PLEASANTON — The Pleasanton school board has unanimously decided against asking the state attorney general to get involved in deciding whether Trustee Pat Kernan is a legal resident of the district.
The vote was 4-0, with Kernan excusing himself during the Wednesday night board meeting.
Julie Testa, a parent who asked the board to take up the issue, said she expected the board to avoid what she called an uncomfortable issue but said she is still disappointed it decided not to take up the matter. She did not want to say if she will go to the state herself, saying she does not want to commit to anything at this time.
Some in the community have questioned whether Kernan, who in 2006 sold his Pleasanton house and bought property in Camino, almost 150 miles northeast of town, is legally a Pleasanton resident.
Kernan's wife lives at the Camino property. Kernan has said the majority of his legal work is in the Bay Area and that his Pleasanton apartment where he lives with two daughters is also a home office. He is the longest-serving trustee on the five-member board, appointed in 1997 and now serving a four-year term after running unopposed in 2006.
Last month Testa raised the issue with school district officials. The district then consulted its lawyers, who believe Kernan is within the law. She also went to the Alameda County District Attorney's Office, which said it was rare for such matters to be handled criminally and decided there was not enough evidence for an investigation.
That left a "quo warranto" action that could be called for, in which the state attorney general decides whether a civil suit to remove the trustee can go forward. It is not an opinion but intended to prevent frivolous lawsuits.
Testa, who presented her case to the board, wanted the district to initiate the process. She said it would be a burden for an individual, requiring an attorney.
"The evidence is overwhelmingly compelling that Mr. Kernan has established Camino as his permanent home," Testa said. "The seat should have been made available to someone who lives in the community."
Also addressing the board was Kernan's wife, Marcia Kernan, who backed her husband's account.
"I would say goodbye to him Monday morning ... and I wouldn't see him again until Friday," she said. Marcia Kernan, mentioning the relatively short tenure of most on the board, said her husband has been dedicated and missed few meetings in his time on the board. She said many in the community encouraged him to stay because of his experience.
"Why? What's the motive behind all this?" she asked, wondering why her husband's actions are being questioned. "I'm a little angry, obviously."
School board members Steve Brozosky, Kris Weaver and Chris Grant said they want the issue settled but did not want to spend district resources on it.
Only Ott gave an opinion about Kernan's residence.
"My experience is Pat has always lived here," Ott said. Among other issues he mentioned was that Kernan kept the district updated on his living situation and that, while he will eventually retire and live in Camino, his residence is in Pleasanton.
During Tuesday's discussion, Superintendent John Casey said while individuals seeking the quo warranto would need state approval to go forward, a school district's involvement would automatically lead to a lawsuit.
Testa said that is not true. After the meeting, she said the district could have used a lot of the information already gathered from her and district lawyers, and she hoped that if the state allowed a suit, Kernan would resign first.
On Thursday, Gareth Lacy, a spokesman for the state attorney general, told the Times that requests from both individuals and the district would be handled the same. While some government officials can ask the state attorney general's office for opinions on issues, school boards cannot, he said.