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Special Report: Antioch and statewide programs target achievement gap of African American students

Friday, June 19th, 2015

By John Crowder

A self-described, “African-American Promotion Ceremony” for students moving from 8th to 9th grade who reside within the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) boundaries, held on May 29, 2015, generated tremendous controversy on local social media, both during and following the event. Many expressed surprise that such an event took place, with some calling it, “segregation.” Now, other school district programs, interventions focused on African American students, are also being questioned.

Antioch Herald staff have been researching these practices, though, and have found that events and programs targeting African American students are common throughout the state of California, they have been for some time, and are supported at all levels of public education, from the California State Board of Education (SBE) to local school boards and school districts.

Throughout the state, since the identification of a substantial gap between the learning outcomes of African American students and their peers several years ago, California’s local school districts have implemented numerous programs designed to close that gap. These programs have included: African American promotion ceremonies, school/parent organizations focused on African American students, reviews and modifications of policies related to the suspension and expulsion of African American students, training of teachers in “cultural awareness,” honor rolls for African American students, and special summer program classes for African American students.

In addition, and related to the achievement gap, the data regarding suspensions and expulsion rates indicate a vastly disproportionate number of African American students being subject to these two disciplinary measures which remove students from the classroom. Locally, this has been acknowledged repeatedly by District staff at AUSD board meetings in recent months.

In this article, we detail some of the history behind the initiatives that have been undertaken to address these matters, and relate current practices, typical of California school districts, focused on African American students.

SBE Creates African American Advisory Committee

As early as 2009, the SBE had become “alarmed” at the “achievement gap that exists between African American students and their counterparts.” On January 8 of that year, the SBE released a press statement regarding the creation of an “African American Advisory Committee.” The committee was to be composed of people, “from throughout the state who are knowledgeable about best practices and research related to improving the academic achievement of African American students.”

The need for an African American Advisory Committee was based on the results of two tests, the 2008 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program and the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE), and on other statistics regarding such things as high school graduation rates. On the 2008 STAR test, only 33% of African American students in California scored at proficient or above on the English portion of the exam, and only 28% scored proficient or above on the math portion.

Other statistics showed that, in the 2006-2007 academic year, only 57.6% of African American students graduated high school. On the 2008 CAHSEE, African American students scored, “substantially lower” than other ethnic groups in both the English and math sections of the test. (Data was taken from a report provided to the California SBE by the African American Advisory Committee, and reflect statistics for the entire state.)

African American Advisory Committee Makes Recommendations

From January 12-14, 2011, the African American Advisory Committee presented their recommendations to the SBE. These recommendations included such things as:

  • Revise school accountability reports to more prominently display subgroup data

  • Take corrective action with, or sanction, local school districts that, “have compliance issues” relative to “disproportional rates of suspension and expulsion of African American students

  • Create, “culturally responsive systems”

Local Control Funding Formula requires Local Control Accountability Plans

Programs at the local school district level that focus on specific subgroups, such as African Americans (other subgroups that are delineated include Asian, Hispanic, Caucasian, Socioeconomically Disadvantaged, English Learners, Students with Disabilities, and Foster Youth), took a major step forward when, a little over two years after the recommendations were provided by the African American Advisory Committee, the state legislature created a new methodology to pay for California schools.

In July, 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), significantly changing the way California funds its schools. In an effort to obtain more transparency from local school boards while at the same time ensuring greater accountability, schools were now required to create a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). School districts were required to create these plans with input from “parents and the community.”

LCAP plans must show how a local school district will spend funds and its goals for improving student outcomes according to priorities set by the legislature.

On the Local Control Accountability Plan Template, it states, “the LCAP must describe, for each school district and each school within the district, goals and specific actions to achieve those goals for all pupils and each subgroup of pupils identified in Education Code section 52052…for each of the state priorities and any locally identified priorities.”

According to CA Education Code 52052, “a school or school district shall demonstrate comparable improvement in academic achievement as measured by the API by all numerically significant subgroups at the school or school district, including: (A) Ethnic subgroups.”

State priorities include, “score on API,” “efforts to seek parent input in decision making,” and “promotion of parent participation in programs.”

Antioch Unified LCAP

Like many school districts in the state, AUSD has recognized an education gap with its African American students. A specific subgroup identified in AUSD’s LCAP is the African American subgroup. Additionally, one of the groups specifically identified as a “stakeholder group” in AUSD is the membership of the district-created African American Male Achievement Initiative (AAMAI).

Within the AUSD LCAP, and in accordance with state mandates, are stated “goals and specific actions” which then lead to various initiatives designed to address the identified learning gap with African American students.

