Bonner files complaint against Irving
COMPTON—Compton Unified School District Commissioner Tara Bonner sent a letter to the Board of Trustees on Tuesday, July 24, asking for assistance in controlling the “combative behavior” of Commissioner Janice Irving.
The Personnel Commission has three appointed members. The trustees and unions each select one person and they pick the third commissioner.
The dissension between the two commissioners began in October 2011, when the Personnel Commission began looking into allegations that Irving offered a dinner gift card to an employee because she found a job for a friend.
“The staff member received constant phone calls from Irving and hired her friend because she feared losing her job,” she said. “The friend held a substitute position as a locker room attendant for more than a year, and then moved to a temporary office worker position.”
Irving continued enquiring about a position for another person referred to the commission for a substitute position.
“According to Irving, Board of Trustees member Mae Thomas referred the applicant for the position,” Bonner said. “Thomas said she did not know the applicant, and the person worked for more than a year as a substitute plant worker.”
The most egregious allegation from Bonner involved Irving’s support for paying former Senior Director Jeanne Batey $2,900 for work completed from April 5 through April 28, 2011, even though her contract ended on April 1.
“Irving authorized the work without the consent of the other two commissioners,” she wrote. “Batey received a letter from former Senior Personnel Director Mark Steele explaining that she would not receive payment.”
Bonner said Batey called Steele and told him Irving had authorized the work.
The commission is currently considering an appeal from former Senior Personnel Analyst II Barbara Banks, who allegedly worked in an out-of-class position without permission from interim Personnel Director Dr. Matthew Spencer or the commission.
“Banks submitted her own personnel form (106) for payment, which is illegal,” Bonner wrote. “Irving supports paying her the money.”
The commission attempted to move forward with its selection process for a permanent senior personnel director, Bonner said, but experienced a setback on Sept. 22, 2011, when the California School Personnel Commissioners Association, which was to conduct the search, withdrew its involvement because of comments Irving made.
“Based on comments made by Ms. Janice Irving, I believe that if the CSPCA recruited the position and recommended Dr. Spencer, Irving would accuse me and the CSPCA of manipulating the recruitment,” CSPCA Executive Director George Cole said. “As a professional with an excellent reputation, I do not want my reputation impugned nor do I want to jeopardize Dr. Spencer’s right to have fair competition without accusations.”
Bonner disclosed racism allegations during the Thursday, July 19, commission meeting, and identified curious coincidences involving the matter in her letter to the trustees.
“Irving makes derogatory statements to Dr. Spencer during open sessions,” Bonner wrote. “She personally dislikes him.”
Irving also made condescending remarks about the previous interim personnel director, she said, which disrupted meetings during his tenure.
“Ms. Irving’s audacious behavior demonstrates her distaste for the past and present interim senior personnel directors, and both are Caucasian,” Bonner said. “She creates dissension and strife among the staff and her colleagues and personnel commission attendees feel uncomfortable by her presence.”
Bonner said the commission fights its negative perception in the community and in the district every day, and cannot move forward unless the trustees assist with the Irving problem.
When Spencer arrived, the commission lacked a vision and mission statement, code of ethics and a code of conduct,” he said. “We now have those rules through the Pathway to Governing Excellence workshops, but Irving did not favor these historical steps taken by the commission and skipped the meetings.”
Bonner said she values transparency, and disclosed one personnel incident during her tenure, which Irving had called attention to during previous meetings.
“Some of my personal activities include volunteering at the schools my sons attend within the CUSD,” she wrote. “I met and mentored three young ladies who were wards of the state, and told them about a temporary office worker position available within the CUSD, and one of them applied for the position.”
Bonner said she found out after the fact that the young lady hired was her son’s girlfriend.
“They met during preschool, and I did not know they were dating,” she said. “The job was provisional and when it was vacated the position became available for the next CUSD student.”
There are training resources available for the commissioners, Bonner said, and she asked the trustees to step in and make the classes mandatory for Irving.
“I am asking you to encourage her attendance at all the available education academies, including the Merit System Academy, and the Pathway to Governing Excellence workshops,” she said.
The next Personnel Commission meeting is on Thursday, Aug. 16.