2 Say Ad Falsely Lists They Endorsed Ed Board Candidate Oscar de la Torre

Former Malibu High School principal Mike Matthews and Board of Education member Ben Allen said their names should not have been included in an advertisement listing those who have endorsed incumbent Board of Education candidate Oscar de la Torre. The ad, which appeared in this week’s issue of The Malibu Times, also lists other endorsements that have not been publicly challenged.

Matthews, a Malibu resident who also previously served as an assistant superintendent and briefly an interim superintendent for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, attempted to clarify the situation in an e-mail obtained by The Times.

“Mr. de la Torre did ask me last week for my endorsement and I respectfully declined,” wrote Matthews, who became superintendent for the Manhattan Beach Unified School District in July.

Matthews could not be reached for comment.

De la Torre said in an interview on Saturday that he listed Matthews in the ad because he had heard Matthews endorsed all the incumbents. He said he left Matthews various messages, and by the time they got in touch and Matthews declined to endorse him, the ad had been submitted and it was too late to make adjustments.

“The only reason why I would even think about him 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 him behind the scenes.

In the election article that appeared in this week’s issue of The Times, Matthews is not listed among de la Torre’s Malibu endorsements. De la Torre had listed Matthews in an initial e-mail to The Times’ editorial department on Monday night, but then updated his endorsement list on Tuesday morning with Matthews’ name removed. De la Torre said on Saturday this was evidence he was not trying to be deceptive with the ad. It should be noted The Times mistakenly did not include former Board of Education member Pam Brady on de la Torre’s endorsement list in the article. A correction has been made on the Web site.

As for Allen, de la Torre said Allen was a confirmed endorsement. Allen said otherwise in an interview on Saturday. He said he was asked by de la Torre for an endorsement. Allen told him that he wanted to meet with him first to “address some concerns.” That meeting never occurred, Allen said.

“Oscar brings a lot to the table,” Allen said. “I have a lot of respect for much of the work that he does. But I do have some concerns that I wanted to have the opportunity to discuss. Until we have that meeting, it is inaccurate to say I endorsed him. He knew that I was waiting to have that conversation.”

When asked if he would consider formally endorsing him, Allen said, “I cant say that I’m particularly impressed with how this whole situation has been handled.” He added that he still considered de la Torre a friend and would like to meet with him about the issue.

De la Torre is running for his third consecutive four-year term on the board. There are eight candidates in the race for four seats.

-Jonathan Friedman

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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