district is not at liberty to comment further.”

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