Mt. Diablo school district trustees should replace their ethically challenged top leaders, Superintendent Steve Lawrence and General Counsel Greg Rolen.
For three years now, Lawrence has led the district down a reckless financial path, politicizing his job and alienating the community. Meanwhile, Rolen erected a wall of secrecy, denying public access to basic records, including those regarding his own compensation.
Lawrence and Rolen must go. But, if they won't resign, the process is somewhat complicated. That's because the school board last year, before the November election, voted to extend their contracts until June 2014, a move designed to tie the hands of new trustees.
There were serious questions about the documentation and process, including what role Rolen played in reviewing his own deal. So a new postelection board majority hired outside attorneys, who rewrote the contract extensions. On Monday night, the new documents will be up for board approval.
Board members are in a difficult position. A majority might not want to keep Lawrence and Rolen, but they might be legally bound to approve the rewritten extensions because of last year's board approvals.
If trustees are stuck with the extensions, they should next determine if Lawrence's and Rolen's egregious behavior legally justifies termination for cause under the contracts, thereby avoiding severance pay.
As a final alternative, trustees could fire the pair and pay them 7½ months' severance. As painful as the expense would be, it might be the best way to protect the district from legal liability.
The sooner these two are gone, the better.
It was Lawrence who, along with trustees, misled voters in 2010 about the long-term costs of the district's ill-conceived $348 million bond issue. During that election, he held private meetings in his home with Chevron, let the firm treat him to drinks and solicited golf discounts from the company.
Chevron wanted the contract for a $66 million solar installation to be paid from bond proceeds, and was about to get the deal without competitive bidding until this paper started asking questions.
It was also on Lawrence's watch that disenchantment with administration at Clayton Valley High sparked the largest teacher-led conversion to a charter school in Northern California. And then Lawrence and two board members in October secretly commissioned a financial analysis of the charter, which they hid from other trustees.
As for Rolen, he blocked attempts by residents, this paper and even a member of the district's own bond oversight committee to access public records.
He has repeatedly argued that the public interest is best served by secrecy.
Rarely have we seen such hard-line obstructionism from a public attorney.
As we witnessed at a recent board meeting, his legal advice is sometimes absurd and his stonewalling extends to not answering basic questions from his board.
For the sake of the district, it's time to end this dysfunction by removing Lawrence and Rolen.