School board race gets ugly with accusations of resume padding*
Michael Janofsky | March 7, 2014
The race for LA Unified’s open board seat took a dramatic turn today as Alex Johnson’s campaign accused a rival, Genethia Hudley-Hayes, of “deliberately falsifying” her academic credentials.
Roy Behr, Johnson’s political consultant, said research into her background found discrepancies in her resume and, in a meeting yesterday with his counterpart in the Hudley-Hayes campaign, Parke Skelton, Behr said he told Skelton, “we have this information, and in the course of a campaign, people would find out about it.”
Skelton said in a separate interview today he interpreted Behr’s remarks as a threat and insisted that Hudley-Hayes would stay in the race. Hudley-Hayes, an LA-area public servant for decades, is a former president of the LA Unified School Board and president of the LA Board of Fire Commissioners, appointed by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
In a press release today that first brought attention to the controversy, Skelton said Behr told him in their meeting, “there was still time for Mrs. Hudley-Hayes to withdraw from the race” but if she chose not to, the Johnson campaign “would be forced to ‘use’ the material they had uncovered.”
Skelton also used the news release to refute the specific issues that Behr cited in their meeting, saying Behr misinterpreted the facts and in one case, the discrepancy was “a typo.”
Hudley-Hayes and Johnson are regarded among the front-runners in the June 3 special election to to fill the board seat left vacant by the death of Marguerite LaMotte in December. As many as 9 people are vying for the seat.
The race has taken on an unusually high profile, given that national figures as U.S. Representative Karen Bass and former Los Angeles mayors Richard Riordan and Villaraigosa have endorsed Hudley-Hayes. Johnson works for LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas as an aide on education although Ridley-Thomas has not endorsed anyone in the race.
In his interview with LA School Report, Behr insisted that the apparent discrepancies uncovered by his campaign research reflect intentional efforts designed to embellish Hudley-Hayes’ credentials.
He said he showed Skelton a document in which Hudley Hayes claimed she received a doctorate from American University in Washington, D.C., which the Johnson campaign said it was actually from American World University, an unaccredited institution that has no physical campus. Skelton said in the release said the reference came from “an old resume” that Hudley-Hayes no longer uses and the absence of the word “world” reflects a typographical error.
A news release from Mayor Villaraigosa’s office on May 19, 2010, carried by States News Service announcing the reappointment of Hudley-Hayes as a fire commissioner, said “she was awarded a doctorate from American University in Public Policy.”
Behr said he also questioned the legitimacy of her claims to have an MBA from San Jose State University. He said the school told the Johnson campaign that no one ever received an MBA in Hudley-Hayes’ name. LA School Report is awaiting verification from SJSU. Behr also questioned whether Hudley-Hayes is a “certified mediator.”
Skelton, in his written response, said Hudley-Hayes received an MBA from the Center for Nonprofit Management in 1976 by attending courses at its downtown Los Angeles facility at a time, nearly 40 years ago, that the Center worked in conjunction with the Cal State University San Jose as it was known then.
Skelton also refuted the Johnson campaign’s claim that she is not a “certified mediator,” saying in the release that while serving as Executive Director of the Southern California SCLC, she completed an 18 month course in mediation at the McConnell Law School at Pepperdine University “and has all the requisite training to be a mediator. She registered with the State of California to serve as a mediator and in fact has worked as a mediator.”
Behr said he went to see Skelton “on the basis of this information” and “out of respect” for Hudley-Hayes’s many years as a public servant.
“We both knew this would be a daily substantial problem when the candidate for the school board falsified credentials,” Behr said. “These were not inadvertent mistakes or typos.”
Skelton said in the release, “I was somewhat taken aback.”
“In over 30 years of campaign consulting I had never been approached by a rival campaign in this manner,” he said, adding, “It is truly disturbing to me that Alex Johnson and his campaign have nothing better to do that hire private investigators to dig up dirt on their opponents in an effort to attempt to bully them out of the campaign. With LAUSD facing so many crises, our children deserve better. A whole lot better.”
*Clarifies that Mark Ridley-Thomas has not yet endorsed anyone in the race.