BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Eight candidates are running this year for the three open seats on the Fairfax School District Board, and this election stands to oust one controversial board member.
Fairfax District Board Member Palmer Moland is facing felony fraud charges for misappropriation of public funds, putting integrity very high on the list of things Fairfax parents are looking for in their school board members.
Erika Mendez is a parent to a Fairfax District student and also a member of Fairfax Junior High’s Parent-Teacher Association. She says she worked closely with Palmer Moland.
“It was really upsetting as a parent, because we get to see both parts,” said Mendez. “As a staff, and then as a member, and I could’ve even said as a friend, because I was working with him.”
Mendez was aware of Moland’s felony charges of misappropriating of public funds, falsification of election documents, and voter fraud, among other charges, and says she thinks not everybody on the board is there for the right reasons.
Fairfax School Board candidate Jeffrey Crisler says Moland’s charges alone were a part of what prompted him to run for the board.
“As things began to develop and we saw a lot of the misactions, the wrong things to be doing especially with people’s tax dollars, I really couldn’t sit there any longer and say ‘Hey, someone’s going to fix this,’” said Crisler. “The community needed to step in and I felt like I was a good enough candidate to do that.”
Crisler, a former paramedic and businessman, says he believes one of the key characteristics of a board member is holding oneself accountable to parents, students, and the community.
“Everybody needs to come back to the table,” said Crisler. “The right people need to be at the table, who have the right intention and have a good heart, and are basically good human beings.”
Crisler says that if he is elected, he hopes to bring stability and honesty to the board.
Most of the eight candidates running for Fairfax School Board are seeking to prove their integrity in the wake of the Moland charges. Candidate Victoria Garza specifically references the misappropriation of funds and the impact it has on the district.
“We can all make a different to make sure that this doesn’t happen, because if he were to get elected again, that is not serving our community and making sure that the money is being allocated to our students,” said Garza. “That is what it’s for and that is what we are here for.”
Garza has worked for the Fairfax School District for 25 years as a payroll technician, and says that although it may be a process for the board to start earning the community’s trust again, step one is for the community to vote for board members with integrity, a quality Garza says she plans to bring to the board if she is elected.
“I am very true to my work. My work ethics are immaculate. If ‘payroll technician’ doesn’t say that enough, then I don’t know what does,” said Garza. “Our goal is to serve our students and our community, and I would love nothing more than to have that back.”
Cora Padilla, another candidate running for one of the Fairfax School Board seats, was also pushed to throw her hat in the ring by recent events.
“Attending board meetings off and on over the last few years, I have learned that we need to get people who put the kids’ interest first,” Padilla said in a statement. “That is not what our current board is focused on.”
Padilla also said that working as an educator, she sees where the money could be used in ways that will help students succeed and that she wants to be the person who makes that difference.
Padilla went on in her statement to express how she plans to ensure that district funds are used where and how they are supposed to be used.
“First and foremost, I am hoping that we can reinstate schools legal and get rid of the other law firms that Mr. Moland, Mrs. Rios, and Mr. Tapia have hired. Money was spent unnecessarily from our funds and I am hoping we can put a stop to that,” Padilla’s statement reads. “If I am elected, I will always do my best to assure parents that their students come first and the money will be spent in areas of improvement through programs that are allowed.”
Election Day is November 8th. From early voting to the final tally, stay connected with 23ABC both on the air and online for candidate profiles, ballot proposition breakdowns, and more voter information.