School Board Election Canceled

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This story has been updated. Please see editor’s note below.

The Santa Monica-Malibu School Board elections slated for November have been canceled due to lack of qualified candidates.

Only three candidates qualified for the three open board seats, despite twice that number pulling papers earlier in the summer. Jon Kean, together with incumbents Ralph Mechur and Maria Leon-Vazquez, will sit on the school board.

Six candidates pulled papers for the school board election, but only four of those submitted nomination paperwork. Of the four, one was disqualified — leaving the two incumbents and one newcomer to automatically acquire the vied-for school board seats.

“The cancellation of the school board election due to an inefficient yield of new candidates was a direct reflection of the political situation in Santa Monica, which makes it very, very hard to make non-incumbents win a school board election,” School Board Member Craig Foster said. Foster is Malibu’s only representative on the board. 

The election’s cancellation in the face of six candidates initially pulling papers appeared odd. Santa Monica Daily Press staffer Bill Bauer in a column last week illuminated a potential backroom deal between would-be candidate Phil Brock and Santa Monica insiders that may have secured seats for incumbents on the school board.

Brock, a well-known figure in the Santa Monica community, previously ran for city council and lost, but had now pulled papers for school board. Bauer writes Brock’s chances would have been high, but he failed to submit papers.

“In the end, a deal was struck,” Bauer asserted in the Santa Monica Daily Press. “Brock would not run for Board of Education in return for an appointment to a two-year term on the Arts Commission.”

On Aug. 9, eight days before the nomination filing was due for all candidates, Brock was appointed to the Santa Monica Arts Commission by the Santa Monica City Council. He specifically fills the vacant partial appointment, which concludes in 2018.

Despite pulling nomination papers for school board and publicly expressing his intention to run, the Santa Monica City Council did not discuss Brock’s potential appointment or how it may conflict with his anticipated candidacy.

Brock was approved for the Arts Commission by a four-to-three vote. The last and deciding vote was made by Mayor Tony Vasquez, the husband of School Board incumbent Maria Leon-Vasquez.

The school district will save thousands of dollars by cancelling the election by avoiding unnecessary costs, but it will potentially lose more by not having an election with real candidates.

“A school district like any public entity needs new ideas, new inspiration, new energy and a higher percentage of board members who actually have children in the school then ours currently does,” Foster said. 

Attempts by The Malibu Times to contact Phil Brock were unsuccessful.

Editor’s note: The story has been updated to include information about the candidates who qualified to sit on the school board.