Stockton school board members personally liable for legal fees in lawsuit
In a cautionary decision for school boards rife with incivility, a San Joaquin County Superior Court judge has ruled three Stockton Unified school board members are personally liable to pay the $19,600 in legal fees of a fourth member whom they sued in July for alleged slander, disclosure of private facts and invasion of privacy.
AngelAnn Flores, a community activist serving her first term on the board, charged that the board members were trying to squelch her criticism of the board and countered by filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit under an anti-SLAPP law that protects defendants from attacks intended to intimidate them. After two of the school board members then withdrew their lawsuits, the judge awarded legal fees to Flores.
“Fortunately, the San Joaquin Superior Court saw through their bullying and confirmed my constitutional right to speak up in the best interest of all SUSD students, staff and parents,” Flores told the Stockton Record. The three school board members are board President Cecilia Mendez, Alicia Rico and Raymond Zulueta.
Flores ran as a reform candidate critical of the board and the continuing influence of former Mayor Anthony Silva, who pleaded no contest two years ago to a felony count of conflict of interest and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. In a recent report, the county grand jury criticized the majority of the board for a lack of transparency and infighting.