The Calexico Unified School District offices on Andrade Avenue have been temporarily closed at the recommendation of the county health officer after a COVID outbreak of at least three office staffers. The closure came Thursday, Aug. 5. | CAMILO GARCIA JR. PHOTO
CALEXICO — Four members of the Calexico Unified School District board are being accused of individual and collective acts of wrongdoing that include creating a hostile work environment, falsely accusing district officials of corruption, conflicts of interest and discrimination, to name just a few.
The allegations were made by district Superintendent Carlos Gonzales and members of the district’s executive cabinet and are detailed in a 93-page report that is the basis of a closed-session agenda item scheduled for the board’s special meeting of Tuesday, June 22.
The bulk of the complaints are lodged against board President Ciro Calderon and board clerk Lorenzo Calderon Jr., though it appears that Trustee Enrique Alvarado and recently elected Trustee Margarita Magallanes were added to the updated list of concerns on May 24.
Trustee Richard Romero is the only board member not accused of any unprofessional conduct.
The special meeting’s closed-session discussion was characterized as an effort to “build unity and create a positive organizational structure” by Gonzales, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Cesar Vega, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Elisa Ramirez, and Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Brian Thurman.
“In an effort to improve overall District operations related to teaching and learning, the following violations and concerns are being shared along with a requested remedy and proposed plan of action,” stated a May 24 letter the district officials addressed to the district’s legal counsel.
One of the 10 listed remedies include potentially having the accused board members resign or removed from their current role. Another recommendation requested the hiring of a third-party investigator to examine each of the 55 allegations of wrongdoing, which board President Calderon said the board recently authorized.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen or what the board will decide to do after the investigation is over,” Calderon said in a phone interview Monday, June 21.
The investigator hails from Central California and is expected to examine each of the dozens of complaints, then make public his findings, Calderon said. It was not clear how long the probe may take or cost, as the investigator is expected to interview all parties involved.
Calderon said that many of the allegations against him date back several years and were previously resolved. He further denied the veracity of the latest accusations that have come to light.
The closed-session discussion falls under “anticipated litigation,” yet the two-page letter preceding the 93-page document of allegations, which include corresponding references of how the alleged misdeeds violate various school board bylaws and policies as well as state laws, were both made available as public documents.
Calderon is specifically accused of repeatedly and arbitrarily undermining Superintendent Gonzales’ authority, as well as that of the executive cabinet, spreading false information and defaming Assistant Superintendent Vega, who Calderon accused of authorizing classroom furniture purchases with a firm that Vega had a personal financial stake in.
“Mr. Ciro Calderon was not only reckless but intentionally made false statements to raise suspicion on another public official that he (Mr. Vega) was taking bribes,” the complaint stated.
Calderon was further accused of making public comments that suggested two maintenance and operations employees were stealing rye grass seed belonging to the district and that he was harassing a district teacher with whom he had previously attempted to have a romantic relationship.
In other alleged instances, Calderon is accused of not following the rules governing a public body’s open meeting laws, using his position to retaliate against district personnel, attempting to reverse course on board-approved personnel hirings and claiming that district administrators engage in nepotism.
Among other things, Trustee Lorenzo Calderon Jr. is accused of approaching the contractor tasked with Calexico High School’s construction of a new 16-classroom building in a “rather aggressive, threatening, and hostile manner,” the complaint stated.
Calderon was alleged to have attempted to investigate an incident where a high school administrator was stuck temporarily in the elevator of the new classroom building. Calderon has no authority as a board member to initiate such an investigation.
“Trustee Lorenzo Calderon Jr. is notorious for these types of actions in which he harasses district employees for information in order to attack administration and consultants,” the complaint stated.
His dealings with past superintendent Maria Ambriz and the former assistant superintendent of business services were also characterized in the complaint as being disrespectful and unprofessional, and allegedly amounted to gender discrimination.
Calderon Jr. was also the subject of a previous complaint by a department supervisor and for alleged harassment and for creating a hostile work environment.
Ambriz was eventually terminated by the board in October 2017, months before her contract ended. A subsequent wrongful termination lawsuit she filed was settled with the district.
The executive cabinet’s complaint further states that a former Dool Elementary principal and the current Calexico High School Principal Gabrielle Williams-Ballesteros had expressed concerns about their employment and were considering leaving the district due to being constantly questioned and intimidated by both Calderons.
The Dool principal, who was allegedly sexual harassed by Ciro Calderon, eventually did just that. She now works for the El Centro Elementary School District.
“District administrators have been accused of being retaliatory when in fact evidence shows that Trustees Ciro Calderon and Lorenzo Calderon Jr. have demonstrated retaliatory conduct towards administrators, staff, and service providers as explained in various areas of this document,” the complaint stated.
As for Trustees Alvarado and Magallanes, their names are included in a complaint that allege both sided with both Calderons, who are not related, in pursuit of questionable and unprofessional actions whose purpose was to discriminate against Gonzales.
One of those alleged actions include the manner in which the board presented Superintendent Gonzales with his evaluation in April, which reportedly did not allow him the opportunity to provide input.
The district did not immediately respond to request for comment.