Investigator deems allegations valid against AUSD Trustee Vinson who failed to be interviewed

Posted in: News, Education | Comments (2)

Debra Vinson. From a 2014 Herald file photo.

By Allen Payton

A two-month investigation by an outside consultant into accusations by two Antioch Unified School District employees against Board Vice President Debra Vinson of bullying, intimidation and unethical conduct, concluded that they were valid.

According to the Executive Summary by Deborah Maddux of the Van Dermyden Maddux Law Corporation, the accusations were made in a letter dated February 21, 2017 regarding an incident involving Vinson and two unnamed staff members over an intra-district transfer, which was witnessed and corroborated by other staff members.

The investigator made multiple attempts between March 28 and June 1 to contact Vinson but was unsuccessful in getting a face to face interview with her, which delayed the completion of the report. Vinson responded by phone and email a few times.

“Despite extensive efforts to provide her with an opportunity to provide her perspective, by her actions, she declined to do so,” Maddux wrote regarding Vinson.

Vinson finally scheduled an interview for May 25 but according to Maddux, when she called in Vinson for the first time informed Maddux that she had retained legal counsel and wanted her attorney to participate in the interview. That interview with Vinson and her attorney never happened.

Finally, Maddux completed her investigation, without Vinson providing her side of the story. D. Vinson Investigation Exec Summary

The Findings Summary by the investigator is as follows:

“First, the versions of the interactions provided by the witnesses were consistent, credible and corroborating.

Second, despite every opportunity to do so, Trustee Vinson did not provide any information to the contrary.

Third, Trustee Vinson’s conduct in this investigation tended to support the overall allegation that she considers herself not bound by policies and processes. This is troubling for someone serving as a Trustee. Trustee Vinson was asked to participate in this process, which is required by policy, but she did not do so.”

The conclusions of the investigation are as follows:

“Trustee Vinson engaged in intimidating conduct toward two District employees.

Trustee Vinson improperly attempted to exercise administrative responsibility and commanded the services of two school employees.

Trustee Vinson used her position to pressure two District employees into making a decision that was contrary to Board policy.” (See pages 7 and 8 of the Executive Summary for the complete Findings Summary).

The accusations against Vinson are in addition to those that are the basis for a third recall effort against her. The first two efforts began, last year.

“This is the first time this information was public,” said Board President Walter Ruehlig who was the first to receive the Executive Summary from the investigator, according to District staff.

When reached for comment and asked to respond to both the allegations in the investigation, as well as the accusation of not participating in the investigative process, Vinson said “I have not yet read the Executive Summary. But, I received in the Board packet a copy of the Findings on the 11th. I have not had the chance to review the Findings. I will definitely give a response as soon as I do.”

Vinson is up for re-election in November 2018

The Executive Summary is dated June 13, but was just released this week as part of the agenda packet for the next Antioch School Board meeting on Wednesday, August 23. The meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. in the Board Room at the District Offices at 510 G Street in Antioch’s historic, downtown Rivertown.


Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Publisher @ August 18, 2017

Child dies in Antioch drowning accident, Wednesday night

Posted in: News, Police & Crime | Comments (1)

By Corporal Gary Lowther #4032, Antioch Police Field Services Bureau

On Wednesday, August 16, 2017 at approximately 8:15 PM, Antioch Police Officers along with the Contra Costa County Fire Department responded to a residence located on the 4600 Block of Durness Court for a report of a two-year-old female that fell in the family swimming pool.

Upon officers’ arrival, the child was unresponsive. Life-saving efforts were administered by Antioch Police Officers and Contra Costa County Fire Department personnel. The child was transported to a local hospital where all efforts to revive her were unsuccessful.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Publisher @ August 17, 2017

Interim Contra Costa DA forum draws questions on wide range of issues

Posted in: News, District Attorney, Supervisors | Comments (0)

The five semi-finalists for the interim Contra Costa County District Attorney appointment participated in a three-hour public forum at Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors hearing chambers Tuesday. Participating in the forum conducted by the League of Women Voters of Contra Costa County were from left Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Diana Becton, Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Danielle Douglas, Santa Clara County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Patrick Vanier, Contra Costa Deputy District Attorney Tom Kensok and Contra Costa Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves. Supervisors plan to announce their choice by either their September 12 or September 19 meeting.

Lasts for three hours

By Daniel Borsuk

In the packed Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors hearing chambers, supervisors and citizens learned a great deal about five candidates in the running for the interim District Attorney post, vacant since the mid-June resignation of Mark Peterson on charges of lying about illegally spending $66,000 from his election campaign fund for personal use.

