The Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) Board voted 3-1 Tuesday — with Trustee Michael Tsai dissenting — to adopt its newest censure policy.
The policy, first discussed in November, codifies a process for the board to censure an “offending” trustee by majority vote should the member violate any portion of the new bylaw.
Portions of the bylaw include warning members to not show up excessively late to meetings, to not fall asleep at the dais, and to “not speak for the Board without explicit authority.”
The text of the bylaw, drafted by the board, stems in part from Tsai’s own actions. Since September, 2019, Tsai has arrived late to six out of 10 meetings — including a closed session meeting on September 10, a study session on September 24, a closed session on October 8, and study sessions on October 22, November 12, and November 26 — missing a combined 6 hours and 24 minutes of meeting time, according to the board’s minutes. In addition, at least 2 existing photos of Tsai taken by audience members show him sleeping during public meetings.
“That’s something I won’t stand for,” said resident Joseph Weinstein, as he recounted Tsai’s actions. He continued, “Either you pass this [bylaw], or you give the public no other action but to recall one of you.”
One important part of the bylaw stems from an incident on October 8, 2019. Just hours before the board’s scheduled meeting, the Milpitas Police Department responded to a stabbing that occurred a block from the MUSD boardroom.
Tsai wrote on his Facebook page that he was considering “postponing or cancelling” that night’s school board meeting due to safety concerns — an act that can only be carried out through majority vote by the board, and not Tsai himself.
“We talk about whose job it is to say something about a lockdown?” said Tsai on Tuesday, referring to the October incident. “To me, what’s important is word gets out there that something is going on, not so much who’s saying it.”
He then asked the board to “more clearly delineate” the roles and responsibilities of the board’s communication duties.
MUSD employee Michelle Eacret expressed her dissatisfaction with the tardiness of multiple board members for multiple board meetings, specifically calling out Tsai and former Trustee Minh Ngo — who arrived 13 minutes late to the board’s September 24 meeting.
“Being present and engaged at a scheduled school board meeting is extremely important, “ said Eacret. “This is a commitment expected of any board member present, or anyone who wants to run for the board.”
According to the bylaw, any violation of its statutes will result in a formal declaration to the offending member, followed by a vote to censure by the board if deemed appropriate.
Tsai himself saw the resolution as an unfair rebuke by his colleagues due to his age and his outspokenness. He repeated his concerns from November that the bylaw was intended to single him out.
Before casting his dissenting vote, Tsai urged that the matter be brought up at a later date, citing concerns that the bylaw’s language was too broad and unclear, which he claimed gave too much power to trustees to censure board members for voicing their opinions.
“I said before that this censure policy has the potential to be used as a political weapon,” said Tsai. “I think Mr. Weinstein’s comments just prove my point.”