Cultural celebrations, which is how many supporters of the African American Promotion Ceremony characterized it, are identified specifically in the AUSD LCAP (6/08/2015 Draft) as something the District intends to support.

Goal 2 of the AUSD LCAP says, “Antioch Unified School District will build inclusive school communities where all students, families, and members of the community feel welcome and valued.” Section 2.5d of the LCAP states, “Allocated school site funding will be used to provide activities that focus on connectedness, which includes, but is not limited to, cultural celebrations.”

Willie Mims, Education Chair for the East County NAACP, referenced this section of the LCAP document at the AUSD School Board meeting this last Wednesday, June 10, when he spoke in support of the African American Promotion Ceremony that had been the subject of the recent controversy. In a follow-up statement, Mims said, “Allocation of school site funds, cultural celebrations, promotions, holding and funding events beyond the school day to engage parents are all contained in Goal 2 of Antioch’s LCAP plan.”

African American focused programs in AUSD

Beyond the African American promotion ceremony, within its LCAP, AUSD includes several other actions/services that, according to the document, are specifically targeted toward African American males. For example, Section 3.2 of the document states, “The District will continue to support and strengthen the African American Male Achievement Initiative (AAMAI).”

Actions to be taken in order to accomplish this goal include such things as continuing to support AAMAI, expanding a “preschool program for African American males entering kindergarten,” expanding the African American Male Preparatory Academy (a program for students making the transition from middle school to high school), providing college tours and a college fair related to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, parent training and the creation of parent resource centers.

Section 3.12 lists several strategies to be implemented in order to, “reduce the number of days and occurrences of suspension especially for African American students who are disproportionately suspended and expelled.” The strategies include increasing, “the number of schools participating in Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS),” and strengthening, “restorative justice practices.”

Section 4.5 says the District will “Provide eight week summer program for students entering kindergarten,” specifically noting the African American subgroup as a target demographic. (The District emphasizes, in promotional literature for the program, that it is open to all, but also states that the curriculum is designed with the African American student in mind.)

Other School Districts Have Similar Programs

As noted above, Antioch is far from unique in the steps it is taking to see African American students achieve greater success in school. An examination of school district websites for districts in the Bay Area alone reveals that programs and strategies, similar to what AUSD has instituted, have proliferated.

For example, while Antioch has the AAMAI, in the Pittsburg Unified School District (PUSD) the Parental African American Achievement Collaborative Team (PAAACT) works toward similar goals. According to a brochure produced by the group, “PAAACT is an organization formed to advocate for parents and families of African American students in all grades and in every school of the district.”

Just as in Antioch, an African American Promotion Ceremony was held in Pittsburg, for students moving from 8th to 9th grade. While the Antioch promotion ceremony was held in a local church, and the resources used came primarily from private funds, the event in Pittsburg was clearly and visibly supported by PUSD. Their Superintendent, Dr. Janet Schulze, spoke at the event. PUSD school board member, Da’Shawn Woolridge, attended.

When asked about PUSD support for the Promotion Ceremony, Schulze said, “I was happy to attend, support and participate in the event. I thought it was a beautiful celebration and the PAACT did a great job in organizing it and the students and families were terrific.”

PUSD provided the use of the gymnasium at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School, and the use of the school’s cafeteria to serve refreshments afterward. PUSD used LCAP funds in support of the event. According to Schulze, “We have funds in Goal 3 of our LCAP for supporting parent and family engagement as well as student celebrations.” Other supporters of the event included the East County NAACP and the City of Pittsburg. All students attending the event received certificates of accomplishment. Students obtaining a 3.0 or above were awarded medals, and three students who had obtained a 4.0 or better were awarded laptop computers.

PUSD, in its LCAP (approved by the PUSD Board on January 14, 2015), has language very similar to that found in the AUSD LCAP. PUSD recognizes both an achievement gap and a disproportionate number of disciplinary actions taken with African American students. The African American subgroup is specifically addressed throughout the document. Goals for this subgroup include reducing the percentage of suspensions and increasing the percentage of students meeting the UC/CSU graduation requirements. Actions include such things as providing workshops and training in “cultural competency” to staff, creation of an “equity task force,” restorative justice training, and strengthening community partnerships.

Community Groups Remain Engaged

With the implementation of LCFF and the requirement that local school districts create an LCAP with community involvement, there now exists an unprecedented opportunity for members of a community to band together and, ultimately, direct school resources toward the education of those students they represent. In Antioch, such groups regularly participate in LCAP development meetings, and lobby for funding of programs that they believe will help the students they represent succeed.