Before responding to questions pooled from the League of Women Voters of Contra Costa County and emceed by former Contra Costa County Clerk and Register of Voters Steven Weir, supervisors conducted a one hour hearing to allow the public to vent thoughts about the supervisors selection process of the five choices:  Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Diana Becton, Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Danielle Douglas, Contra Costa Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves, longtime Contra Costa Deputy District Attorney Tom Kensok, and Santa Clara County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Patrick Vanier, a Contra Costa County resident.

Graves and Vanier have already announced they are running for election in 2018.

During the public hearing, Graves received oral endorsements from eight speakers.  One supporter, Laura Dean Swanson described Graves as “Competent and widely respected by people for working for victims’ rights.”

But Richmond City Councilman Melvin Willis cautioned supervisors saying, “We need a district attorney who will look at alternatives other than incarceration.  We need new leadership promoting racial justice.”

Nancy Kelly, a retired public defender, urged the supervisors to select an interim DA who would eliminate the bail system, which is racially and financially biased against minorities.  Kelly also said the county’s interim DA should be one who picks “juries that reflect the community and not that reflects the upper class or white people.”

During the forum, the five semi-finalists answered a wide variety of questions to shed light regarding their opinions about “restorative justice,” a concept that all the candidates supported.

On the question about the death penalty, the responses varied.

Judge Douglas said she would seek the death penalty for cases meriting it and “would set up a death penalty review panel.”  She noted that the cost and racial disparity associated with the death penalty has shown that it has been “abused in this country.”

Vanier said he would use the death penalty for cases that genuinely merit them like the “Ted Bundy” murder case.

Kensok said he, like most Contra Costa voters, voted to abolish the death penalty.  “It’s not a deterrent, but I will never say never.”  He said there might be murder cases meriting the death penalty.

“The death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime,” said Judge Beckton.

On prosecuting environmental pollution crimes, candidates’ responses varied, but Kensok seemed to have the best response to that question.  “We have an environmental prosecutor,” said Kensok. “We have gone after Chevron.  But as DA my priority will be to use our resources to prosecute cases involving violence.”

When asked what his thoughts were about the DA office’s track record on victims’ rights, candidate Vanier said, “Less than one half of the crimes are prosecuted.  We need to do a better job of prosecuting crimes that occur in this county.”

On the topic of how to work with at-risk youth, Judge Becton said she would implement a successful program she developed in Richmond, “The Color of Justice.”  It teaches school children that African Americans do succeed academically and become lawyers and judges.

As a mother of three daughters, Judge Douglas said she would promote anti-gang awareness programs beginning in the elementary and middle schools.  “We need to publicize about the dangers of the Internet and how gangs are able to lure youth at very young age.”

All five candidates said they would not cooperate with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Supervisors plan to interview finalists for the interim post on September 12; they could announce a selection then or reveal their choice at their September 19 meeting.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Publisher @ August 17, 2017

Antioch Rotary Club honored with prestigious Cliff Dochterman Award

Posted in: Community | Comments (0)

By John Crowder

The Rotary Club of Antioch was one of only two clubs in their seventy-two club District to receive the recently established Cliff Dochterman Award at a Rotary District meeting and ceremony held in Woodland, California on July 8.  The award was accepted by Milanka Schneiderman, Immediate Past President of Antioch Rotary on behalf of the Club.

The award, named after the past-president of Rotary International during 1992-93 and a Moraga resident, is presented to Rotary clubs that excel in all areas of Rotary. Requirements include participation in local, international, vocational youth, and club service. Clubs that receive the award are recognized for showing great care for their members, and for undertaking a project that can be emulated by other clubs and which will make a significant difference in the communities they serve.

The project that the Antioch Rotary Club undertook was the Empowerment Project for young women.  The project involves bringing together girls from local schools to screen the 2014 film, ‘The Empowerment Project: Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things.’ After the screening the girls listen to a panel of successful women discuss their careers and life paths.  The idea for the project in Antioch was first proposed to the club by Antioch Rotarian Sal Sbranti in early 2015.  Sbranti’s daughter was involved in the production of the film.

After determining that the project would be a good fit for the Club, members of Antioch Rotary reached out to the principals of Deer Valley High School (DVHS) and Antioch High School (AHS), who both responded enthusiastically to the proposal.  In partnership with the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD), later that year, the program took place over two days, the first day at DVHS, and the second at AHS, for approximately 2100 girls from the schools.  Response to the program was unequivocally favorable.

