Members of a citizens group seeking to transfer La Cañada's Sagebrush area out of Glendale Unified's jurisdiction and into La Cañada Unified School District, said they were scratching their heads Tuesday over a court order sought by GUSD's attorneys requesting the names of people who signed a petition in support of the transfer.
The 724 signatures Unite LCF collected earlier this year from registered voters living in the Sagebrush area on the west side of La Cañada who support the transfer territory into La Cañada Unified, were deemed "sufficient" by Dean Logan, Los Angeles County registrar-recorder and county clerk, according to a July 18 document.
Attorneys representing Glendale Unified subsequently sought the court order to secure the list of signatures, according to the petition filed Sept. 8 in Los Angeles Superior Court. Unite LCF's Tom Smith said he's unsure why the Glendale district's attorneys want the signature data.
"We're at a little bit of a loss to understand why it's needed. We're a little concerned this is another attempt to slow down the process. We expected Glendale [Unified], at some point, to lawyer up. It came a little earlier than we were expecting," Smith said.
When attorneys for Glendale Unified asked Allison Deegan, the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization's regionalized business services coordinator, for the signatures in August, "she refused without a court order," according to court documents.
"We feel very comfortable that there's nothing there that could be overturned or invalidate the [Unite LCF] petition," Smith said, adding that the signatures involved in a territory transfer are not often made public, unless disclosed to school districts through court orders.
"We're doing what we can to protect the privacy of the people who did sign the petition," Smith said. "Ultimately, how those documents get disclosed is up to the courts."
Glendale Unified's attorneys' made an additional request for a "temporary stay" on the county committee's proceedings on the territory transfer until Glendale Unified's attorneys secure the signatures, according to a letter sent by Glendale Unified's attorneys to Nalini Lasiewicz, a member of Unite LCF.
During a Wednesday hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court, Judge Amy Hogue said she'd make a determination to grant a temporary stay or not during an Oct. 14 hearing, which will lead to a subsequent decision on the potential release of the signatures to Glendale Unified's attorneys.
Attorney Stan Barankiewicz, representing Glendale Unified, told Hogue that attorneys would analyze the signatures to potentially build arguments opposing the transfer.
Those arguments would be presented to the county committee "in private," he said, adding that attorneys wouldn't try to contact those who signed the petition, or disclose their addresses.
Glendale Unified Supt. Winfred Roberson, Jr. said the residents' privacy is valued by school officials.
"Government code allows our attorneys to examine this information and use it to prepare our presentation to the county committee. However, [Glendale Unified] has no intention of making this information available to the public," Roberson said in a statement.
Glendale Unified's attorneys filed the petition seeking a court order one day after the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization formally accepted Unite LCF's petition seeking to transfer the Sagebrush area into La Cañada Unified School District.
Smith said he's concerned the GUSD's request could slow the county committee's process for deciding on the transfer.
"We're concerned this is a little bit of a hunt to delay the process by whatever means," Smith said.
Following Wednesday's hearing, Nick Karapetian, a member of Unite LCF, said he was pleased with Hogue's move to hear Glendale Unified's request for a temporary stay during the Oct. 14 hearing, when she is scheduled to consider arguments from attorneys representing the county committee, registrar-recorder and county clerk, Glendale Unified, as well as members of Unite LCF.
"She was conscious not to stop the county committee process and interfere with something without more information, and that was appreciated," Karapetian said.
Lasiewicz said it will give Unite LCF a little more time to prepare.
"I was glad she didn't see any need for putting on the brakes on what is this normal process being followed by all these different agencies," she said of the judge's action Wednesday.
Kelly Corrigan, email@example.com