http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2008/05/16/school-board-members-residency-called-into-question


Pleasanton Weekly

News - May 16, 2008

School board member's residency called into question

District's legal counsel says Pat Kernan's apartment satisfies the law

by Emily Atwood

A few residents claiming school board trustee Pat Kernan is in violation of residency requirements led the Pleasanton Unified School District to seek legal counsel, the Weekly has learned.

Kernan is accused of moving out of Pleasanton while still continuing to serve on the school board.

Although school district attorneys have told Superintendent John Casey that they believe Kernan is within the law in continuing his service on the board, others say that findings are simply a way of circumventing the law.

Kernan's primary home was initially called into question on the Pleasanton Weekly's Town Square online forum, and more so after a board agenda showed him participating in a special meeting at 11 a.m. Thursday, May 1 by phone from a Camino, Calif. location, which is east of Sacramento.

Casey said the district began the investigation about two weeks ago, which included asking attorneys to research the residency criteria and interview Kernan.

"[The lawyer] is not the decision maker," Casey said, adding that residents can challenge the situation in court.

In a 500-word statement sent to the Pleasanton Weekly, parent and school activist Julie Testa said there is "overwhelming evidence" that Kernan's home in Camino is his "long-term home." She then states a non-resident should have no say in parcel tax discussions and should step down.

She cited California Education Code 3510, which defines a primary residence or domicile as a place having intention to make it a permanent home, adding that a person may only have one.

In their report, district lawyers cite various government, education and election codes and 13 points that determine a Pleasanton residency. These points included that Kernan's vehicle is registered in Pleasanton, he was excused from jury duty in El Dorado County this year on the basis of his Pleasanton residency, that he is a member of the Chamber of Commerce and is registered to vote and has voted in Pleasanton elections.

"Determination of legal residency is a fact specific analysis, in which a myriad of factors are collectively evaluated," the report states.

Testa contested that several of those points could easily be challenged and aren't what students, for example, need to prove residency to attend district schools. Utility bills in the resident's name prove residency and she said students who are in question are visited by district officials, looking for signs of a permanent living situation.

Asked about the Town Square comments and the disconnected home/fax number listed on the district's Web site, Kernan told the Weekly April 7 that he considers his apartment on Andrews Drive in Pleasanton to be his permanent residence where he also runs his law practice. Myla Grasso, school district spokeswoman, said April 29 that the residence in Camino is a vacation home.

A recent hip surgery kept Kernan from attending board meetings, and his recent letter to the editor praised ValleyCare Medical Center staff for their part in his recovery.

Kernan was appointed to the school board in November 1997, was elected in November 2001 and ran unopposed, as did current board president Jim Ott, in November 2006. His term is set to end in December 2010.

Testa said El Dorado County assessors office documents show the Kernans sold their Tanglewood Drive home in April 2006 and then purchased a home on Superior Drive in Camino before he was reappointed to the board in November 2006.

She also told the Weekly that his activities in Camino include being a partner in a Sacramento law firm, opening a private practice in the fall of 2007 and serving as a representative on the board of the El Dorado Community Foundation.

Comments

Posted by Julie, a resident of Foothill High School
on May 16, 2008 at 11:48 am


I am disappointed in PUSD's response to concerns from the community about a non-resident trustee. The District and School Board should be adhering to the spirit of the law rather than relying on an opinion that allows for a technicality.

PUSD's character trait for the month of May is Integrity: "Having the courage to do the right thing." Integrity is the steadfast adherence to a strict ethical code. Ethics goes beyond obeying laws. It also involves abiding by moral standards. PUSD says, "All adults in the District are our children's role models"…really?

In the opinion written by PUSD's attorney they concede that Kenan's 'spouse's primary residence is the El Dorado County property'.

(Elec. Code 2031) If a person has more than one dwelling a rebuttable presumption exists THE DWELLING ON WHICH HE OR SHE CLAIMS THE HOMEOWNER'S PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION IS THAT PERSON'S DOMICILE. This presumption does not apply, however, if the address listed for DMV purposes is a different residence.

KERNAN CONCEDES THAT A PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION IS CLAIMED ON THE CAMINO ADDRESS. The attorney states that "while Mr. Kernan indicates that he claims a property tax exemption on his El Dorado property, his DMV listing in Pleasanton rebuts any presumption of residency in El Dorado.

Consider this:

Kernan claims he is a resident of Pleasanton because, among other points, he has maintained his DMV records and voter registration here. He then says the fact that he was dismissed from jury duty, using the excuse that he lives in Alameda County, further supports his claim of residency. The question becomes how was he called to jury duty in El Dorado County if he has kept those records in the Pleasanton address?

Web Link

Superior Court of California
County of El Dorado
How Jurors Are Summoned
Jurors' names are selected at random from lists of registered voters and persons who have valid California drivers' licenses.


Posted by Julie, a resident of Foothill High School
on May 16, 2008 at 12:31 pm


Will the PW please post the letter from the school districts attorney?



Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on May 16, 2008 at 3:37 pm

Good job, Julie, of gathering facts and shining light on this issue.

In reading the article and your posts I came away with a picture of a man who appears to be using every technicality available to him to hang on as a Pleasanton trustee while he establishes his new home and career in Camino, which he appears to have substantially already done.

Of course, tactically the time to challenge the legality of his residency is AFTER he votes on important, controversial issues. A finding in a court of law may well upset any vote. If the residents of Pleasanton as well as the Board and staff want that kind of board member, then they will deserve the future problems that his continuance as a board member will likely create.


Posted by Julie, a resident of Foothill High School
on May 16, 2008 at 6:39 pm


Frank,

Thanks for your comments. Sometimes it seems like no one gets it, I am glad someone does.

The Editor started a duplicate blog, hope to see you over there.