Monday’s hearing on Santa Clara Unified Superintendent Stanley Rose’s request for a restraining order (RO) against censured SCUSD Trustee Christopher Stampolis ended exactly where it started: with a Santa Clara Superior Court Judge denying the request.
Judge Derek Woodhouse didn’t find that Stampolis’ remarks at a Sept. 15, 2014 meeting – to sue Rose for defamation and cause Rose’s family “as much pain as possible” because “it would be fun” – threatened physical violence.
On his last two court outings, Stampolis didn’t fare so well. Harris’ RO was made permanent for a year, and she was awarded about $19,000 in legal costs. Judge Thomas Kuhnle’s found Stampolis’ explanations “implausible” and his attitude lacking a sense of compunction or regret. Stampolis hasn’t paid the judgment., and his attorney Tomas Margair filed an appeal on December 12 – along with check for $775 in court fees that was “dishonored by the bank.”
Last Monday, Woodhouse noted that he was the judge who granted Peterson Middle School Principal Susan Harris’ request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) last September, after Stampolis threatened her when Harris tried to speak with him about his tardiness picking up his child. Sunnyvale Dept. of Public Safety reports document Stampolis’ dismissive responses, and a campus security video shows the trustee making fists and a mock shooting gesture with his hands towards Harris.
“I thought Mr. Stampolis had gone over the line,” Woodhouse continued. “I find it ironic that a school board member, who should have been [preventing] bullying, should have been engaging in that.” However, in Rose’s case, he said. “The court is not persuaded that there is a clear and convincing case of a physical threat [of violence].”
Rose’s only record of the September 15 encounter is his notes, and he testified that Stampolis hadn’t touched him or invaded his personal space. The district’s legal counsel advised against him requesting a TRO. Continuing fear led Rose to file an October 14 report with the Santa Clara police, who advised requesting a restraining order, he said. Since then, uniformed SCPD officers have attended SCUSD board meetings.
Stampolis Unprofessional But Not Violent, Asserts Friend
Rose’s case was dismissed before Stampolis testified, but not before the court heard from Stampolis’ personal friend, political ally and financial supporter, former SCUSD Trustee Ina Bendis – also at the September 5 meeting, although Rose didn’t invite her.
Bendis provided analysis of events leading up to Stampolis threats, and her verdict that despite his unprofessional behavior, objectionable remarks, and failure to acknowledge fault on his part, Stampolis had no history of physical violence and there was no reason to consider him potentially violent.
When Rose’s attorney Eugene Whitlock challenged this, Bendis replied that in the case of Harris’ RO, said “the court interpreted the video differently than I did.” Regarding a mediator’s $35,000 compensatory damages judgment against him in a 2005 Los Angeles assault case, Bendis said she read the decision “as saying the assault was mutual.” “I didn’t ask you if you agreed,” Whitlock said more than once. “I asked if you were aware of it.”
It seems that Bendis appointed herself to mediate what she perceived as “a situation that had careened out of proportion,” between Rose and Stampolis, and her involvement “would be helpful to create some peace.” Stampolis was angry with Rose’s failure to exercise “stronger leadership” regarding Harris’ complaints against Stampolis, she said, and denying Stampolis’ “civil rights” and “due process.”
Bendis said that she spoke to Rose at the Santa Clara Art & Wine Festival about the Peterson video. “I knew that Mr. Stampolis [was angry] because he had been talking about Mrs. Harris”
But, she told Rose, “This is a man who has never had any incidence of physical violence. Dr. Rose said, ‘wasn’t there a restraining order against him?’ He [Rose] was challenging the accuracy of my assertion that Christopher Stampolis had never had any claim of violence against him, except specious claims.”
Bendis apparently told Stampolis about the conversation, and Stampolis sent Rose a voicemail that Sunday evening, threatening to sue Rose for defamation. At the meeting the following Monday, Stampolis reiterated his threat, offered to “settle…financially then and there,” and made the now-infamous remarks about inflicting pain.
She spoke to Stampolis subsequently about his behavior, Bendis testified. “I was shaken. I felt his words were inappropriate. I was embarrassed by his words.” Not Stampolis. “Mr. Stampolis appeared perfectly calm,” Bendis continued. “He told me later that by ‘pain’ there was no implication whatsoever this was physical pain.”
Bendis said she tried to get Stampolis to “see that his mis-words were inappropriate” and he should apologize to Rose. Stampolis disagreed, she said. Bendis felt so strongly that Rose was owed an apology for the incident, she sent him one herself. Asked if Stampolis’ behavior was unprofessional, she replied, “yes.”
“Even though we lost,” Rose’s attorney Whitlock said later, “Stampolis’ true character was revealed. Ina Bendis, his staunchest ally, thinks his behavior was terrible.”
In response to the Weekly for comment on Monday’s decision, Stampolis replied in an email, “As more than 2/3 of SCUSD’s elementary schools are Title One-eligible, we must ensure that our English-language learners and students of poverty receive full opportunities for high-level language and math proficiency. Let’s stay focused on preparing students for success, including readiness for the new SBAC exams that begin in a few weeks.”