Charter schools, teachers union, Motts are largest spenders in Antioch School Board race

Total union spending unknown; controversy over two $125 contributions by Rocketship board member; Motts continues lead in finances, 460 form turned in on-time; county website backlog

By Allen Payton

In the Antioch School Board race, in which only four candidates have raised and spent more than $2,000 on their campaigns, it’s been the California Charter Schools Association Advocates (CCSAA) and the local teachers’ union that have spent the most money.

Each side is supporting a slate of three candidates. The Charter Schools are supporting appointed Trustees Fernando Navarro and Alonzo Terry, and challenger Crystal Sawyer-White. The Antioch Education Association (AEA), the local teachers’ union is supporting Board President Diane Gibson-Gray and former school board members Joy Motts and Gary Hack.

Required campaign finance reports show the CCSAA has paid for mailers supporting their slate of candidates, spending $750 paid to a Chris Rylee on October 17th, $5,565.48 for printing also on the 17th, and $5,565.48 also for printing on October 21st. That brings their total reported expenditures to $11,880.96 for the race.

The total amount spent by the AEA’s Political Action Committee (ID# 1248555), has spent to support their slate of candidates is unknown at this time. The organization is identified as the one that paid for a mailer supporting Hack, Motts and Gibson-Gray, which arrived in mailboxes, this week. However, the California Secretary of State’s website shows no financial information for the AEA PAC for this year.

“This committee has not electronically filed a Form 460/461/450 for this election cycle,” is what is stated on the website.

All committees and campaigns are required to report contributions received or expenditures made of $1,000 or more within 24 hours of occurrence.

Candidate Finance Reports

Of the seven candidates in the race, only five have raised enough money to require they file a form 460 campaign finance report. Hack and Sawyer-White have not yet reached that threshold.


The AEA did contribute $2,003 directly to Joy Motts’ campaign according to a form 497 large contribution report she submitted. She also received a contribution of $1,000 from the Sheet Metals’ International Association Local No. 104.

11/04/16 8:30 PM UPDATE: There is no report on the County Elections office website for either the latest reporting period or the second half of last year. Attempts to reach both Motts and her campaign treasurer, former Antioch Mayor Don Freitas, on Thursday, asking if the report had been filed, if not why not and requesting a copy, if it had been, were unsuccessful.

However, just before 6:30 p.m. on Friday, October 4th, Motts’ campaign manager, Cliff Glickman called and said that her 460 form was filed on time and then provided a copy of it for the Herald to post. He said they don’t know why it hasn’t been posted on the county’s website.

Motts’ latest report shows she received $4,004 during the period, bringing her total to $10,597 for the year. Since she started the year with $1,522.30 in the bank that gave her a total of $12,119.30 to spend on her campaign.

Her largest contributions during the period were $1,500 from the AEA, which was included in the $2,003 amount reported on her 497 form; and $500 each from the Plumbing Industry Consumer Protection Fund United Assocation Local No. 159 and the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council.

Motts spent $4,216.90 during the period bringing her total expenditures to $11,131.47 for the campaign. Her largest expense was $2,500 for Cliff Glickman Communications in Walnut Creek and $844.75 for literature to Baseline Resources also in Walnut Creek. She had an ending cash balance of $987.83 at the end of the reporting period.

When reached for comment about Motts’ 460 form and why it isn’t on the county’s website, County Clerk Joe Canciamilla explained.

“I was actually in the lobby when she (Motts) and Diane Gibson-Gray came in to file and they were filing by paper, because their treasurers were having trouble filing online,” he stated. “We’re just behind in scanning in the reports, because everyone is on election duty, right now.”

“We’ve been transitioning over to all electronic, so when people submit by paper, we have to go through a whole process to get them uploaded to the website,” Canciamilla added. “We’re hoping to have them all up on the website, this weekend.”

Motts’ latest report was still not on the County Elections office website as of 7:00 p.m. Friday.


The AEA also contributed $500 directly to Gibson-Gray’s campaign, which matched her largest contributions from Antioch resident Gloria Martin and former Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan of Alamo.

She is in second for total funds raised as of the end of the latest reporting period on Saturday, October 22 with $6,844 raised including a $4,000 loan from herself. She has spent $2,430.82 on her campaign. For the reporting period she shows $1,609.76 paid to her husband, Ken Gray, for campaign paraphernalia, literature and a fundraiser.

Her report also shows $821.07 in unpaid bills, all to her husband for campaign literature and printing, and an ending cash balance of $5,234.24.

11/03/16 8:15 P.M. UPDATE: However, what Gibson-Gray did with her campaign’s payments to her husband might be illegal and at least one of the payments is in violation of campaign finance law.

