Santa Clara Unified schools trustee Christopher Stampolis has 30 days to disclose the nature of his agreements with, and consulting work for, the Laborers International Union, Pacific Southwest Regional Organizing Coalition. He must also pay sanctions – penalties – of $3,100 for failing to respond to a February court order to produce the relevant documents.
Just as he has done at a previous hearing, Stampolis had an excuse for everything. He claimed that he did respond to court order, but the documents being asked for didn’t exist because he didn’t work for those organizations.
“The proper thing is to provide a written response,” said Superior Court Judge Beth McGowan. “It certainly looks to me that you’ve ignored orders of the court.”
The only documents that existed, Stampolis said, concerned confidential political information that he didn’t want in the public record. He wanted a blanket protective order preventing disclosure of sensitive information.
SCUSD attorney Sherman Wong said he couldn’t offer a protective order without knowing what required confidentiality. “I’ll do anything if he will indicate the need for a protective order.” But the order wouldn’t be the blanket order Stampolis wanted. Each request would have to be justified.
Stampolis replied that in closed session meetings the board was often requested to keep documents confidential.
“You can’t just simply refuse to comply,” said the judge. “What you can’t do is continue to ignore it.”
Stampolis then posed a circuitous question about the timing of the document handover. Since turning over the documents was what the lawsuit was about, shouldn’t the merits of the lawsuit be decided first?
“If the lawsuit is to turn over documents, you turn over documents,” said McGowan, who then issued her order that Stampolis had 30 days to produce the documents and pay the $3,100 sanction.
Could the sanctions be waived, asked Stampolis, because he intended to file a general denial? “I do believe I’ve responded.”
“You need to talk to Mr. Wong and see if he is prepared to set aside the sanctions,” answered the judge.
“I can’t pay it,” Stampolis replied.
“You are trying to fix things after they’re done. You had a discovery order months ago,” said the Judge. Stampolis couldn’t come into the courtroom at this late date expecting accommodation. She then held up a book. “This is the County Code of Professional behavior. I suggest you acquire one of these and read it.”
Stampolis gave it one last try. “I would ask you to set aside the sanctions,” he said.
“I adopt the order,” said McGowan with finality and called the next case.
Last August, with the discussion of a Project Labor Agreement for upcoming construction projects on the board agenda, SCUSD officials asked public law specialist Sherman Wong for a legal opinion on Stampolis’ possible conflict of interest as a result of his consulting income. Stampolis adamantly refused to disclose the nature of his work or to recuse himself from PLA discussions – which have been shelved indefinitely.
Instead of answering questions, Stampolis called Wong a liar, incompetent, self-interested, hostile, politically motivated, and engaged in a conspiracy with SCUSD Superintendent Stan Rose
In October, SCUSD filed a lawsuit against Stampolis, alleging he violated state law and the district governing board’s conflict of interest policy by participating in board discussions about signing a Project Labor Agreement with the Santa Clara and San Benito Building Trades Council – an umbrella organization representing 23 construction trades unions, including LIUNA.
Stampolis was given until Dec. 22 to provide documents covering June 2012 through December 2013 concerning the nature of Stampolis’ company, Praxis House; the work he did; and how and what he got paid.
When Stampolis was a no-show at a Dec. 22 meeting, Wong asked for a court order forcing Stampolis to comply and levying money sanctions on him for “misuse of the discovery process.”
At a January hearing on Wong’s request, Stampolis said he hadn’t been legally served with the summons to appear in court – it wasn’t sent to the correct address. Judge McGowan sent them out to confer. The conference ended abruptly when Stampolis stormed back into the courtroom saying that Wong “swore” at him and “touched” him, and that he considered it battery by a court official.
After cutting off Stampolis’ outburst, the judge instructed Wong to serve him again at his P.O. Box, and gave Stampolis 30 days to comply with her order to produce the documents. She waived the money sanctions for the time being.
No documents were produced except a copy of a letter from the Norcal Laborers to the BTC confirming that Stampolis’ relationship with the Organizing Coalition was terminated on Oct. 5, 2015.
Federal Bureau of Labor reports show that last August, while Stampolis was denying that he would receive tangible benefit from a PLA, the Organizing Coalition was paying him $5,000 on the first of every month and had been since June of 2012 – the year he was elected to the SCUSD board.
Public officials who intentionally fail to disclose conflicts of interest can be fined, imprisoned and barred from holding public office.