Community groups advocating for African American students are not the only ones attending these meetings, but they have been particularly effective in seeing programs, targeted toward their youth, funded and implemented. Certainly, as long as an achievement gap with African American students remains, or disciplinary measures remove African American students from classrooms at a disproportionate rate, the advocacy efforts being undertaken by these groups will continue, as will the targeted intervention programs they promote.

For more information about the AUSD LCAP and the AAMAI, visit the AUSD website, www.antioch.k12.ca.us. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the AUSD School Board is Wednesday, June 24, 2015. Meetings typically begin at 7:00 p.m., and are held at the School Services Building, 510 G Street, in Antioch.

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Antioch Water Park closed Friday, June 19th due to chemical malfunction on Thursday

Friday, June 19th, 2015

On Friday, June 19, 2015 the Antioch Water Park will remain closed to allow for continued testing of all operations and further review by Contra Costa County Environmental Health Department. Facility safety is the primary concern for all parties.

The Antioch Water Park closed at approximately 2:30 on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in response to a chemical malfunction in one of the five pools. All guests were escorted safely from the facility and individuals needing medical attention were treated.

Parks & Recreation Director Nancy Kaiser and her staff did a great job handling this incident,” said City Manager Steve Duran. “They were the first responders. They made decisions quickly.They removed the kids from potential danger and got the help they needed from CC Fire. When I got there, I saw no chaos or confusion. Contra Costa Fire had incident command and they, along with EMTs, CHP and Antioch PD were terrific.”

“When Chief Cantando and I arrived and were briefed by Nancy, CC Fire, etc., it was clear that everyone was communicating, working as one team and had the situation in hand,” he added.

If anyone has any questions about the Antioch Water Park they should call the Parks and Recreation Director at (925) 779-7078.

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Public input needed at Antioch General Plan, Land Use Element and Zoning Update meeting, tonight

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

 By Allen Payton

A joint meeting of the Antioch City Council, Planning Commission and Economic Development Commission will be held, tonight, for public input on the Antioch General Plan, Land Use Element and Zoning Update.

The study session will include the following:

- Review the General Plan Land Use Element & Zoning Update preliminary work products

- Review and discuss the Focus Areas of the General Plan along with associated Zoning Designations and provide input on any changes that should be made

- Provide input on the General Plan and Zoning Update prior to formal consideration by the City Council on July 14, 2015.

The meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m. at the Nick Rodriguez Community Center, located at 213 F Street in Antioch’s historic downtown Rivertown.

To view the agenda, please click here.

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Governor Brown announces agreement with Legislative leaders on California’s 2015-16 state budget

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Increased spending on education, social programs, pays down debt

Calls for two special sessions on transportation and health care financing

SACRAMENTO – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., on Tuesday, announced a budget agreement with Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, consistent with prudent May Revision revenue estimates, that saves billions of dollars and pays down debt, while directing more resources to schools and low-income Californians.

Governor Brown also announced that he is calling two special sessions to fix how California funds roads, highways and other infrastructure and the state’s core health program – Medi-Cal.

This is a sound, well thought-out budget,” said Governor Brown. “Yet, the work never ends and in the coming months we’ll have to manage our resources with the utmost prudence and find more adequate funding for our roads and health care programs.”

Budget Agreement

Highlights of the budget agreement include:

More Money for Schools: The agreement makes significant investments in schools – $14.3 billion for the K-12 system and community colleges, including $6 billion to continue to implement the Local Control Funding Formula which targets increased resources to students who face the greatest challenges.

Counteracting the Effects of Poverty: The agreement implements the first-ever California Earned Income Tax Credit ($380 million) to help the state’s poorest working families.

Paying Down Debt: The agreement pays down billions in debts, including completely paying off school deferrals ($1 billion) and debts owed to local governments since 2004 ($765 million). The agreement also completely retires $15 billion in Economic Recovery Bonds used to cover budget deficits as far back as 2002, as well as $3.8 billion in mandate debt owed to K-14 schools.

Saving for a Rainy Day: The agreement saves $1.9 billion in the state’s Rainy Day Fund as required by Proposition 2, bringing the balance to $3.5 billion.

The budget agreement maintains the fiscal framework of the May Revision, including the General Fund revenue forecast, overall spending levels, a $1.1 billion operating reserve, Proposition 2 debt payments and Rainy Day Fund deposits. By redirecting spending and using identified savings, including a reform of the Middle Class Scholarship program and correcting an error in the estimate for Medi-Cal, the budget agreement can afford additional spending, including:

$40 million to expand Medi-Cal to cover all low-income undocumented children effective May 1, 2016 ($132 million when fully implemented).

$265 million to fund 7,000 additional preschool slots and 6,800 child care slots, plus a rate increase for all providers.

$97 million over the January budget for the California State University to expand enrollment and focus on increased success.