In response to questions about Gibson-Gray reimbursing or paying her husband for campaign expenses, Jay Weirenga, the Communications Director for the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), wrote, “A committee is allowed to reimburse others for certain campaign expenditures. When reporting the reimbursements, the payee is listed (the spouse would be deemed the payee here) and the subvendor would also be reported if the payment was $500 or more.  There is more information on this on page 5.2 of Manual 2 and reporting rules in Chapter 8. (under the ‘learn’ tab on our website, then campaign manuals)

The above is related to reimbursing others for campaign expenses they made directly. However, Government Code Section 84307.5 prohibits paying a spouse for these services.”

Gibson-Gray was emailed questions about the payments to her husband for all her reportable expenses and who the funds actually went to at 3:09 P.M. on Thursday. But as of this update, she has not responded.

11/05/16 7:35 AM UPDATE: In a comment on another Herald article, last night at 9:52 PM, Martin wrote the following: “The financial information listed on Gibson-Gray’s reports are correct to the best of my knowledge. Expenditures to Ken Gray were for reimbursement for actual expenses and not payment for any services.

The two expense in excess of $500.00. One in the amount of $1,105.05 is itemized as follows: $485.05 to Bellici Designs for yard signs, $600.00 for an internet ad to ETC and $20.00 for zip ties. The second one in the amount of $650.00 was for print ads in the Bay Area News Group. I neglected to include Bellici Designs and Bay Area News Group as a sub-vendor. An amended report has been submitted.”

The financial information from her previous report were not included in the article about campaign finances of the Antioch School Board candidates for the reporting period which ended on September 24th, because it was submitted after the September 29th due date.


Mike Burkholder is in third place in fundraising for the campaign. His required form 460 financial disclosure report shows $3,785 in total contributions received by his campaign. Of that amount Burkholder loaned himself $2,035. His largest contribution was $700 from Strategic Threat Management. His campaign has spent a total of $3,687.57. His largest expenditure was $1,612.11 to Belleci Designs in Pittsburg for signs and $1,492 on three slate mailers with companies in Folsom and southern California.


Navarro’s campaign report shows he’s in a close fourth place, having raised a total of $3,450 so far, of which $3,000 was from his own pocket. He has spent $3,420.76 on his campaign. His largest expenditures for this reporting period were $700 for advertising in the Herald, $517.76 for Fast Signs in Antioch and $400 to The Print Club, also in Antioch.


Terry’s latest report shows a zero balance in every column for contributions and expenditures. However, his previous 460 report showed he had received a total of $3,286 in contributions and and spent $3,046.07 on his campaign.

Contribution Controversy

On their previous finance reports for September 24th, both Navarro and Terry reported receiving a contribution of $125 each from Greg and Lisa Stanger, whose address on the checks is in Atherton, in San Mateo County. A controversy erupted on social media and in an article in another publication over the contributions, because it was discovered that Greg Stanger is a member of the Board of Directors for Rocketship Education, which has submitted a petition to locate a public charter school in Antioch.

A public hearing on the petition has been set for next Wednesday, November 9th and a final vote for Wednesday, December 7th. That means both Navarro and Terry will still be on the Board and be able to vote on the matter, regardless of the outcome of the elections, next Tuesday.

Terry Didn’t Know, Returned Money

“I didn’t know it was from Rocketship until Robert Strickland the teachers’ union president told me,” Terry said. “So, what I did was write a cashier’s check to the contributor and handed it to Robert and asked him to mail it back to him.”

That was done last Friday, October 28th.

“I was so upset,” Terry continued. “I was never accused of anything like this before, questioning my integrity. It was a personal check. It wasn’t a corporate check or anything.”

“I did it for the principle of it, not because it was illegal,” Terry added about refunding the contribution.

“I was just glad to get anything. I wasn’t getting too much financial support,” he said with a chuckle. “If it was $1,000 or $10,000 I would have questioned who is sending me this much. But it was $125.”

On Terry’s 460 form he reported Stanger as Self Employed. Asked how he knew Stanger was self-employed, Terry said he can’t remember how he obtained that information for the report he submitted in September.

Navarro Didn’t Know Either, Won’t Refund Money

Fernando Navarro said he didn’t know who the contributor was, either.

“This check came from an area where I do business,” he explained. “So, I really thought it was an individual contribution from my customers or friends of customers, who I’ve been telling I’m running for school board. They gave me a lot of encouragement, saying ‘go for it. I can’t vote for you but I support you.’ They’ve known me for years.”

Navarro said he first heard of it, two weeks ago, “but I thought they were talking about the independent mailings and I said I hadn’t received a dime from them.”

