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Public censure an option for embattled Saugus district board member

Posted: June 11, 2013 3:16 p.m.
Updated: June 11, 2013 5:29 p.m.

Stephen S. Winkler

 

Though some Santa Clarita Valley residents are calling for a Saugus Union School District board member’s removal from office, board members are limited in what kind of punishment they can levy against him, a district official said Tuesday.

Controversy erupted early this week over online comments regarding Nazism and animal cruelty allegedly made by board member Stephen Winkler.

Board President Judy Umeck said Tuesday that censure, a public rebuke for comments or conduct, is typically the only option available to school boards when matters such as inappropriate comments arise.

The Saugus district board bylaws state, “A board member shall refrain from actions and involvements that may prove embarrassing to the district.”

The major consequence of violating the board’s conduct policy, according to the bylaws, is a censure, though such action can only take place after a public meeting to review evidence of the allegations and with a majority vote from board members.

Such a meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the Saugus Union district offices, 24930 Avenue Stanford in Valencia.

Anything more severe than that, such as a recall election, is up to members of the public, Umeck says.

“The action actually is in their hands,” she said. “Our responsibility is to provide and facilitate a public hearing that allows them to ask those difficult questions.”

The source of the recent controversy is a series of activities on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube that are tied to online accounts Winkler has used in the past.

Contact information for each of those accounts includes a website, www.stephenswinkler2000.com, which is listed as the website of record for Winkler’s 2011 bid for school board, according to the Los Angeles County Office of Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.

The YouTube account features “likes” and supportive comments on videos depicting violence against animals and videos related to the Nazi Party.

A Twitter page that is listed in the name “Stephen Winkler” includes a picture of Winkler and describes the user as a teacher from Santa Clarita. That account includes a post that is critical of teachers in the Saugus Union School District.

“A spirit of national socialism is encouraged by an effete core of impudent snobs, who characterize themselves as teachers of Saugus Union,” the post reads.

The same Twitter account also links to articles from The Signal and other local outlets regarding the 2011 Saugus school board race, specifically those that mention Winkler.

Winkler could not be reached by phone Tuesday. Emails seeking comment were also not returned.

However, Winkler denied the allegations on his Facebook page, or at least a page that also lists www.stephenswinkler2000.com in its contact information.

“I have no YouTube account, or I thought that I did not have one,” Winkler wrote in a Facebook post Monday. “That being said, I never posted on YouTube, but someone hacked into my email account and I do not appreciate it.”

A website, www.furiousparentsinthescv.blogspot.com, has been set up to document Winkler’s alleged online activity and remove him from the Saugus board.

Umeck did say board members, acting as private citizens, have the option of asking for Winkler’s resignation, but they cannot do so in any official board capacity.

It is difficult to determine if Winkler himself was using the accounts in his name, but each is linked in some way to the website Winkler registered with the Registrar-Recorder’s Office.

“I never supported Nazism and I have never been a member of any Neo-Nazis group,” Winkler wrote in his Facebook post. “The YouTube postings are an absolute fabrication and a complete lie.”

Lmoney@signalscv.com
661-287-5525
On Twitter @LukeMMoney

 

 

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