Hayward school boardmember Luis Reynoso won re-election to this seat last month. Reynoso was one of the election’s biggest winners after also gaining a seat on the Chabot-Las Positas Community College Board of Directors. Reynoso wants to serve both boards and his electoral riches are leading administrators at the school district and the community college district to question whether he can legally do so.
“It’s just a case of sour grapes here. They just don’t like how the election turned out,” Reynoso said. “This is the will of the people, they have spoken, and they decided I was the most qualified for the job.”
Reynoso said his intent was always to serve both offices when he qualified for the ballot in both races last August. He also received no notification that the offices may be incompatible until last week.
In a letter sent by Hayward Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Matt Wayne and Chabot-Las Positas Community College Chancellor Robert Gerhard, they assert a government code that prohibits the offices from being held concurrently by a single individual since the boundaries of the Hayward Unified School District reside within the boundaries of the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District. Potential competing allegiances also exist for Reynoso, they wrote. In addition, a state education code does not allow an individual to serve on both a community college district board and a high school district board, they further argue.
There appears to be significant gray area for whether the two offices are incompatible. Whether the offices are incompatible would have to be determined by a court, but likely at the urging of the state attorney general’s office. In addition, the process could be lengthy, perhaps, 12-18 months before a determination is made.
Reynoso believes the two offices do not legislatively overlap. While serving on the Hayward school board since 2008, Reynoso said he does not recall voting on matters that impacted the Chabot-Las Positas Community College. He also dismissed the second argument, saying the Hayward Unified School District is not a high school district.
However, Wayne and Gerhard wrote they will not get in the way if Reynoso moves ahead with his plans to occupy both seats. “We have no intention (or authority) to get involved in the election process. As such, we must administer both oaths of office, if you ultimately decide to take both seats,” they wrote. But they also suggested actions could later be taken against Reynoso’s bid for both seats.
“If you nonetheless take both seats, it exposes you to a quo warranto action, which may be brought by a member of the public, the District Attorney, or a board of trustees if it were to conclude that holding both seats violates its internal ethical policies. As the administrative leaders of our respective districts, we would hope to avoid the disruption, potential cost, and loss of confidence in governance that such procedures can create,” they wrote.
The scenario of a single candidate winning two races in a single election is quite rare. But in this case, there was a possibility that a second candidate could have achieved the same result last month as Reynoso did. Hayward school boardmember Robert Carlson, like Reynoso, sought re-election while also running for the Area 1 seat on the Chabot-Las Positas board. Carlson, however, lost both races last month, finishing last in the eight-candidate Hayward school board race, while being trounced by Reynoso in the Chabot-Las Positas race by 13 points.
Reynoso alleges the Hayward Unified School District administration purposely moved the date of its most recent regular school board meeting, which typically occurs on Wednesday nights to last Monday, in order to steer Reynoso toward the Chabot-Las Positas board.
If a candidate who wins multiple offices deemed incompatible, the candidate forfeits the first office in which they are sworn-in. Reynoso was sworn-in by the Hayward school board on Monday night. He is scheduled to take the oath at the community college district on Tuesday evening.
If deemed incompatible, there is a good financial reason from the perspective of the community college district to have Reynoso serve on the Chabot-Las Positas board rather than the Hayward school board. Leaving the Chabot-Las Positas seat open would likely require a costly special election next spring. Conversely, an open Hayward school board seat, because it’s an at-large seat, would likely only require the board to make a two-year appointment. Another at-large school board election would then occur in 2022 and at little additional cost.
Nevertheless, after Tuesday evening’s swearing-in at the Chabot-Las Positas board, Reynoso said he plans to fully participate on both boards and vote on matters before each district.