$226 million on a one-time basis to restore the 7 percent reduction in service hours for In-Home Supportive Services.

$500 million (Proposition 98) for a one-time teacher effectiveness block grant.

Special Sessions

Fixing California Roads, Highways and Other Infrastructure

Caltrans, the state’s Transportation Department, maintains 50,000 lane-miles of highway and nearly 13,000 state-owned bridges. While the repair, maintenance and efficient operation of the state’s highway system are vital to the state’s continued economic growth, current funding fails to adequately fund this necessary work. The state’s current fuel excise tax is sufficient to fund only $2.3 billion of work—leaving $5.7 billion in unfunded repairs each year.

The Governor proposes that the Legislature enact permanent and sustainable funding to maintain and repair the state’s transportation and critical infrastructure, improve the state’s key trade corridors and complement local infrastructure efforts.

Shoring Up Health Care Financing

The Governor also called a special session to address the financing of the state’s core health program – Medi-Cal. The state’s recent expansion of health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act has resulted in more than four million additional Californians receiving coverage through Medi-Cal.

Since 2005, the state has levied a tax on Medi-Cal managed care plans. The revenues are matched by the federal government and used to both increase payments to Medi-Cal providers and offset health care costs that would otherwise be paid from the General Fund. This funding mechanism has helped the state pay for the increased number of Californians receiving coverage under federal health care reform.

The state’s current managed care organization (MCO) tax structure fails to comply with new federal requirements that such a tax be broad-based and not limited narrowly to Medi-Cal plans. The current structure, which expires at the end of fiscal year 2015-16, generates $1.1 billion. The Governor’s January budget proposed a modified MCO tax that would be levied on a per-enrollee basis and cover most health care plans regulated by the Department of Managed Health Care.

In the special session, the Governor proposes that the Legislature enact permanent and sustainable funding to provide at least $1.1 billion annually to stabilize the state’s General Fund costs for Medi-Cal, sufficient funding to continue the restoration of the 7 percent of In-Home Supportive Services hours and funding for additional rate increases for providers of Medi-Cal and developmental disability services. The funding could come from the proposed MCO tax and/or alternative sources and is necessary to prevent over $1 billion in program cuts next year.

Full text of the special session proclamations on infrastructure and health care financing are available here and here.

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Assemblyman Jim Frazier issues statement following legislature’s approval of 2015-16 budget

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

On Monday, June 15, 2015, Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) made the following statement regarding the Legislature’s approval of the 2015-16 Budget:

After months of hard work and collaboration between the Legislature and the Governor, I am pleased to see the 2015-16 Budget reflect California’s commitment to fiscal prudence and responsibility.

As Chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee, I will continue to work diligently towards an innovative and comprehensive plan to address our state’s most critical transportation needs. Looking into the 2015-16 year, my top legislative priority will focus on building a rational, long-term transportation funding solution that will invest in California and put our state back in business.”

To contact Assemblymember Jim Frazier please visit his website or call his District Offices at 707-399-3011 or 925-513-0411.

Follow Assemblyman Jim Frazier on Facebook and “Like” him for updates on events and happenings in the 11th AD.

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Jeremy “Lumpy” Sturgill, young owner of Lumpy’s Diner in Antioch, Brentwood and Pittsburg, dies Tuesday

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015
Lumpys Jeremy “Lumpy” Sturgill, young owner of Lumpys Diner in Antioch, Brentwood and Pittsburg, dies Tuesday

A photo of Jeremy “Lumpy” Sturgill, center in red hat, with family and friends posted on the Facebook page for Lumpy’s Diner.

Lumpys Diner Antioch on Tuesday afternoon. 225x300 Jeremy “Lumpy” Sturgill, young owner of Lumpys Diner in Antioch, Brentwood and Pittsburg, dies Tuesday

Flowers were placed in front of the door which bore a sign saying “closed until further notice” at Lumpy’s Antioch location, Tuesday afternoon.

By Allen Payton

Friends and customers of Jeremy “Lumpy” Sturgill, owner of Lumpy’s Diner in Antioch and Pittsburg, and Lumpy’s Express in Brentwood, mourned his passing, via social media, on Tuesday morning just after 8:00 a.m.

Flowers were placed at the door of the Antioch location, and a sign on the window there stated “Lumpy’s Diner will be closed until further notice.” However, both the Brentwood and Pittsburg locations were open on Tuesday.

The business’ website provides information about Sturgill and his business:

“Lumpy’s Diner was built in 2008 by Jeremy (Lumpy) Sturgill. He grew up in the restaurant industry. His parents created Digger’s Diner in Concord, CA. Lumpy started running that diner at the age of 14. After dedicating his life to the business, it was time for him to strike out on his own path. With the first Lumpy’s Diner being built in 2008, two more locations followed shortly after.

