ELECTION ’12//HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD | The Hayward Chamber of Commerce released their endorsements for Hayward Unified School District this past week endorsing former city council candidate Peter Bufete, planning commissioner Sara Lamnin and Cal State East Bay employee, Annette Walker.

The endorsement comes shortly after The Citizen reported last month school board president Jesus Armas’s affair with fellow board member, Maribel Heredia. Since then Armas and Heredia chose not to run for re-election, thus leaving two open seats for candidates to be contested. The third open seat belongs to incumbent Dr. Luis Reynoso, who is running for re-election.

The chamber’s election process is kept confidential from the public and so is its Government Relations Council who interviewed the potential endorsees. Reynoso, who was interviewed by the board, reported Armas is a member of the council.

Reynoso told the Chamber he did not want their endorsement because he believes having Armas on their interviewing board while also being the president of the school board is unethical and a conflict of interest. Hugget was contacted for comment on Armas’s involvement in the endorsement process but has not responded.

Others who partook in the interview process for endorsements allegedly included Christian Zaballos from R. Zaballos & Sons, Inc., Tina Martinez from Bank of the West, Michael Mahoney, former CEO of St. Rose Hospital and George Pacheco Jr., from Pacheco Brothers, according to Reynoso. Also an unidentified pastor from Hayward is also a member of the council.

Both Martinez and Zaballo are part of the Chamber’s Board of Directors as well, according to the Chamber’s Web site. The Pacheco Brothers, a landscaping company, has previously been hired for their services by both the city and HUSD. Reynoso said this was unethical. “Why would you have employees from both the city and the school board part of an endorsement process?” asked Reynoso rhetorically.

Bufete on the other hand had recently disclosed Armas suggested he run for the school board; although he says his main influence to run was from Paul Hodges, board member for the Hayward Area and Recreation Park District. Bufete was also friends with Armas’s son for many years and had attended school together prior to college.

The 22-year old has made a name for himself recently because of his youth and positive demeanor after finishing sixth in last June’s primary. Many politicians in the area, such as Hayward Councilwoman Barbara Halliday, have spoken highly of the recent college graduate. The endorsement is likely the biggest one that Bufete has ever received concerning both his prior run for city council and for HUSD.

Both Lamnin and Walker were contacted to comment on their endorsement from the Chamber but have not responded at this time.

Other candidates running for the school board are Heather Reyes, John Taylor and Wandra Williams.

EDIT: Previously said Bufete attended high school with Armas’s son. Changed to reflect possible attendance together in either Middle School or High school by referring to the years of attendance as “prior to college.”

Shane Bond is an East Bay Citizen contributor.