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HUNTINGTON BEACH : School Trustee Is Subject of Inquiry

At the request of a former school board member and two parents, Ocean View School District officials are looking into allegations that Trustee Sheila Marcus has improperly voted on issues related to an educational newsletter she publishes.

The allegations are tied to the countywide newsletter “From the Classroom,” which Marcus began publishing last October. Those making the charges claim that because Oak View School Principal Joan Buffehr and two of the school’s teachers are managing partners of the publication, Marcus should not vote on any issues concerning district employees’ salaries, benefits, promotions or placements.

They also claim that Marcus’ 5-year-old educational consulting and grant-writing business should have been dealt with on her annual economic-interest statements, which it was not.

Marcus has dismissed most of the charges as “ridiculous,” saying they amount to a personal attack mounted against her by three longtime adversaries.

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The charges were brought by Charles Osterlund, who was voted out of office last November after 15 years on the board, and parent activists Arnold Alvarez and Sally Alvino, all staunch rivals of Marcus in recent years.

“I’ve done nothing wrong,” Marcus said. “All I’ve done is put out a newsletter, which costs me $3,000 a month out of my own pocket. . . . We’re not making any money on this. And what if it did make money? What does that matter?”

However, Marcus conceded that she made a “mistake” in voting for a list of district purchase orders last November that included a $55, one-year subscription to “From the Classroom.”

“Frankly, when we get those long lists of purchase orders, I don’t look at them that carefully. That was an oversight on my part,” Marcus said, adding that she is willing to reimburse the district for the expense.

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She denounced other charges as an attempt by Osterlund and the parents to force her out of office. “But they’re not going to make me resign,” she said.

Alvarez declined comment, but Alvino said, “I think this district and its 8,500 students might be better served if there were some different faces on that school board.”

Osterlund said his main concern is that the district’s economic-disclosure policy, adopted in 1978, may not be consistent with guidelines set down by the state Fair Political Practices Commission. Marcus said she agrees that the policy should be reviewed.

“I spoke before the board to give constructive notice that (Marcus) might want to abstain from voting on certain items until this is cleared up,” Osterlund said.

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District officials are currently studying the policy to determine what changes are needed, Supt. Monte McMurray said. He added, however, that he does not believe that the changes will affect board members’ filing requirements.

The district is required by law to initiate an investigation into any such charges against a board member that are submitted in writing, McMurray said. The results of the inquiry are expected within a week, he said.


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