The Pittsburg Lumpy’s became the second location and after noticing a huge demand for the quality of food and service Lumpy expects, the idea to streamline the process and create a faster, over the counter version of Lumpy’s Diner was born. That extension of this brand is Lumpy’s Diner Express. The first LDX, as we like to refer to it, was opened in 2012 in Brentwood, Ca.

So much has changed for Lumpy since beginning his exciting adventure… he met a woman who truly is his companion, she helps him in every way. That woman is Marci and the two got married in 2011. As life tends to be, the two quickly had their first child and welcomed Jaxx into the family, November of 2012. This family has worked together, hand and hand, to make Lumpy’s Diner and Lumpy’s Diner Express the best locally owned restaurant in the East Bay.

Recently the Lumpy’s Diner crew’s operations have expanded to include a catering business known as Elle Dee’s. The team caters everything from car show to weddings (check out our catering page). As we continue to grow one thing remains true… without all the strong support we get from our customers, we wouldn’t be where we are today. With 5 successful years behind us we thrive to continue as a community based establishment and offer a fun and exciting environment for you and your family to enjoy. Make sure to visit us at one of our annual events (fundraisers, car shows, burger contest and toy drive) or during the week for a laid back dining experience. Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you!

World Famous Since 2008!

Lumpy’s was known for their burgers, as well as their car, truck and bike shows and burger eating contests. Sturgill was known for his generosity, having his business sponsor Christmas toy drives with former 49er Jeremy Newberry.

On his Facebook page, Newberry wrote “R.I.P. Lump. You will be missed by many.”

Others posted photos they had taken with Sturgill, including one with East Bay Regional Parks Director Diane Burgis and her family.

Maria Lazzerini, the night manager at the Deer Valley Safeway in Antioch, wrote “R.I.P Lumpy! You will be missed! The community has lost of of the most caring and giving guys!! Way too young! Prayers to his family.”

Referring to a fundraiser held at Lumpy’s, for her daughter who had a brain tumor, Lazzerini added, “So young and so caring. He…was always so giving with the communities fundraiser, including Alison’s.”

RIP Lumpy Sturgill,” wrote Doug Knowles who posted additional photos and a TV commercial for Lumpy’s on his Facebook Page. “You and Your Family are in our Thoughts and Prayers.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up by LaTasha Renée, entitled The Sturgill Family Fund.  By 5:00 p.m., on Tuesday, the goal of $10,000 had been surpassed by $1,570. Following is the message on that page:

Last night our Fit Family member and friend, Marci Sturgill and their 2 boys, suffered a devastating loss and the earth lost an angel. Lumpy, beloved husband, son, father and owner of Lumpy’s Diner passed away.

Lumpy was known and valued for all he gave to others and for the friend and business owner he was in our community. He loved his family and his infectious smile, his passion for his customers and for his business will be missed

Please consider making a donation to help The Sturgill Family. They need the community that Lumpy so willing loved on to give back in an effort to help ease the financial pain that this devastating loss can cause a family that is self employed. All funds donated will go directly to the Sturgill Family.
Thank you in advance for your donation and it comes with much love and many prayers to you and your boys Marci! Xo”

Please check back for details on his official obituary and possible memorial service.

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New details emerge in party bus, robbery incident at Antioch Safeway, Friday night; stolen items taken to two other vehicles

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

By Allen Payton

New details have emerged in the case of the melee that occurred at the Deer Valley Safeway in Antioch, Friday night, June 12, caused by some of the riders on a party bus from San Francisco. Antioch Police Corporal James McMurry, who was not on duty Friday night, provided information from the “shift highlight” from that night.

Antioch residents discussing the incident on Facebook wanted to know the name of the bus company, where the riders on the bus were from and why they came to Antioch. While that information has not yet been released, one new part of the story was revealed by McMurry.

It appears that some people on the bus were in Antioch to meet up with others in the parking lot.

Some of the merchandise stolen from Safeway were taken to other vehicles and those vehicles fled,” he stated. “There were at least two other cars in the parking lot that had fled prior to the officers’ arrival.”

In addition, he provided the following information from the highlight:

- No name of the bus company was listed.

- Officers didn’t document the actual name in their report.

- Driver out of the City [San Francisco].

- The majority of people were from S.F. Some were from Vallejo.

- There were 40-50 people on the bus.

- Twelve people were arrested, ages 16-21. Officers didn’t include the names of the adults arrested in their report. Just wrote “too many to list.”

- Five guns were seized that were on the bus.

We have the guns in evidence,” McMurry said.

- A total of 10 police officers and one CSO responded.

