HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD | Hayward’s disgraced former school board President Jesus Armas chose not to run for re-election last year following reports of an affair with a former board member, however, Armas still remains as the school district’s representative on the Hayward Successor Agency Oversight Board (HSAOB) despite no longer being a school district trustee.
Since he stepped down last December, there have been multiple inquiries over removing him as the school district’s representative on the agency but Alameda County Superintendent of Schools Sheila Jordan, who appointed Armas to the board last Spring, has refused to replace him.
In February 2012, the school board approved the selection of Armas to the oversight committee mandated by the state to sort through the assets and obligations of the city’s former redevelopment agency. But, according to Jordan, she could have chosen anyone in the district to be its representative and because of that, she said Armas could remain as the district’s representative.
But some, like current board president William McGee, who clashed with Armas in the past, would rather see a current board member be the district’s representative. “If the appointment was made because they wanted somebody who represented the current interest of the schools, then I would like Sheila to appoint a current board member,” McGee told The Citizen.
According to McGee, one of those board members who showed interest in taking Armas’s spot on the oversight committee is board newcomer Annette Walker. She declined to comment on Armas’s initial appointment because she was not part of the board at that time, but added she is willing to serve on any committee that “moves our district forward in the best interest of our children, schools and community.” Multiple people called Jordan to ask if Armas could be replaced on the HSAOB, but Jordan would not elaborate; only identifying McGee.
Armas was exposed by The Citizen last summer engaging in a potential conflict-of-interest secret affair with fellow board member Maribel Heredia. Shortly after the story broke both members decided to not run for re-election but the controversy engulfed the board’s meetings with constant conflict between Armas and board member Dr. Luis Reynoso, whose bulldog persona and fiscal conservatism had already clashed constantly with Armas.
Joined by Reynoso was the more diplomatic McGee, whose own agenda also differed starkly from Armas’s. Both McGee and Reynoso had criticized Armas of “rubber stamping” spending they said fanned the flames of the district’s deficit. Neither Armas or Heredia has ever publicly described why they decided against running for an almost sure re-election last fall. Shortly later, new board members Walker and John Taylor joined the board and the controversy drummed up by the affair was finally put to rest. But according to Jordan, Armas contacted the superintendent to inquire about staying with the HSAOB after he left the board which Jordan supported.
The HSAOB is a successor board to the Redevelopment Agency after it was scrapped by the state, along with all others, to stave off further deficit spending. The successor board was created by requirement of the Dissolution Act to help deal with any remaining issues confronting the former agency, and as required by the state, one member was to be appointed by the Alameda County Superintendent of Schools as the school district’s representative. The chair of the board is Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney as a representative of the city; while the vice chair continues to be held by Armas. Other members include former Councilmember Olden Henson and current Councilmember Mark Salinas, along with Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle.
Jordan said she doesn’t have much interest in replacing Armas because she believes the agency won’t be around much longer. But despite uneasiness over Armas’s position as representative of the district on the HSAOB, Jordan defended Armas, “I chose Armas because he has a strong background. He has many years as the city manager and has been a strong proponent for schools so I thought it be a short learning curve for him, I thought he was one of the more qualified people I appointed,” said Jordan. However, Armas’s experience in Hayward politics has also been a source of complaints by his opponents due to his close ties to various construction and real estate interests doing business with the city. He is generally regarded as the city’s go-to guy for businesses seeking government consultation and for navigating Hayward’s bureaucracy.
Armas’s affair also had little sway over Jordan appointing a new representative, “He is representing me, he is my appointment and he came through a democratic process so there is nothing he has done to dissuade me from him being an inappropriate person.” Jordan compared Armas’s affair to former President Bill Clinton’s dalliance with Monica Lewinsky. However, despite the controversy, Clinton is still considered an “esteemed person,” said Jordan.
Jordan said that if the board were to bring the issue up as an agenda item, she would pay more attention to a new appointment rather than individuals contacting her office. Jordan said she thinks that would be a big mistake and she doesn’t think a “personal indiscretion” reflects negatively on his ability to do his job.