Beckie Gomez, an elected member of both the Orange County Board of Education and the Tustin City Council, is being sued by a constituent who alleges she is violating a state law against holding “incompatible offices.” The lawsuit demands that she resign from the Board of Education and be fined $5,000.
Gomez was served at this evening’s OC Board of Education meeting, after board members came out of their closed session meeting.
Gomez, a Democrat, was member of the Tustin City Council when she was first elected to the OC Board of Education in 2016, when she defeated incumbent Robert Hammond. She was termed out of her city council position in 2018.
She ran for re-election to the OC Board of Education in March 2020, and assumed that seat on July 1, 2020. Gomez was subsequently ran for the Tustin City Council again; she was elected in November 2020 and sworn in on December 1, 2020.
Gomez is currently running for Tustin mayor in the city’s first directly elected mayoral contest.
The lawsuit demands “the Court order her ousted and removed” from the OCBE and fine Gomez $5,000. The plaintiff in the lawsuit is Santa Ana resident Mike Tardif, a long-time Santa Ana resident who has active in local politics.
“California state law should be enforced equally to all individuals,” said Tardif. “In this case, Ms. Gomez is holding two incompatible offices, which violates state law. The people of California expect their public servants to be accountable for their actions.”
Tardif is also running for the 68th Assembly District and has been endorsed by the Republican Party of Orange County. He is involved with establishing OC Explore Academy, which is affiliated with the Explore Academy network of tuition-free, college preparatory public charter schools.
Gomez Tenure Characterized By Union Support, Hostility To Charter Schools
Gomez has been able to count on the support of public school unions in her board of education campaigns. During her tenure has been a dissenting voice from the OCBE’s pro-charter stance. Most recently, she opposed allowing the Orange County Classical Academy to re-charter itself on a county-wide; it is currently a charter school within the Orange Unified School District.
The basis of the government code in question is that public officials have an obligation to discharge their duties with “undivided loyalty.” According to a state Attorney General opinion, the applicable standard is whether a conflict between holding the two offices might occur; “only one potential significant clash of duties or loyalties is necessary to make offices incompatible.”
If an elected official is found to be holding incompatible offices, state law requires the official in question to keep the most recently-acquired office and resign from the other. In this case, it means Gomez would have to resign from the OCBE.
Gomez Situation Parallels That of Colleague Tim Shaw
In January of 2021, one of her Board colleagues, Tim Shaw, was also served with an “incompatible offices” lawsuit, filed by a close friend of Paulette Chaffee, whom Shaw had defeated in the March 2020 Board election.
The underlying facts in both cases are identical: Shaw was a member of the La Habra City Council when he was elected to the OCBE, and was re-elected to his council seat in November 2020.
The lawsuit makes exactly that point:
“Gomez and Shaw were both elected to the Orange County Board of Education in the same election, Shaw to District Four and Gomez to District One. Then, they were both elected to their respective city councils in the November 2020 general election. As to Gomez, the offices of Tustin City Councilmember and Board of Education are incompatible for the exact same reasons that applied to Shaw. The only difference between them is cities they serve and the OCDE districts they represent.””
Shaw ultimately decided to avoid possibly ruinous legal expenses and resigned from the OCBE. He later resigned his council seat, and was subsequently appointed to fill the vacancy created by his resignation.
Since he is completing the remainder of the term to which he was elected, Shaw must run again this June. Paulette Chaffee has filed to run against him, with the backing of the Democratic Party of Orange County.
In the meantime, Shaw’s re-appointment is being challenged by a progressive Democrat activist who has filed a lawsuit alleging the appointment violates state law. The OCBE is fighting that lawsuit, which is currently being litigated.
READ: Left-Wing Activist Sues OC Board of Education, Alleging Illegal Appointment