Last Thursday Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Beth McGowan ordered Santa Clara Unified School District Trustee Christopher Stampolis to comply with the district’s demand that he disclose the nature of his consulting agreement with the Laborers Pacific Southwest Regional Organizing Coalition, an organizing group that’s part of the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA).
But by claiming that he hadn’t been legally served with summons to appear in court, Stampolis was able to extend the deadline for responding to SCUSD’s complaint about his alleged conflict of interest.
Stampolis – who was representing himself – said the summons wasn’t sent to the correct address (it was sent to his residence instead of his P.O. box), asserted that the hearing should be private, and claimed that he didn’t know that he could appeal the complaint. This prompted the judge to say at one point, “You can’t come here and say that you don’t know the rules and then argue about everything.”
Since the complaint was filed in October it has bounced between two judges and three courtrooms; apparently creating some confusion on Judge McGowan’s part as to whether the case was to be heard as scheduled last Thursday. Saying that she was inclined to postpone hearing the case, she directed Stampolis and SCUSD’s attorney Sherman Wong to confer outside the courtroom.
About 15 minutes later Stampolis charged back into the courtroom, interrupting the next case, saying that Wong “swore” at him, and that he considered it battery by a court official.
The judge, who was clearly angry at this eruption, cut off Stampolis’ outburst, saying, “I ordered you to meet and confer. If you had a problem you were to come back to me, not argue in the hall.” She then instructed Wong to serve Stampolis again, this time mailing it to Stampolis’ P.O. box, and asked Stampolis how much time he needed to respond.
Before Stampolis could answer, Wong interrupted with a request that the judge set a “date certain” for Stampolis to comply with the disclosure demand, which Stampolis interrupted. The judge then interrupted both of them, saying, “The first thing you are going to do is learn not to interrupt each other.” The sniping continued at a barely audible level, eliciting repeated admonitions from the judge to keep their comments to themselves.
McGowan set Feb. 18 as the deadline for Stampolis’ reply to the school district’s complaint, and Feb. 25 for turning over documentation describing his work for the union. She concluded by saying, “I would prefer not to have to address this [conduct] again. I suggest both you gentlemen review the county code of ethics.”
Last 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 PLA with the Santa Clara and San Benito Building Trades Council – an umbrella organization representing 23 construction trades unions, including LIUNA.
From June 2012 through 2014, the Laborers’ Organizing Coalition paid Stampolis’ company, Praxis House, $5,000 a month – $60,000 a year – for “government relations/community relations services,” according to U.S. Dept. of Labor Representation Activities disclosures (www.dol.gov/olms).
The Building Trades Council has been lobbying the SCUSD board to sign a PLA for construction projects covered by 2014’s Measure H bonds – $419 million worth of construction including two new Northside schools. The BTC has already drafted a PLA for the district, according to the complaint.
The case number is 1-15-CV-286790. County Superior Court information is available online at www.sccaseinfo.org.