Following the success with Antioch’s high school girls, the following year Antioch Rotary undertook the project for the 8th grade girls attending Antioch Middle (AMS), Black Diamond, Dallas Ranch, and Park Middle Schools.  The inspirational project was once again well received.  John Jimno, principal at Park Middle School, called it, “overwhelmingly positive,” while Lindsay Wisely, principal at AMS, called it, “an absolute game-changer for our 8th grade girls.”

Schneiderman tells the story of a girl she met while visiting Antioch High School earlier this year, who was still wearing a bracelet she had received at one of the events.  “She told me that the program had inspired her, for the first time, to consider going to college,” said Schneiderman.

This year, the Antioch Rotary Club and AUSD will be bringing all of AUSD’s 8th grade girls together for a “Day of Empowering Girls” event.  The full-day program will be held at the Antioch Fair Grounds on Wednesday, October 11.

For more information about the Antioch Rotary Club, visit or contact project coordinator Sal Sbranti at

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Publisher @ August 17, 2017

Last call for summer fun with half-price on Labor Day at the Antioch Water Park

Posted in: Community, Recreation | Comments (0)

On Monday, September 4th – Labor Day – the Antioch Water Park will be half price admission all day long.  The hours of operation on September 4th are 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.  Bring your family and friends and join the lifeguards and recreation staff to say good-bye to summer fun.  It’s a customer appreciation day for everyone so break out the swim suits one last time and enjoy the five slides, various pools and Cattail Harbor spray park. 

Fall swimming lessons and fitness classes begin September 5th and registration is open now.  This last session of classes will give all ages the opportunity to master that swim skill they have been working on all summer.  Classes fill up early so do not wait to register.  For more information call the Water Park at 925-776-3070 or visit the City’s website

COME SPLASH WITH US while summer is still here.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Publisher @ August 17, 2017

Concord dental assistant, an Antioch resident pleads guilty to child molestation

Posted in: News, Police & Crime | Comments (1)

Alejandro Saro. Photo by Concord Police

Sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison

In April, 2016, the Concord Police Department investigated a report of a child molestation that occurred at La Clinica dental office on Sierra Road in the City of Concord. The eight-year-old female victim told officers that a male dental assistant sexually assaulted her and that he video recorded the incident while he committed the crime. Special Victims Unit Detectives were notified and quickly identified the suspect as 24-year-old Alejandro Saro, from Antioch, CA.

During the investigation, detectives reviewed patients’ records from four different dental offices where Saro had worked which led to the identification of four other female victims between the ages of 5 and 13 years old. Saro was employed as a dental assistant at La Clinica Monument in March of 2015. He was also employed by Patino Orthodontics and Western Dental, both in Concord – and a branch of Western Dental in Antioch.

The investigation also uncovered evidence that all five of the victims had been assaulted by Saro while they were under sedation for various dental procedures. Saro was arrested by detectives and the case was turned over to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office. The DA’s Office charged Saro with multiple counts of child molestation. He remained in-custody with bail set at $8.1 million dollars.

Saro was due to appear in court this week to stand trial, however, SVU detectives received notification from the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office late Sunday night that Saro had pled guilty to five counts of felony child molestation; one count for each victim.

It is not uncommon for perpetrators who commit such horrendous crimes to reach a plea bargain agreement rather than face all of the evidence against them in front of a jury of peers. Based on the thorough investigation conducted by the SVU detectives and the mounds of evidence they uncovered and piled against Saro, including numerous videos, it is presumed that he voluntarily accepted responsibility for his actions with this agreement. Saro will now appear in front of a Contra Costa County Superior Court judge for sentencing on Friday, September 22, 2017, in Martinez, where he will be sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Publisher @ August 16, 2017

Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves shares why he wants to be Contra Costa’s next DA

Posted in: News, Police & Crime, Politics & Elections, District Attorney | Comments (0)

Paul Graves speaks to the Friday Morning Breakfast Club in Antioch on Friday, August 4, 2017.

Speaks to Antioch’s Friday Morning Breakfast Club

By Allen Payton

Speaking before the Friday Morning Breakfast Club (FBMC) in Antioch on August 4, Paul Graves, the Senior Deputy District Attorney for Contra Costa County, answered questions and explained why he wants to be the county’s next DA. He is one of five finalists to be the Interim DA in the Board of Supervisors’ appointment process, having made the first round cut from a list of 12 applicants.

The FBMC is led by former Antioch Mayor Don Freitas and made up of current and former locally elected officials, community leaders and other concerned residents. They meet once a month for breakfast and invite a speaker as their guest.