On his 460 report, Navarro disclosed he requested Stanger provide the information state law requires of contributors for political campaigns of $100 or more. That includes the contributor’s name and street address, as well as their “occupation and the name of his or her employer. If the contributor is self-employed, provide the name of his or her business. If the contributor is not employed, enter ‘none,’” according to the Form 460 financial disclosure report.

However, since Stanger is only a board member for Rocketship, if he had provided the required information, it wouldn’t show any affiliation with the private, non-profit charter school network. Furthermore, there’s no list of members on the page showing photos of the Board of Directors for Rocketship. It requires touching the cursor on each photo to reveal the name of the director.. Running an internet search on the Stangers produces the name of their charitable foundation. It’s only when a search for his name on LinkedIn does it show Greg Stanger’s position with Rocketship.

Asked if, now that he knows who Stanger is, he too would be refunding the contribution, Navarro responded with the following statement:

“Although I was not aware of any affiliations that my donors had, I do not think that this is an issue.

My campaign is about a very different vision for Antioch schools that focuses on the needs of families and students. I am standing up to the well-funded and entrenched establishment that is failing our students and is extremely resistant to change. My message is that parents know what is best for their children, and that all children deserve high quality educational options.  I’m proud of that idea, and I’m glad to hear that people who think the same way, without having even met me, are joining this cause and supporting this effort.

I consider joining the democratic process a very noble cause and encourage more people to get involved – by voting, putting up yard signs, and talking to their neighbors. Of course, running for office takes money, and it is great that people are willing to contribute financially. It is no secret that I’m running against a slate of candidates that is heavily supported by union employees, who have an interest in electing candidates that will view them favorably as we enter a multi-million-dollar contract negotiation with them.  That doesn’t work to my benefit, but I certainly don’t begrudge individuals on the other side their right as Americans to participate in the political process in this way.  That would be hypocritical.

Ultimately, the voters benefit by being able to hear all sides of the arguments.  Hopefully, the ideas I’m expressing will resonate with those going to the polls, and we’ll be able to bring the change necessary to provide much better educational opportunities for our children.”

Sawyer-White Falsely Accused

According to Sawyer-White, she was falsely accused on another website, of receiving a check from Stanger, as well.

When asked if she had received any contributions from the San Jose area or peninsula or anyone affiliated with Rocketship, Sawyer-White said, “No. I’ve been using my own personal money, and some small contributions from friends and family. It was less than $1,000.”

Please see below the reports received for the latest reporting period. The election is Tuesday, November 8th.









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6 Comments to “Charter schools, teachers union, Motts are largest spenders in Antioch School Board race”

  1. Julio says:

    Looks like candidates and contributor’s alike have some serious problems in this election.

  2. Larry says:

    Why is it more legitimate to take money from the teachers union than from the charter school?

  3. Robert says:

    The only comment I choose to make on this article is that it shows ignorance: the lack of knowledge or education.
    And Bias: prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.

    • Publisher says:

      First, thank you for reading the Herald and commenting. I’ll repeat what I wrote to others who choose to anonymously criticize. Don’t be afraid to give us your real name.
      Second, how does the article show ignorance and how is it biased? How is it unfair?
      It includes the facts from the financial reports provided by each of the candidates and organizations, or not provided, whichever the case may be.
      It also allowed those candidates who were subjects of a controversy over each receiving a campaign contribution, the opportunity to respond and give their side of the story.
      If you know something different about the information provided, here, please share.
      What would be really great and the proper thing to do is for both Joy Motts and the AEA to submit their required financial reports so that they are in compliance with the law and we can include their complete financial information to the public.
      Allen Payton, Publisher

  4. Julio says:

    I think there is a lot of confusion with Rocketship money.

    There has been no money given by the School. It is a non-profit and cannot legally give contributions without losing its tax free designation. (501 3c or whatever theirs is.)

    A board member of the governing body gave a few bucks and the fliers were paid for by the California Charter Schools Association.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong Allen.

    • Publisher says:


      You’re correct. The contributions to Navarro and Terry were for $125 each from one member of Rocketship’s Board of Directors.

      The mailers were independent expenditures by the California Charter Schools Association Advocates which is based in Sacramento.

      On another note, the mailers were also done without my knowledge and that they were going to use portions of our endorsement editorial in one of them. They didn’t use our masthead or logo, but likenesses of them. I didn’t know about the mailers until the first one arrived in my mailbox.

      The bottom line is money was spent by the advocates for the charter schools association in the state which supports the legally allowable public charter schools, owned and operated by private, non-profit organizations, of which Rocketship Education is one of them, to support three candidates for the Antioch School Board. At the same time money is being spent by the Antioch teachers union to support three other candidates. How much? We don’t know, yet, but I’m trying to find out and will let you know once I do.

      Allen Payton, Publisher

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