Senator Huff Fires Victim of Alleged Assault by Member of Teachers Union

What would you say to someone who displayed extraordinary courage and initiative to stand up for a law you wrote?

“You’re fired” is probably not the first thing that comes to mind, but that’s what happened to Arturo Garcia on January 29, after he stepped onto some very big toes. Garcia, a full time district representative for California State Senator Bob Huff since early 2013, had been assigned to work with parents and activists who want to save a failing elementary school in Anaheim.

Palm Lane Elementary School had been underperforming for twelve years. Frustrated parents went to the teachers, principal, school board and the district superintendent seeking change for their school to no avail.  They learned about California’s Parent Trigger Act back in July, 2014 from Senator Huff, retired Senator Gloria Romero of the California Center for Empowerment and others requiring them to wage a campaign to gather at least half of the school parent’s signatures on a petition seeking to transform their school into a charter school.

On January 14, 2015, petitions were turned in representing over 50% of the parents of the enrolled students at Palm Lane Elementary School in Anaheim.

Instead of verifying these signatures, however, according to Garcia, parents, and other observers, the union representing the teachers at Palm Lane started holding meetings with parents, telling them why they thought invoking the parent trigger solution was a bad idea.

When arriving at one of these “informational” meetings on January 20th, by invitation of some of the parents, a meeting where he maintains he had a clear legal right to attend, Garcia was asked to leave by a union official. When he refused, Garcia claims the official – in front of several parents who witnessed the altercation – pushed and shoved him towards the door. When Garcia asked him to stop, they changed tactics, and several teachers swarmed around Garcia to block him. They them began methodically pushing him towards the door by backing up against him.

Garcia claims that when he reported what happened to his colleagues, he was discouraged from filing a police report. On January 29th, Garcia was fired.

It is difficult to determine the exact facts and circumstances surrounding Garcia’s firing. Huff’s office claims Garcia had not been authorized to attend that particular meeting. But if parents had asked Garcia to be there, and if Garcia’s work assignment was to support these parents, wouldn’t it be reasonable for him to assume he could show up? And if Garcia was in fact abruptly fired for just this one possible transgression, why wouldn’t he be subject to progressive discipline, and receive a warning instead of termination? Let’s not forget that just last year, several blatantly corrupt Sacramento lawmakers continued to collect salaries for months before finally, reluctantly, being released from public service.

But hold everything. Why is this about Arturo Garcia being fired by Senator Huff?

Why is that the story?

Why isn’t this about Arturo Garcia being assaulted by a professional operative of the California Teachers Association? Here is the response from Huff’s office:

“Our office contacted Senate Human Resources Personnel the day that we learned of the incident between Arturo and the union representative. She contacted Joe Nunez, Executive Director of the CTA, and informed him of the Senate’s zero tolerance policy as it pertains to our employees and how they are treated by the public and specifically to members of his organization. She told him that CTA representatives must treat all Senate employees with respect and adhere to our policies.”

That’s it? Why isn’t Senator Huff calling for that person to be terminated, abruptly, instead of firing one of his own? Because that’s the story. Senator Huff should have called publicly for the perpetrator of this assault to be fired, immediately, instead of firing his own possibly overzealous employee and hoping this will all go away. It won’t go away. Finish what you started, Senator Huff. The CTA will never support you. Never. Ever. If you won’t fight the CTA, who will?

The California State Legislature is a tight knit organization, where staffers consider one another as family. A place where workers cultivate relationships, trade favors and avoid conflict, so they can keep working in the Capitol building throughout their careers, even as the politicians they serve come and go. Is initiative prized in such an environment? Or is it more important not to ruffle feathers? When senior legislative staffers enjoy cocktails with their colleagues after work in Sacramento, chances are very good that some – if not most – of their bosses were elected with CTA money. So if you want to keep working there, drink another round and get along. Arturo Garcia wasn’t part of that world, and he didn’t want to be part of that world. Because Arturo Garcia was trying to make a difference. Sacramento, and California at large, need more people like him.

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Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

RELATED ARTICLES

Anaheim Teachers Union Faces A Gathering Storm
UnionWatch, February 3, 2015

Parent empowerment a major tool for school reform in California
Education Watchdog, January 29, 2015

Parent Trigger & Open Enrollment – Ways to Cope With Union Controlled Schools
UnionWatch, January 27, 2015

Rallying for school reform in Anaheim
Orange County Register, January 19, 2015

Parent Trigger Bullies
Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2015

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11 replies
  1. Chuck says:

    There’s more to this story than meets the eye. I’m gonna guess that part of Garcia’s firing was for putting his ear to the door of a closed meeting and quite possibly recording the meeting. That’s illegal.

    Funniest quote from this story:
    “And if Garcia was in fact abruptly fired for just this one possible transgression, why wouldn’t he be subject to progressive discipline, and receive a warning instead of termination?”
    Why is this funny? Because these are rights that were fought for and won by unions!! You can’t be anti union and expect to benefit from their hard work. Hypocritical much?

