Screenshot sent to SCVNews.com by Joan Oxman, past president of the Saugus Teachers Association
After a local blog posted a story claiming myriad, bizarre online postings – that included alleged support of the Nazi party – were attributed to a Saugus Union School District board member, officials Monday called a special meeting for Thursday.
Saugus Union board member Stephen Winkler denied making the comments attributed to a YouTube account linked to his Google Plus account; however, Mike Devlin, who regularly writes for SCVTalk.com, said he was “100 percent confident” the comments were made by Winkler.
“I don’t know where this YouTube account comes from – I don’t have a YouTube account; I don’t make movies,” Winkler said Monday. “I don’t know what these comments are that I made so I haven’t seen it.”
The comments are consistent with controversial postings linked to a Facebook account with Winkler’s picture and the email address from his campaign finance-disclosure forms, Devlin said.
“There are several things – for one, this is behavior that extends over a six-year period, and it’s a lot of behavior,” Devlin said, explaining his verification process. “It’d be a considerable undertaking for someone to plant this kind of unannounced time bomb on his Facebook page.”
On the blog’s website, there’s a video Devlin made that shows how the verification process was conducted.
The district, for its part, is taking the allegations, as well as numerous parent emails and calls, seriously.
Board President Judy Umeck released the following statement Monday afternoon:
“Pursuant to board bylaws, I have formed an ad hoc committee of the board to investigate the allegations of misconduct by Mr. Winkler. Winkler will be provided an opportunity to respond to the allegations prior to the board taking action.
“The remaining board members were be conducting due diligence in reviewing the allegations,” Umeck said.
The Saugus Union School District officials are holding a special meeting June 13 to discuss the allegations.
When contacted, several Saugus Union board members, including Umeck, Doug Bryce and Rose Koscielny said they have been contacted by numerous parents about the posting, which went up Sunday evening, as well as news agencies, including KNX radio and the local NBC affiliate.
“Parents have expressed concern, and it’s absolutely justified for them to be concerned and for them to raise concerns with us,” Koscielny said.
“We have to be careful and we have to tread lightly,” she added, noting the concerns may be discussed at an emergency meeting before the board’s next scheduled meeting.
The next scheduled board meeting is June 18.
Even if the comments are correctly attributed to Winkler, there may not be much board members can do, as they don’t have the legal right to remove a board member for questionable comments.
Winkler admitted to the following Tweet/Facebook post, which is pictured on Devlin’s posting:
“A spirit of national socialism is encouraged by an effete core of impudent snobs, who characterize themselves as teachers of Saugus Union.”
The comments, which were made during the recent charter school petition process, referred to Saugus Teachers Union President and Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District board member Debbie Rocha and a small group of her supporters.
“I did say that because that core is a small percentage of the core, and they were supportive of Debbie Rocha, and she quoted Henry Ford,” Winkler said. “Henry Ford predated the Third Reich, and the Third Reich predated the Holocaust.”
However, he said the comments attributed to him on YouTube were not his own words.
“I’ve been supporting the principles of the democratic party for most of my life,” Winkler continued. “Recently, I switched to the Republican party because I felt that the Democratic Party deserted me.”
The two parties want the same things, they just have different ways of going about and getting them, he said.
There’s already a website dedicated to documenting Winkler’s Internet activity.
“Basically, the people I’ve heard have been very upset about the comments,” Bryce said, “And they want to know what they can do. All I can do is tell them that the only process I know of is the recall process and it really is up to (the voters).”
If there were a recall effort, it would need to be supported by at least 15 percent of the registered voters in the district, or about 8,100 of approximately 54,000 voters.
Winkler received approximately 34 percent of the vote in the November 2011 election, or 2,106, when he edged incumbent Rose Diaz, who garnered 1,763 votes.
Devlin acknowledged there wasn’t technically anything he saw as “criminal” activity, but he wanted to make sure that, as a parent of two children in the Saugus Union district, others were aware of what was happening.
“It also seems that with a lot of these school boards, there’s a lot of attention paid to who’s running, but not a lot of attention paid to governance — and I’m guilty of that myself,” Devlin said.
“(Board meetings are very often held in an empty room,” he said. “And I think this is a sign that we need to pay a whole lot more attention to when we’re voting.”