The complete presentation made to the Pasadena Board of Education on August 28, 2012
The spoken introduction:
Abstention VS. Recusal
As a delegate to CSBA (California School Board Association) you really should know the difference between Abstention and Recusal, but you seem to be confused by the terms. Many people have difficulty differentiating between censor and censure, so it is understandable, I suppose. Still, since you ARE a delegate to the CSBA, maybe I can help you clear up the difference between recusal, and abstention. You see, Mr. Ed, Abstention is a term in an election procedure for when a participant in a vote either does not go to vote or, is present during the vote, but does not cast a ballot. Abstentions do not count in tallying the vote negatively or positively. On the other hand, Recusal or to recuse oneself means to remove oneself from participation in a decision so as avoid a conflict of interest. Removal means to leave the room; for example, a judge who recuses herself does not sit on the proceedings and influence the proceedings.
Why the Masks? The masks worn by the supporters of the Brandenburg family symbolize the anonymity which we have been forced to face on a daily basis since October, 2010. Because of Ed Honowitz’s refusal to disclose the anonymous bullies who he met with on January 11, 2011, our family lives in a constant state of fear and agitation because we do not know which of our school community neighbors we can trust.
Our family was there the day of the deliberation and the vote. We sat outside the Board room, watched Mr. Honowitz enter, and leave with the rest of the vote. He was present for the vote, and influenced the vote with his presence. So, how, exactly, did Mr. Honowitz recuse himself? To believe that the presence of Board Vice President Honowitz could sit in on a vote that was brought about partly due to him and his withholding of docs during an investigation, and not influence its outcome with his presence is truly remarkable.
Mr Honowitz, was it recusal, or an abstention? Oh, and don’t worry, I won’t tell the CSBA that you don’t know the difference.
The packet distributed to the seven board members.
Request to Consider: Censure of Ed Honowitz
We, Tony Brandenburg, and Mary Brandenburg, request a censure of Ed Honowitz, Vice President of the Board of Education for multiple violations of Board Bylaws, Board Protocols, and student and parent rights under the Family Educational Rights and Protection Act (FERPA). We specifically cite violations of Board Bylaws 9271, 9011, Board Protocols 6 and 9, and three violations under FERPA.
Part 1: Violation of Bylaws
We assert that Board Member Ed Honowitz violated the following Board Bylaws
(1A) Violation of Bylaw 9271: Code of Ethics;
Board Members have a responsibility to the Community, to other members of the Board, and to the Superintendent. We assert that Board member Honowitz violated the Code of ethics in his duties to all three subgroups named.
1. Honowitz violated his responsibility to Community
• Thinking always in terms of "Children First."
On a number of occasions Mr. Honowitz violated his ethical responsibility to the Sierra Madre Community. Mr Honowitz did not afford all children equity; that is some children first, some children not at all.
• Understanding that the basic function of the School Board Member
is "policy making" and not administrative.
Mr. Honowitz overstepped his role by organizing a meeting with a group of parents in order to guarantee the child would not return to school He was advised by both Kathy Onoye and Liz Blanco that he should not meet with the parent group.
• Refusing to "play politics" in either the traditional partisan or in
any petty sense.
Mr. Honowitz saw an opportunity to win over a large group of parents and staff by stepping in and removing what was alleged to be a disruptive child from school. This was done in order to secure political supports and favors from the parent group, many of whom had political clout and status.
• Representing at all times the entire school community.
Mr. Honowitz refused to meet with the Brandenburg Family. Some members of the community are represented, and some are not. Honowitz showed bias against, and failed to provide equal access to, the Brandenburgs- to this very day.
2. Honowitz violated his responsibility to other Board Members
• Recognizing that authority rests only with the board in office
meetings, and that the individual member has no legal status to
bind the Board outside of such meetings.
