School board member's residency called into question
District's legal counsel says Pat Kernan's apartment satisfies the law
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.