They were cited and released at the scene with a court date to appear on various dates, based on whether they were adults or juveniles,” he shared. “The court dates are all for Superior Court in Pittsburg, except for juveniles who would most likely have to appear in juvenile court in Martinez.”

- One of the people had an outstanding arrest warrant.

When asked why that person was released, McMurry said, “they would have been released based on instructions in the warrant.”

The Antioch Police Department has a copy of all the citations with all the names of those arrested.

“Those would have been turned in with the police reports,” he added.

A request will be made to the police department on Monday, for the names of the adults arrested and the name of the bus company.

Click here to view the video of the incident that was posted by Casey Downey on his Facebook page. While he was not at Safeway at the time, the video was provided to him by someone who was, but wishes to remain anonymous.

The Night Manager at Safeway, Maria Lazzerini, was not able to speak to the media for this article and instead directed the Herald to speak with Safeway’s Public Affairs department. However, she did provide the following email she sent Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando on Sunday morning, June 14:

Chief Cantando,

My name is Maria Lazzerini and I am the night manager at the Deer Valley Safeway. I just wanted to take a few minutes to share some feedback from the incident that occurred on Friday June 12th with the party bus that caused a big ordeal.

First off, I commend your 911 dispatcher for her professionalism during the call. I know that it was a stressful situation on our part and she handled it awesome. Second, I want to share that in our time of need, your departments response time was phenomenal. In a time that I know your department is short staffed, your response was fast.

Lastly, I want to personally thank every single officer that came out to the scene. I don’t remember every single one but the following stuck out, Officer D. Hopwood, Officer J. Jeoung, Officer Chang, Officer Meads, your K-9 Officer and all of the other people there. I know that I was definitely stressed and shaken up over the whole situation but the officers were extremely professional and handled the situation the best that they could. Dealing with such a loud and obnoxious crowd of 50 kids was not easy, but they made it seem carefree. They took the time to fully investigate the situation and look at all the video surveillance to help determine all the culprits in this situation. Very time consuming but they never hesitated one bit.

I have worked at this Safeway store for almost 10 years and have had to call your department quite a bit. I have always found your officers to be extremely awesome, very approachable and never hesitant to give that helping hand. In closing, you should be a very proud Chief to have a great group of officers. You may not have the full force you need, but the force you have is a strong and great group of men and women.From myself and my crew at Antioch Safeway, I want to thank you again for everything you guys did the other night.

Sincerely, Maria Lazzerini Night Manager-Safeway #1259

Check back later as more details are made known.

Antioch Herald Writer Luke Johnson contributed to this report.

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Harper recall organizers ran ad in newspaper, website with fake committee name, paper takes responsibility

Friday, June 12th, 2015
Recall newspaper ad final Harper recall organizers ran ad in newspaper, website with fake committee name, paper takes responsibility

Recall ad in East County Times with fake committee name.

Collected money without keeping proper records; never formed committee, opened bank account or filed state paperwork

By Allen Payton

In a recent Herald article about the failure of the second recall attempt against him, Harper stated “Now that the recall attempt has ended, I am asking Mr. Buongiorno to please cancel the ‘Committee to elect Wade Harper,’ it is misleading, dishonest and it is not a committee to elect me.” That has opened up other issues regarding how the recall was handled.

Harper was referring to what appeared in an ad the recall organizers ran in the East County Times print edition and online in April.

The misleading committee was listed within an ad posted on Contra Costa Times,” Harper stated via email.

According to Buongiorno, he was told by one of the remaining recall organizers in April, the day the ad ran, that there was a type-o in the ad. He informed the organizers that it was a violation of state elections law to use a committee name that wasn’t theirs or hadn’t been filed.

By that time, Buongiorno had resigned from the effort, as he was undergoing a kidney transplant.

Recall ad Times website Harper recall organizers ran ad in newspaper, website with fake committee name, paper takes responsibility

Recall ad that appeared on the Contra Costa Times website.

Recall ad Times website closeup Harper recall organizers ran ad in newspaper, website with fake committee name, paper takes responsibility

Closeup of recall ad that ran on the Contra Costa Times website showing the fake committee name.

Times takes responsibility for “typo”

In an email to Harper, Times’ reporter Rowena Coatsee explained what happened:

I had looked into the bizarre wording of the ad when it first appeared and at that point contacted the account manager. I’m forwarding you her response, although I’m not sure whether it was she or someone else who actually made the typo.

She explained to me that political ads are required to identify who paid for them and as such they usually contain the wording ‘Paid for by the committee to ELECT (fill in the blank).’ But in this case, unfortunately, whoever keyed in the information didn’t carefully read the heading of the ad ‘Recall Antioch Mayor Wade Harper’ and so he/she wrote the standard verbiage.