Mr. Honowitz established, organized, and executed a meeting regarding a special education student, excluding all members of the Board except for himself, excluding all administrative staff from the district office, and which has left the BOE tangled up in a legal mess for the last two years.
3. Honowitz violated his responsibility to the Superintendent
A Governing Board Member should maintain desirable relations with the
Superintendent of schools and staff, by:
• Giving the Superintendent full administrative authority for properly
discharging the Superintendent's professional duties, and by also
holding the Superintendent responsible for acceptable results.
• Referring all complaints to the proper administrative office and by
discussing them only at a regular meeting after failure of
By meeting with the parent group and superseding the authority of the former superintendent, Honowitz breached ethical guidelines in regards to the authority of the Office of the Superintendent. In doing so, he has overstepped the professional duties of the office of the Superintendent, and brought a legal challenge to the district that has caused difficulty for both the exiting, and current superintendents. It was a disrespectful show of power on Honowitz’s part, and brought legal challenges, and discredit to the office of the Superintendent.
4. Honowitz Breached the Code of Ethics by violating Federal Law
It is the policy of the Governing Board that all of its members shall abide by federal and state law that are applicable to members of the Governing Board, as well as to Board Policies or Bylaws.
Board member Honowitz violated the Brandenburg child’s right to due process, by refusing to allow his side of the story to be told, and violating his rights to confidentiality as stated in IDEA and FERPA.
Honowitz withheld documents during a federal investigation of the Office of Civil Rights, and withheld documents during an investigation by PUSD for Uniform Complaint, both filed by the Brandenburg Family.
Furthermore, Mr. Honowitz Interfered with the appeal process of a federal agency by withholding evidence as requested through a PRA by the Brandenburgs, by hiding the evidence until the statute of limitation for appeal had expired.
(1B) Violation of Bylaw 9011: Disclosure of Confidential/Privileged Information;
Confidential / privileged information which is produced for, or which comes out during, closed sessions of the Board shall not be divulged or released unless a majority of Board members agree to release the information, subject to applicable laws regarding closed sessions.
On March 3, 2011, Ed Honowitz reported to the Pasadena Star News/ Mercury News that he recused himself from the vote. In so stating, Honowitz not only disclosed his vote (Recused) which is a violation of vote disclosure, but also disclosed information that was not made public. At no time was a statement released by the BOE granting Mr. Honowitz permission to disclose any information regarding the vote taken, nor any disclosures regarding the decison to deny the investigation.
(1C) Violation of Bylaw 9321.1: Closed Session Actions & Reports.
The Board shall reconvene in open session before adjourning and report closed session actions, the votes or abstentions thereon, and other disclosures required by Government Code 54957.1.
On February 28, 2012 President Renatta Cooper reported , “The board voted in closed session to deny the Brandenburg request for several investigations, however, the board has directed the Superintendent to continue to work with the Brandenburgs to address their specific concerns......
At no time did President Cooper report the votes, nor the abstentions of closed. This is a violation of the disclosure clause of Government Code 54957.1
On March 3, 2011, Ed Honowitz reported to the Pasadena Star News/ Mercury News that he recused himself from the vote. In so stating, Honowitz not only disclosed his vote (Recused) which is a violation of vote disclosure, but also disclosed information that was not made public by Board Member Cooper; Ms. Cooper did not disclose any recusals, nor abstentions.
Part 2: Violation of Protocols
We assert that Board Member Ed Honowitz violated the following Board Protocols
(2A) Violation of Board Protocol 6: Board Member Response to Complaints;
c. Board members need to stay within their function and not attempt to personally “fix” the problem. There are staff members whose job it is to remedy or deal with
community, student and staff issues and concerns.
Board Member Honowitz took sides, and refused to meet with the Brandneburgs. He personally attempted to fix the situation by supporting the removal of the Brandenburg child from public education, and then passed that information on to parents at the meeting of January 11, 2011.
d. The board is potentially the “court of last resort” and members who have been too involved early in the situation may have to recuse themselves if they cannot be impartial, or be perceived as impartial.
