Armas Interviewed School Board Candidates Vying For Chamber’s Endorsement

ELECTION ‘12//HAYWARD |
By STEVEN TAVARES & SHANE BOND, The Citizen
Less than five days after bowing out of the race for the Hayward school board, Jesus Armas may be in search of a successor.

Armas, who, after two years, is not seeking re-election to the school board following reports of a illicit affair with another member, interviewed prospective candidates Wednesday afternoon vying for the valuable endorsement of the Hayward Chamber of Commerce. Armas is also a member of the chamber’s board and reportedly led the interview process Wednesday, including a spate of harsh queries for his fellow board member and frequent critic, Luis Reynoso.

“I questioned Jesus why he thinks he can do this,” Reynoso told The Citizen, “and he said, ‘I’m not running anymore.’” According to Reynoso, the group conducting the interview process also included, the head of the chamber, Kim Huggett, a representative from Pacheco Brothers, a landscaping business with strong ties to the district and City Hall and three other people. Huggett would not respond to questions over what occurred at the meeting and said they were confidential, but added former St. Rose CEO Michael Mahoney was also present.

However, it was Armas who did much of the talking, according to Reynoso. “He started it all and just kept firing and the rest just sat there.” Reynoso said Armas chastised him on the issues of building consensus, whether he ever supported a state takeover of the district along with his behavior during board meeting. Since protesting Armas’ appointment to the board in early 2010 while his wife also headed the district’s human resources department, he as been a favorite target of Reynoso’s. When asked about Armas grilling Reynoso, Huggett laughed and added he is beholden to confidentiality.

Many of Armas’ critics, including Reynoso, have repeatedly questioned the lame-duck school board members ties to numerous groups in the city. Armas is widely known to be one of Hayward’s most influential fixers and proverbial sherpa to business outsiders interested in travailing the city’s levels of power. However, since reports in The Citizen last July 25 detailed an on-going romance with board member Maribel Heredia which showed suggestive text message between the two, many in Hayward have begun questioning his ties to land developers as he juggles dual roles as a sought-after consultant and school board president.

Earlier this week, it was reported former Hayward City Council candidate Peter Bufete was urged by Armas to run for one of three open seats on the five-member school board. Bufete, 22, finished fifth in the council race last June while running on a platform, in some ways, more suitable for the school board, while impressing many for his poise and likability.

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