She went on to say that yes, we can run a corrected version of the ad, but also pointed out that it might create confusion now that the recall is over — i.e., people might think there’s going to be yet another attempt (there won’t), etc.

But it’s up to you — please let me know what you’d like to do ….”

Harper responded:

You have stated that this was a “typo.” I reject the idea that this was a “typo” as my name is spelled correctly. In my opinion this was an error in judgment that does harm and discourages any fundraising by the subject of the recall (me). This is my request, 1) refund the cost of the ad to the customer(s), 2) print a retraction stating that this ad was not paid for by Committee To Elect Wade Harper and that this was printed in error. This was a BIG mistake by Bay Area News Group and should never have happened. Thanks.”

It was someone’s poor judgment,” he added.

When asked who approved the ad, and if all ads require approval before the Times runs them, Coatsee responded:

I’m afraid I have no idea…Rich indicated (and the updated story will reflect this) that a couple of members of a splinter group went ‘rogue’ and took it upon themselves to place the ad. He says he knew nothing about the wrong wording until someone alerted him — categorically denies authorizing it.

When he saw the wording at the bottom of the ad, he told me he thought it was a typo.

But yes, you’re right — any ad that we run is approved by the person/group that pays for it (obviously) and then goes through a vetting process on our end.

As for our internal processes, I have nothing to do with ads, as you know. Editorial and advertising here are two different departments that almost never intersect (for good reason). So who creates the ads we run, who signs off on them — I wouldn’t know.”

Multi Media Account Manager Karen Cortez, who handled the ad for the Times, was asked who approved it and she responded via email:

The error in the ad was not the clients fault it was ours. I can simply give the name of the committee. There (sic) contact information was in the ad.”

The ad was run both in the print edition of the newspaper and on their website, she added. “We are publishing a correction statement in the East County Times on Sat. [June 13, 2015].”

Organizers never created formal committee

The Times may have used an incorrect committee name in the ad, the organizers never formed a committee, although they were required to do so, in their effort to recall Harper, according to the Secretary of State’s Political Reform Division, if they raised or spent at least $1,000.

When Buongiorno was asked when the recall committee formed, he responded, “It is required only if you have expenses that exceed $1,000.”

Buongiorno explained what happened after he resigned from the effort, in March, due to undergoing a kidney transplant. He said he passed on the responsibility to a committee of five people who were all agreed to keep the recall going, including Antioch residents Jani Fletcher, Lisa Lacy, Paula Knight, Anabelle Gudilano Donato and Laura Allen Stewart.

They were given the information, they were given the forms and they were supposed to have done that, but they didn’t,” Buongiorno stated. “I told them I already had a name, of ‘Reclaiming Antioch’ that I was going to put on the form.”

When Paula Knight was asked about forming a committee, she responded, “No we were never informed of that by Rich. We were asked to form a committee, because he was going in for transplant surgery. But, we were never told it had to be done by law. Lie. Never happened.”

I’ve talked to Jani and Lisa and they don’t know anything about that,” she shared. “All we were told on the recall Harper page. ‘I just got a call by UCSF and I gotta go. You guys have to form a committee.’”

We only had about five or six people step up, out of 300, to lead the effort,” Knight continued. “We all donated the money for the ad to be placed in the Contra Costa Times. We were never informed we had to file any forms.”

Knight and Buongiorno were the original organizers of the recall.

Rich handled the first one,” she stated. “We started the second one and Rich, again, got all the information he needed. Never was there a request that we file any forms. Because if he did tell us, it would have been done.”

They paid $500 for the ad in the Times.

When asked if a bank account had been opened, Knight responded, “I think there might have been an account. Anabelle, she set up the ad to go in. She or someone in her family did the graphics.”

When we started the second recall, some of us donated money for the other expenses,” she explained. “I gave cash to Rich. I remember Rich saying form a committee and open up a bank account, but I don’t know if that was done.”

We put our heart and soul into this, the five or six people who stepped forward. We went door-to-door, set up tables at stores.”

She was sympathetic and understood that Buongiorno needed to back off because of his transplant.

But, he was home within three days and he was in contact with us, constantly,” Knight added. “Now he’s throwing us under the bus.”

No one is sure if $1,000 threshold was reached, no bank account was opened

We never had a bank account, because I was the only one spending money, me personally, on my credit card,” Buongiorno said. “That’s it.”

A total of $250 came in through a PayPal account in Buongiorno’s name. That is until the ad was paid for.

I made sure I had receipts for everything,” he said. “I would say at the most people gave was an additional $50.”

Other than Buongiorno, no one else contributed more than $100, he said.