Honowitz did not recuse himself from proceeding and had input and presence in all discussions regarding the investigation of the Brandenburg’s allegations. At this time he was in possession of a number of documents which he withheld until after the BOE voted to deny the Brandenburg’s request for an outside investigation.
Protocol / Agreement
a. The board will consider its judicial review responsibility, and staff and student confidentiality rights and due process issues.
b. The board will use empathetic listening skills when approached by a member of the community or staff with questions or concerns. ...... Confidential information will not be divulged, as students and district personnel have legal and due process rights that must be honored.....
Honowitz denied the Brandenburg child due process rights by withholding evidence in the form of a number of documents, and refusing to allow the child’s side of the issues be explained. Honowitz allowed a number of allegations to be leveled at the Brandenburg child, and allowed the parent group to meet and discuss the child, though the child had had been absent from school for three months, and posed no threat to anyone. Honowitz withheld a letter which contained a veiled threat directed at the child by an adult. Honowitz allowed a discussion to take place which identified the child, and violated the child’s right to confidentiality as outlined in IDEA and FERPA.
(2B) Violation of Board Protocol 9: Board role in Public.
b. Board members have been elected by the community to provide leadership and citizen oversight of the district. The board shall ensure that the district is responsive to the values, beliefs, and priorities of the community.
c. Board members represent the board in what they say and do and will set an example of professionalism.
If this is to be believed, then by the actions of Ed Honowitz, Pasadena Unified School District and Sierra Madre Elementary School advocate withholding documents during uniform complaints and Federal investigations, violating student confidentiality, providing equity to students as long as they don’t have disabilities, supporting the allegations of mobs as long as they are led by members of law enforcement, and providing information to the media that compromises the integrity of the superintendent and the integrity of the other members of the Board of Education.
Mr. Honowitz has withheld documents during two investigations, disclosed privileged information to the press, allowed confidential information to be disclosed regarding a disabled child, and overstepped his role as a public servant by substituting one of an educational leader- which he is not. His role is policy, not administration.
a. Board members will strive to educate the public about their role as public servants, entrusted with the education of all the children in the district.
d. Confidentiality will be maintained in communication with members of the public regarding matters prescribed as confidential by state law and board by-laws.
Please refer to Part 3.
Part 3: Violation of FERPA
We assert that Ed Honowitz violated student confidentiality protections as outlined in The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records........
(3A) Violation of Confidentiality
By meeting with the Sierra Madre peer parents three months after the Brandenburg child had left the school, thus beyond the parameter of what would be described as an emergency - and then disclosing, and accepting documents that discussed personal and educational information, made accusations which were not supported by evidence and which denied the child due process, and which was done with the common knowledge of who was being discussed, regardless of naming the child specifically
(3B) Violation of Family right to amend records
By denying the Brandenburg family access to records which Honowitz was withholding from the Brandenburgs thus denying the Brandenburgs their right to request that records be amended
(3C) Violation of family’s access to school records.
By refusing to meet with the Brandenburgs to discuss the documents or any matters related to the January 11, 2011 Meeting.
We the Brandenburg Family, and supporters and friends
1. Request for Censure of Board Member Honowitz
2. Request PUSD revote on the Brandenburg’s request for an external investigation which was denied on 2/28/12 based on the withholding of evidence by Ed Honowitz.
3. Request for Recuse of Ed Honowitz and Renatta Cooper in this discussion and votes due to the wrongful reporting by Ms. Cooper, and the withholding of evidence by Mr. Honowitz. It is not our intention to criticize, nor to seek a censure of Ms. Cooper on these items. However, because Ms. Cooper’s error could warrant a formal action, it is our belief that her participation in these matters may demonstrate a conflict of interest.
4. We have provided evidence in previous sessions, but will provide them again for each violation if requested to do so by PUSD Board Members or counsel.