Ocean View School District board again votes to censure trustee

Ocean View School District board member Norm Westwell.
Ocean View School District board member Norm Westwell, speaking during a meeting in 2020, was censured for the third time during a meeting on May 10.
(Raul Roa )

Norm Westwell used to be known by the nickname of “Firecracker.”

Discontent about Westwell’s actions on the Ocean View School District Board of Trustees exploded again during a meeting on May 10.

Westwell was censured for the third time by his colleagues on the board, by a 4-1 vote. His was the only dissenting vote.

The allegations against Westwell, serving in his fourth term on the board, included two times — on Feb. 8 and March 22 — when he reported during open session activities and discussions from closed session.

“We were elected by the people to do the work of the people,” said Trustee John Briscoe, in making the motion to approve the censure. “It’s not just to check dates on arcane contracts five pages in. It’s to do the work of the people to run the district. I’d like to encourage and help Trustee Westwell learn how to do that, and do it better.”

Board president Gina Clayton-Tarvin said upset citizens reported to her that Westwell, representing himself as a member of the OVSD board, had approached them on the district’s playing fields on or about Oct. 2, 2021. He asked them to sign a recall petition for members of the Huntington Beach City Council, alleging corruption.

Westwell said he didn’t represent himself as a member of the board.

“Even if I did, I am a board member,” he said. “I wasn’t representing any position of the district ... collecting signatures is a First Amendment right and is not prohibited.”

Clayton-Tarvin responded that the local AYSO district, which was renting the field, was not pleased that Westwell was asking people to sign a petition for a city council recall.

“That’s not something that a board member should be doing on our own land while others are renting it,” she said. “That, to me, is inappropriate, it’s unacceptable and it’s harassing other people. They didn’t want the trustee there. They didn’t want it.”

According to the censure motion, Westwell also had acted out of order when contacting Sycamore Charter School and Liberty Christian School in November 2021, asking if they were interested in surplus school desks. Clayton-Tarvin said that violated a bylaw that states the superintendent or her staff should make such an inquiry, not a board member.

On Feb. 22, Westwell interrupted Patricia Singer, the board’s vice president who was chairing the meeting. He allegedly raised his voice, made clapping motions and stood up, disrupting the decorum of the meeting.

Westwell said his actions didn’t violate any board policies or bylaws, adding that conduct that is not prohibited is permitted.

“This is a list [Clayton-Tarvin] has compiled of things she doesn’t like,” he said. “None of the six items that she’s complaining about violate any policy or bylaw ... [and] they’re all false statements.”

But Singer referenced board Bylaw 9005, which states that board members are expected to “govern responsibly, and hold themselves to the highest standards of ethical conduct.”

“It’s a constant badgering situation,” Singer said of Westwell’s behavior. “It’s never in a way to grow and be constructive, it’s a way of tearing us down ... When there is a board meeting and it’s clearly a hot topic, and one of our board members is in here chastising the situation and amplifying what’s happening in the audience, it does create a disruption. It is difficult to hold a board meeting when we are part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

Westwell was previously admonished in March 2019 after being accused of sexually harassing Clayton-Tarvin, and censured again in October 2020.

His current term runs through 2024.

“This is nothing but bullying and intimidation,” he said during the meeting. “Cancel culture is alive and well here.”

Singer, in response, decried the pettiness on the board in recent years.

“Stop pointing fingers and stop saying that we’re trying to take your rights,” she said, addressing Westwell. “I never want to do that. I want to respect your rights as much as I want you to respect mine, but I want you to be honorable ... We can pretend that these board bylaws weren’t violated, but they clearly were.”

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