Maybe Paula didn’t know,” he offered. “But, the other two did. Lisa and Jani were the ones heading things up. I told one or the other, I don’t remember, because they’re sisters and always together, that they had to form a committee once they reached $1,000.”

I was told by Arne we had to use Form 460 to report the finances,” Buongiorno stated. “That asks who everyone is and it also says ‘once you reach $1,000.’ Then once you do you have to report it. You can do it earlier, but you have to do it once you’ve hit $1,000.”

Lisa Lacy, Annabelle Donato and Laura Stewart did not respond to multiple attempts to contact them for this report.

However, when a phone number for Lisa Lacy was called, a man who would only identify himself as “one of the proponents,” but later identified as Roger Hudson, answered questions.

The stuff he [Buongiorno] got he didn’t write down and all we did was collect signatures and get money for the ad,” Hudson said. “We got the truth on our side.”

When asked how much money was raised, he responded, “We got $500. Half of that came from us” referring to the group of individuals helping to pay for the ad. “Nobody contributed $100 or more to us.”

When asked about what Buongiorno said that they had to form a committee and open a bank account, Hudson responded, “He’s lying…to you. He had the committee.”

When Jani Fletcher was reached for comment, she shared about her part in the recall effort.

I took up the $500,” she stated. “It was all cash. People would give $5, $10. I don’t think a committee was ever formed.”

It was Amy Landry, Susan Williams and Marie Crandell, that’s who we thought was the committee,” Fletcher stated. “But they dropped out of sight. I didn’t know about forming committees. I was just trying to get signatures. He [Buongiorno] never mentioned nothing about a committee.”

Rich jumped all over me because I was taking down people’s names and amounts they gave, because I wanted to be honest about it,” she stated. “He said he had no idea how much people had given. I said, ‘Are you kidding? Because this is serious.’”

When told that Buongiorno said no one had contributed more than $100 Fletcher responded, “That’s crap, because I gave him money after money. He collected money at a bar, one time, and at a park.”

I know some people with a fancy car contributed. That had to be more than $100,” she added.

In response to Fletcher’s accusation, Landry provided the following statement via email:

Based on my experience during the first recall attempt, Rich was very detailed with information about how and why a committee needed to be formed. Rich provided the information time and time again regarding fundraising and the formation of a committee during both attempts to recall.

I was a tentative member of the committee during the first recall attempt. Before we could even raise any money and finalize the formation of the committee, the first recall attempt ended abruptly (“missed” deadline). It was at that point that personal matters pulled my attention away from the recall. When the second attempt began, I signed the Intent document with the other proponents and donated money (to someone other than Rich) through my PayPal account.

The reason why this matters to me is because the comments made about the original committee are inaccurate and imply that there was some type of dishonesty or wrong doing. I assure you that the lot of us (including Rich) wanted every little aspect to go perfectly because we all knew that one little error could mean the end of all our hard work.”

State requirements for political committees

By law any political effort becomes a committee and organizers must file the required reporting forms, once the $1,000 threshold is reached, according to California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) spokesman Jay Weirenga, stated.

Candidates and other campaign committees are required to file papers with the California Secretary of State’s office and then obtain an FPPC identification number.

Regarding the committee name listed in the newspaper ad David Hoang, Program Technician II of the Secretary of State’s Political Reform Division said “We have no record of a committee with that name.”

The ad should have also included the Fair Political Practices Commission number,” he added. “You can talk to them about what legal action they can take.”

He said the information on all political committees in California could be found on the Cal-Access website, which lists only two committees with the name Wade Harper included. Those are for both Harper’s 2012 and 2016 campaign committees for Mayor. That information can be viewed, here.

Organizers may face up to a $5,000 fine

When we would receive a complaint or notice something in a media report, that would raise our attention, we would investigate,” the FPPC’s Weirenga stated. We don’t do any criminal action, here,” If the DA wants to pursue this, they can use our law.”

Violations of the political reform act can be fined up to $5,000, based on how complex the case is and how cooperative those involved are, and how egregious and how much harm it can cause the public,” he added. “Those are the kinds of things that are taken into consideration. There are penalties and there are rules to be followed in proper reporting of committee activities.”

UPDATE 6/13/15 9:45 PM: Harper considered filing complaint, but won’t

Harper had said he was considering filing a complaint against both the Times and the organizers of the recall for the misleading committee name.

I will definitely be looking into possibly filing a complaint,” Harper stated, earlier this week.

However, in an email to the Herald on Saturday, June 13, 2015, Harper wrote “After prayerful consideration I have decided not to file a complaint against the recall proponents (specifically Mr. Buongiorno). I know he has had health challenges. I wish him good health as he recovers.”

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