  2. Silvia Lopez says:

    Good riddance!! That nutwig Arturo always tried to harass and use his little title to try and get his nose in other professional people’s business!! Senator Huff received a lot of complaints, some almost involving the cops bc of this crazy little guy. Arturo probably has something to prove, maybe bc of his size, or lack thereof! He hurt a lot of people w his malicious tactics -especially Latinos! He got what he deserved, he’s so malign.

  3. Mike Malsed says:

    Silvia – unless you have some proof of Arturo’s “harass”ment I have to believe you’re a pro-union nutjob yourself. Your little rant is pretty much just that.

    I’m wondering where a video is. The lack of a video, anymore, is suspicious in itself. If Arturo is the aggressor, the video would have been released in seconds. On the other hand, the Union would have wanted it kept quiet so no video would have been released.

    Just makes me suspicious.

  4. RW says:

    Why do we know Sylvia is from the union? She repeatedly refers to Arturo as the “little guy”. That’s what bullies do; they pick on people based on a characteristic that is not their fault. Let’s be clear, Sylvia. Nearly all of the kids who attend Palm Lane School are Latino, and Palm Lane School has been identified by the State as failing for nearly 12 years. Arturo did not do that to them, your union did. So stop accusing Arturo of “hurt[ing] a lot of people . . . , especially Latinos.” Arturo knows whose side he’s on, and so do the parents at Palm Lane School.

  5. Teresa Hernandez says:

    Arturo was doing exactly what the taxpayers of that district want him to do, represent the people and childrens best interest. These kids have been in a failing school for 10 years that should outrage every taxpayer in Orange County. These kids and parents deserve better and Arturo was at the front lines making sure these parents voices were heard and these children have a fair shot as they matriculate to junior high, we need more Arturo’s in our community fighting for the communities best interest!!!!

  6. Lorena says:

    Had to be Teresa Hernandez, the bleached Chucky’s doll, wasn’t Arturo her puppet, always telling him what to do, who to follow and harass. She needs to go home too, just another nitwit whacko.

  7. Teresa Hernandez says:

    Lorena I am so sorry you have to resort to personally attacking people because of their size or hair color, we should keep the conversation civil and if you have a legitimate reason why these kids and parents don’t deserve quality education I would love to hear it? I have 4 children and I know my priority is to give them the best shot at a good education, statistics prove the better educated the better contribution to society as a whole, I am sure if you have children you would want to give them a chance!

  8. Mark says:

    When people do not have good arguments they will often resort to attacking people personally, which both Silvia did with her comments about Arturo and now Lorena with Teresa.

    Sylvia and Lorena – If you have reasons why the Palm Lane parents should not be supported by all of us in their effort to improve their school, please share it. Or go ahead and keep attacking others here personally, and we will know you don’t have any.

  9. Latoya says:

    I don’t know what y’all’s beef w ea other is, but all Ima say is I have been at places where arturo has worked at and he is not at all respectful or courteous or even prudent or normal. I mean, this guy’s behavior is not adequate for a professional position that he was holding with the senator, for I’d say, far too long. Took them a while to realize he fights with all kindsa people. Ha!

  10. Sen. Gloria Romero (Ret.) says:

    Although I have long appreciated and valued my colleague Sen. Bob Huff, I cannot condone or support his decision to terminate the one Senate staff member, Arturo Garcia, who was assigned to represent and advocate for the parents of Palm Lane Elementary School who lawfully used the Parent Trigger law to enact school transformation at that chronically underperforming school.

    It is never acceptable to “sacrifice” anyone, particularly a state employee, because of the power of monied special interests. Rather than supporting Mr. Garcia’s tenacious advocacy on behalf of these mostly Latino parents seeking lawful change at their school, Mr. Garcia was actually discouraged from even filing a police report against a powerful CTA official who battered him to prevent Mr. Garcia from entering a public meeting place inside a taxpayer supported city library.

    The incident was witnessed by several parents who have filed affidavits. During my time in the legislature, I clearly saw firsthand the power of bullies with money, and it saddens me that the office of Senator Huff felt pressure to bend to their power.

    Nonetheless, I am encouraged that Mr. Garcia will continue to represent and advocate for parents to use state laws to seek quality educational opportunities — he is widely respected and admired by the Palm Lane parents, and they continue to give him their full support. Sadly, if this type of pressure can befall an elected official’s office, one can imagine the pressure that is put on everyday parents to be fearful of changing status quo in education. Thankfully, young dedicated public servants like Mr. Garcia exist, making him meritorious of our support.

  11. debbie says:

    Chuck, that is exactly what i thought when reading this. Why didn’t he receive progressive discipline, because he doesn’t have union protection of due process.

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