Norgaard Lawyer Criticizes District

A lawyer for school board member Chris Norgaard lambasted San Marino Unified School District officials for their latest moves against his client, taken in response to his legal threats against the district.
In an email, attorney Guy Glazier pointed out Norgaard has served for 14½ years in all capacities on the school board, was a founding member of two of the board’s most important committees and has always performed one of the board’s central functions: the superintendent evaluation. The four other members of the board, however, removed Norgaard from that process this month, creating a subcommittee that excludes him.
Their decision was rooted in the fact Norgaard has filed a legal complaint against SMUSD and Superintendent Alex Cherniss related to internal investigations into alleged sexual harassment and misconduct toward district employees.
The initial investigation, handled by a third party, concluded Norgaard had not done anything perceived to be sexually motivated; a second investigation began in April after Cherniss said he received allegations that Norgaard had attempted to intimidate district employees regarding the first investigation, which Norgaard has denied.
“Two independent investigations have found that Mr. Norgaard did not commit any misconduct,” Glazier said in an email, referring also to a police investigation. “Nevertheless, the superintendent’s office continued to make false statements to the media and to prohibit Mr. Norgaard’s performance of many of his duties. In response to Mr. Norgaard’s filing a claim regarding that conduct, the district has now removed Mr. Norgaard completely from the process of evaluation of the superintendent, and continued to block performance of certain other rights and duties.”
Cherniss defended his and the district’s actions against Norgaard’s assertions that he fabricated the allegations.
“As the employer, we are obligated to investigate allegations made by employees,” he said.
As a matter of standard procedure for an investigation, Norgaard was required to seek and receive permission to be on SMUSD properties during the first investigation and also needed to be accompanied by another official while doing so. He was given carte blanche permission to attend board meetings.
An investigation by the San Marino Police Department was announced in January at the same time Cherniss and Assistant Superintendent Linda de la Torre publicly disclosed the district’s investigation. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute Norgaard based on that fact that the woman claiming Norgaard had inappropriately contacted and kissed her on two occasions did not want to press charges.
Norgaard filed a legal complaint through Glazier in April, alleging defamation, emotional distress and a deprivation of civil rights on the part of the district, Cherniss and de la Torre. Unless the complaint is further amended, the defendants have until late June to respond, after which Norgaard may bring the suit before the courts.
The board also froze Norgaard out from its closed session discussions regarding the legal complaint, an action Norgaard objected to because he already recused himself from the discussions. He has also insisted he can remain objective in evaluating Cherniss, whom he recommended earlier this year as a Superintendent of the Year candidate.
“The public should be very concerned about this retaliation against Mr. Norgaard for advancing his proper claim,” Glazier said in his email. “The public should be very concerned that their duly elected official has been unconstitutionally stripped of the functions for which he was elected. The public should be very concerned that they have effectively been removed from participating in the process. The assault continues on Mr. Norgaard’s rights and those of the people he represents.”

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