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REGION : School Official Accused of Violating Code

A Norwalk-La Mirada school board member is under fire for allegedly selling jewelry at district schools.

Board member Mary Lou Gomez was accused of visiting the campus of Ramona Head Start Preschool to sell costume jewelry, a violation of the board’s conduct code. District sources said Gomez apparently has sold jewelry at other school sites, although there have been no official complaints.

Gomez, who operates the business out of her home, denied any wrongdoing. She said she went to the Ramona campus to deliver jewelry that employees had previously ordered.

Board President Darryl R. Adams said he met privately with Gomez to express concern about her activities after Ramona employees complained to district officials.

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“We have to exercise our level of professionalism when we enter a school site,” Adams said. Referring to the alleged jewelry sales, he added, “I wouldn’t have done it, and I think most people (on the board) wouldn’t have done it.”

Gomez was also criticized by board member Rudy Bermudez, who said the board’s conduct code was specifically drafted to prevent such complaints about elected school officials.

“How can you defend somebody who goes to a school site for one particular purpose, and that is for financial gain?” Bermudez said. “It’s unethical.”

Gomez said she has stopped visiting Norwalk and La Mirada campuses except for official school board business and will no longer deliver jewelry to school employees at work.

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“I didn’t realize it was such a big deal,” said Gomez, a former Ramona teacher. “If somebody wants me to drop off stuff at a school site, I’ll simply say, ‘I’ll drop it off at your house.’ ”

Gomez said school employees have sold cosmetics and other products to each other during school hours. “It goes on everywhere else where you have a catalogue and you order things,” Gomez said. “For many years I received Avon (products) at my school.”

It is the first time a Norwalk-La Mirada school board member has been accused of violating the conduct code since the board unanimously adopted the policy in May, Adams said.

The code forbids trustees from using district property for private gain.

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