Board of Education member Ben Allen said on Sunday that following a three-hour conversation with incumbent candidate Oscar de la Torre, he now feels comfortable being listed among those endorsing de la Torre’s campaign.
However, Allen said he stood by comments he made to The Malibu Times on Saturday that it was premature his name appeared on an endorsement list in a de la Torre advertisement in Thursday’s issue of The Times.
“We had a long conversation,” Allen said. “I talked about the things I’m concerned about, including outreach to Malibu. We hashed out everything.”
De la Torre said on Sunday that he believed he had Allen’s endorsement long ago because he had asked Allen for it at the beginning of the campaign, and was told “Sure, but let’s talk.”
Allen said on Sunday that his words were “Sure, but let’s talk first.” He said he understood why de la Torre might have thought this meant he had the endorsement before having the talk, but he said he thought he had made it clear that a conversation was needed prior to an endorsement becoming official. He said this might have been a case of miscommunication.
“It’s one of the reasons I didn’t make a hullabaloo before about being on his Web site and other campaign materials,” Allen said. “I just wanted to have a chat with him. I finally spoke out because I saw a pattern of Oscar not being particularly careful with confirming his endorsements.”
Former Malibu High School principal Mike Matthews is listed as an endorser in the same Times ad with Allen. Matthews, who also served as an assistant superintendent and interim superintendent for the SMMUSD, sent an e-mail to Malibu residents saying this was not accurate. De la Torre blamed this on hearing Matthews had endorsed incumbents. He said he left several messages with Matthews, and by the time they got in touch and he was told by Matthews that he would not receive the endorsement, it was too late to change the ad. Matthews, who became the Manhattan Beach Unified School District superintendent in July, could not be reached for comment.
“The only reason why I would even think about [Matthews] is because he started endorsing candidates … I had no reason to believe or suspect that he wouldn’t endorse me,” de la Torre said. “I worked with him for many years on the school board. I was one of two school board members that endorsed him to become superintendent.”
De la Torre never publicly stated he wanted Matthews to be the SMMUSD superintendent when he was briefly considered a candidate in 2006. De la Torre said he and one other board member supported Matthews behind the scenes.
Laure Stern, founder of the Malibu Foundation for Youth and Families, early in the campaign asked that her name be removed from de la Torre’s list of endorsements on his campaign site. De la Torre obliged. He told The Times on Sunday that her name had appeared on the site because he had listed endorsements from his 2006 campaign when he put up the site.
Regarding this issue, Allen said, “The more I hear about this, the more weird it becomes.”
He added, “If he’s re-elected I’m looking forward to working with [de la Torre] for us all to be a better board. I really hope that we come out of this stronger and ready to tackle the difficult issues ahead.”
De la Torre is running for his third consecutive four-year term. There are eight candidates in the race for four seats.