A 22-year veteran of the Contra Costa DA’s office, Graves was the first candidate to enter the race for District Attorney in the June, 2018 election, before former DA Mark Peterson resigned. He was willing to take on his boss in response to the scandal over Peterson making false statements on his campaign finance statements about personal use of campaign funds.

“There was a cloud over the office,” Graves stated. “In the press, there was an impression something was wrong with the office. The people in that office are dedicated to the county. While that cloud was over the office, the people asked me to step up and run against the incumbent. But, I’m not going to disparage my former boss.”

“I’m not a politician,” Graves added

He announced his campaign in May following a vote of no-confidence by the Deputy District Attorneys Association and the Civil Grand Jury’s call for the removal of Peterson.

“It wouldn’t have been as big a deal if Mr. Peterson had not decided to run again,” Graves stated during the FMBC meeting. “I did not support Mr. Peterson in 2010. I was one of those who was punished. But even Mark recognized I’m a leader in this office. I was actually the solution to the problem.”

“I chose to stay when others left, because I’m committed to the county,” he shared. “We called it the ‘French Resistance’ back in 2010. We had two choices: quite or stay here and fight. I’m a fighter. So, I chose to stay and fight.”

In his brief announcement he said, “after careful consideration and consultation with my colleagues in the District Attorney’s Office and with others in law enforcement, I have decided to run for Contra Costa District Attorney in 2018. As a 22-year veteran of this office, I have a deep understanding of this community and the talented dedicated prosecutors that already serve the public. Simply put, I know I can make a difference.”

Graves expected to be demoted, again for running against his boss and planned on providing a more complete, public announcement later. But then Peterson resigned and the Supervisors decided to appoint an interim DA.

“Only two of us were candidates before the appointment process,” he said. The other one is Santa Clara County Deputy DA Patrick Vanier, who announced his campaign about a week later in May, also before Peterson resigned in June.

Graves explained to the FBMC members his plans if elected.

“I believe in a victim-centered approach,” he said. “It’s our obligation to give the best service to the victims in our office. It hasn’t changed for the past 22 years. It’s a crime-based structure. We need to look at restructuring the office.”

“People are people. Victims, witnesses and defendants,” Graves continued. He then said his overall goal is to “save lives and drive down crime in Contra Costa County.”

He spoke of the crime occurring in Antioch, East County and other parts of the county.

“Human trafficking is something we’re not doing enough of,” Graves stated. “Prostitutes on the street corners. I like to call them exploited women. There are exploiters, pimps.”

“I’ve been working with non-profits…to work on these problems.”

Regarding it occurring in massage parlors, Graves said, “Antioch Police are very involved in this. Concord Police are involved in this, treating the prostitutes as victims. Out here in East County there’s a network of massage parlors. They’re all connected.”

He then spoke of one way the DA’s office is fighting crime.

“We have a wiretap room,” Graves shared. “We want to wiretap these networks and to take them down. That is my goal.”

There’s a “huge street-level human trafficking operation in Danville” in a “nice house,” he said.

“They prey on youth, those coming out of group homes, foster care. It turns into eating, rape, and fear,” Graves continued. “The exploited women have a mental break and they become very protective of their abusers.”

“We need transition housing, out here,” he added.

“The punishment for johns are deminimis. It’s a misdemeanor,” Graves explained. “My preference is that they go through a human trafficking course and see what the women go through.”

Asked about sanctuary city policies, he responded, “as a DA, I follow the law. But the misconception about the DA’s office involvement in deportations is wrong. ICE does get notified. It happens when they’re arrested.”

“The law has changed. We have to consider their status in terms of the punishment,” Graves said. “Defense attorneys try to get us to change the charges so it’s not deportable. Sex crimes are.”

“We are a sanctuary city, not for defendants but victims,” he added.

Asked about the Deputy DA for Antioch, Graves explained, “You do (have one). But it’s not sufficient. You need a dedicated DA.”

“We have a Deputy DA in the Pittsburg Police Department. Antioch goes to Pittsburg to file cases without having to drive to Martinez,” he shared. “You do not have a community prosecutor. We have one in Richmond who can do targeted cases. Richmond PD pays part of that salary.” “We’re understaffed. We’ve always been understaffed,” Graves stated about his department. “We have the same number of Deputy DA’s as we did 22 years ago.”

But, he also said he’s very available to Antioch Police.

“Your detectives can call me 24-7 on a case and they know it,” he said. “I’ve been at Disneyland and I took a call. I would work with your Chief (of Police) to get you a DA. It would be Antioch’s community prosecutor. We need community DA’s to work on crime strategy. You need a partner out there.”

