Quick Take:

The resolution censuring PVUSD trustee Georgia Acosta raises a litany of issues, some predating the brief ouster of Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez. And an email revealed Wednesday raises new questions about whether Acosta coordinated aspects of the firing with two people outside the district.

The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees censured former board president Georgia Acosta late Wednesday, citing a litany of issues related to the brief firing of the district’s superintendent — including a newly revealed email about what might have happened behind the scenes.

Sent from Acosta to a former district employee and a well-known Watsonville political figure, the email appears to show Acosta seeking to coordinate about a draft agenda for the January meeting during which Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez was fired — a document that had not yet been publicly released

The censure, constituting an official reprimand, was part of a 3-page resolution introduced by trustee Kim De Serpa. Besides the email, it cited a series of issues and potential policy violations involving Acosta, including $16,000 in legal fees she racked up in January without approval from the board and missing 26 meetings since her election in 2016.

“What I’ve personally witnessed in the past four years culminating with the firing of our our dear superintendent shows an unfortunate pattern of behavior, which erodes the public’s trust,” De Serpa told her fellow PVUSD trustees. “And in order for this board to move forward with integrity, I believe this is necessary — and I’m kind of heartbroken that I even have to do it.”

Acosta’s censure was approved 4-2-1. It was supported by trustees De Serpa, Jennifer Holm, Jennifer Schacher and Maria Orozco and opposed by Acosta and trustee Oscar Soto. Trustee Daniel Dodge Jr. abstained from the vote.

Attending the livestreamed meeting with her video off, Acosta did not offer any defense or explanation for her conduct. She has not responded to numerous requests for comment from Lookout.

Watch a replay of the meeting below:

YouTube video

Rodriguez was fired on Jan. 27 in a surprise 4-3 vote during a closed session. The move was reversed days later after widespread public outcry.

Acosta was ousted from her position as board president on Jan. 31 during the same meeting at which Rodriguez was reinstated.

Some of the sharpest criticism leveled by De Serpa on Wednesday centered on another issue: Acosta’s attendance record as a trustee. Acosta, according to the resolution, has missed 26 board meetings since taking office Dec. 2016.

De Serpa, who was elected in 2010, said she has missed only two during her tenure of more than a decade.

“I would like to point out that in eight years, trustee Orozco has missed three board meetings due to the births of the three children that she had while she was a sitting board member,” De Serpa said. “I want everybody to think about that for a minute. I had a root canal and showed up for a board meeting. Trustee Acosta has missed 26.”

Elected to the PVUSD board in 2016, Acosta is a business lecturer at CSU Monterey Bay and is listed as the owner of an interior design company. Her husband, Ed Acosta, was elected to the Santa Cruz County Board of Education in November.

Acosta has stayed silent in the face mounting calls for her resignation, including from parents, Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo, and several former trustees. By Wednesday, more than 200 people had signed an online petition calling for her to resign or face recall.

Email raises new questions

The censure resolution approved Wednesday states Acosta “divulged confidential information to a former employee and a community member regarding her efforts to terminate” Rodriguez and “sought their advice on the procedure to follow before any information was conveyed to other Board members.” That’s a reference to the newly released email, which Acosta sent on Jan. 23 to two people with close connections to the district, but no formal relationship at the time: former PVUSD Chief Budget Officer Joe Dominguez, and Vic Marani, a former elected trustee at both PVUSD and the Santa Cruz County Office of Education.

“Hello Joe & Vic,” Acosta said in the email, which was sent from her CSU Monterey Bay email account. “Attached is the revised agenda just sent to us. This needs our immediate approval for her.”

A screenshot shows an email displayed at the PVUSD school board meeting Wednesday night.
A screenshot shows an email displayed at the PVUSD school board meeting Wednesday night. Credit: Pajaro Valley Unified School District

A draft agenda for the board’s Jan. 27 meeting — where Rodriguez was fired — was attached, De Serpa showed.

Dominguez left the district under unclear circumstances last year, and now works at a school district in Riverside County. His contract with PVUSD wasn’t set to expire until June 2021.

Because Acosta sent the email to his defunct PVUSD account, a record was created that De Serpa said she was able to obtain.

Marani, a one-time leader of the Santa Cruz County Republican Party, last held elected office in 2012. He is described on a LinkedIn page as a government relations professional.

“Why would Joe Dominguez and Vic Marani be giving any direction, counsel or approval of an agenda that is confidential — that the agenda setting committee is supposed to be setting along with district administration?” De Serpa said.

Marani and Dominguez did not immediately return requests for comment seeking clarity on their involvement Wednesday night.

Censure is an official reprimand levied against an elected official In the case of PVUSD, the board adopted a resolution to “censure, disavow and formally express its disapproval” of Acosta.

The resolution further directs “Acosta to properly perform her duties as a Board member by attending meetings unless properly excused, participating on Board committees, participating in District training for board members, understand her role as a member of this Board, not engage in authorized conduct as a Board member and comply with all applicable law, Board Policy, Regulations, and Bylaws and cease and desist from engaging in disrespectful treatment of District employees, members of the public, and fellow Board members.”

Read the resolution to censure Acosta below:

Lookout’s past coverage:

Jan. 28: No reason for firing given, ousted PVUSD Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez says

Jan. 29: PVUSD trustees reverse course, vote to consider reinstating fired Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez

Jan. 30: Why did actor Edward James Olmos turn up at a Pajaro Valley Unified school board meeting?

Jan. 31: PVUSD trustees unanimously reinstate fired Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez, change board leadership

Feb. 1: Reinstated PVUSD superintendent Michelle Rodriguez back to work after ‘hardest 36 hours of my life’

Feb. 2: Two PVUSD trustees cited ‘death threats’ amid Michelle Rodriguez saga. Days later, police say none reported

Feb. 18: INVESTIGATION: Were shaky finances behind PVUSD superintendent’s firing? Hastily deleted post reveals tension

March 6: PVUSD school board to review $16K in questionable legal fees racked up during superintendent saga

March 10: PVUSD board votes against paying $16K in legal fees authorized by its former president

March 21: PVUSD trustees to consider censuring former president Georgia Acosta after superintendent saga

Follow Nick Ibarra on: Twitter. Ibarra has a track record of reporting that has shone light into almost every corner of Santa Cruz County. Raised in the Santa Cruz Mountains, he came to journalism from...