One Los Banos school trustee is calling for a board censure of fellow trustee Tommy Jones following allegations that Jones was involved in a corrupt scheme in relation to a $7 million construction project.
In a letter to the editor of the Los Banos Enterprise, Dennis Areias said Jones’ refusal to resign, despite several calls by members of the public at Thursday’s board meeting, means the six other members must take action.
“That action is to ask for a special board meeting to vote for the censure of Board Member Jones,” Areias states in the letter.
A censure is a public acknowledgment of reprimand against a specific person.
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Jones, who didn’t return a phone call for comment Tuesday, is accused of bribing a public official to secure a vote in July to hire contractor Greg Opinski for the Mercey Springs Elementary expansion project.
Opinski and Jones were arrested following a 10-month investigation by the Merced County District Attorney’s Office.
Opinski, who also is a trustee on the Merced Union High School District board, may face a censure of his own during that school district’s meeting Wednesday on allegations that he verbally abused an administrator and threatened the superintendent’s job.
Areias said Tuesday that he called Los Banos school board President Anthony Parreira to ask for a special meeting to vote for a censure of Jones. It takes the request of four board members to call a special meeting.
Areias said he pitched the idea after it was brought up at Thursday’s board meeting by resident Aaron Barcellos.
Parreira acknowledged that Areias contacted him about the special meeting, and he said in a phone call Tuesday that he consulted the school district’s lawyers about censure procedures.
Parreira said any censure resolution would be a two-meeting process with the first meeting to discuss the censure and the second to vote.
Parreira, who is out of town, said he won’t be able to contact other board members until Thursday.
Trustees Carole Duffy, Marlene Smith and Dominic Falasco couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.
Trustee Ray Martinez, who was sworn in Thursday following a close but successful recall election of former trustee John Mueller, said he didn’t have enough information to make a judgment.
He said he supports Jones’ right to a “day in court.”
But Martinez agreed that a discussion should take place about what the board should do with Jones’ status.
“We have to discuss it,” Martinez said. “But I’m not sure what the board ... is able to do about it.”
In the letter, Areias encouraged citizens to contact their trustee representative to call for the special meeting.
If the trustee doesn’t call for the meeting, Areias said, “they have made a choice between their association with Mr. Jones and the students of our district. Let’s see where their priorities lie.”
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562