“The Antioch Police Detectives are very good,” Graves shared. “You have great police out there. You’re seriously understaffed.”

He spoke of targeted enforcement in which a repeat offender has multiple complaints filed against him, which increases the charges and advocated for pro-active, community-based prosecution.

“You do have a gang problem out here,” Graves stated. “Our gang unit needs to expand. We need a human trafficking unit. Gangs are getting in it. It’s cheaper and easier than drugs.

As to his approach in leading the office, he said, “I like to get out into the community. I like talking to the people. The office of the DA is the office of the people.”

“I will spend my time talking to the troops in my office,” Graves added.

He encouraged those in attendance to “stay involved in this election. This is a very important election. It’s turning into a hot potato…a referendum on Contra Costa County. There’s a push to become like San Francisco…shortening sentences, not arresting people.”

“I’m running on my qualifications,” he continued. “No matter what happens (in the appointment process), I’m running. I do firmly believe I am the right person for the job.”

To learn more about Graves, visit his campaign website at

A public forum for the five finalists will be held tonight, Tuesday, August 15, at 6:00 p.m.   The meeting will be in the Board Chamber at 651 Pine Street in Martinez.  Beginning at 5:00 p.m., there will be an hour reserved for public comment. During that time, you can also submit written comments to be entered into the public record.  If you have a question you would like to suggest for the forum, you will have an opportunity between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to do so. Volunteers from the League of Women Voters will be on hand to assist in collecting the question cards.  During a break in the forum, the moderator will have the ability to chose audience-submitted questions to ask during the second half of the event.  

The forum will be televised live on CCTV, as well as streamed live on this website.  CCTV can be watched on Comcast Channel 27, Wave Channel 32, and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Publisher @ August 15, 2017

August at El Campanil Theatre: Tributes to Elvis and Johnny Cash, plus the Vagabond Players

Posted in: Arts & Entertainment | Comments (0)

James Clark and the Jailhouse Rockers

California’s Premiere Elvis Tribute Band

Carrying on the Legacy of the King

Saturday, August 19 8:00 pm

James Clark is a Nationally Acclaimed Elvis Tribute Artist, rated top 10 in Las Vegas King of Kings. He has performed with Elvis’ legendary Jordanaires, Laughlin, Nevada. Presently Headlining Casino’s. The Band has had the privilege to open for such acts as Mark Lindsay, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Steppen Wolf, The Drifters, Juice Newton and Jerry Lee Lewis.

James Clark & The Jail House Rockers, is California’s premiere Elvis tribute band.

Certain to bring back your Fondest Memories of Elvis. This is a high energy show, lasting two full hours with spectacular suits, and award-winning vocals performed by James Clark from 1968 to the late 1970’s. A Very Classy portrayal of Elvis Presley and his band.

All Ages. Reserved Seating ~ Tickets:

Adults: $27   Seniors (62 & Over): $25   Youth: (under 18): $10

The Vagabond Players present – A Bench In The Sun

Sunday August 27, 2017  2:00 pm

A Bench In The Sun by Ron Clarke

Two old fogies spend their days bickering on a bench in the courtyard of their retirement home. Burt is a sloppy, crusty former accountant; Harold is a dapper dandy with failed marriages and businesses. They suddenly have something new to argue about when faded Hollywood starlet—who the men admired in their younger days—takes up residency. Her flirtatious antics begin a competition between the friends as they vie for her attention. Hilarious antics abound.

MEET THE CAST: Rita Hamlin, Barry Hunau & Ron  Craven

All Ages

Tickets:  Adults: $15   Seniors (62& Over): $13  Youth (17 & Under): $10

James Garner’s Tribute to Johnny Cash with the Tennessee Three

Saturday September 9, 2017  8:00 pm

For the past 10 years, Garner and his band have faithfully recreated Cash’s biggest hits with stunning accuracy in this not-to-be-missed musical event. From a special concert airing on PBS to shows at Folsom and San Quentin Prisons, it’s easy to see why this is the premier tribute to the “Man in Black.” The show is a fun, toe-tapping trip down memory lane honoring Johnny Cash’s life and music, and the boom-chicka-boom sound of his longtime backing band, the Tennessee Three.

All Ages

Tickets: ​Adults: $27    Seniors: (62 & Over):  $25   Youth: (under 18): $10

El Campanil Theatre is located at 602 W. 2nd Street in Antioch’s historic, downtown Rivertown.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Publisher @ August 14, 2017