It took nine nominations and six different votes before members of the Orange County Board of Education agreed to let lawyer Jorge Valdes join the stage as their new colleague.

The four-member board, which typically votes synchronously on nearly all issues, repeatedly stalled on Wednesday, August 17, with three abstaining at different times.

Three candidates applied after the position was vacated by Becky Gomez, who resigned on July 1.

The candidate was Valdes, a Tustin resident and workers’ compensation attorney. Cecilia Iglesias, former Santa Ana City Council member and member of the Santa Ana Unified School Board. and Marlene Barba, a Tustin resident who works in church ministry.

During brief interview sessions with board members, the candidate expressed a position similar to that of the conservative trustees, frequently speaking about parental rights and choices that determine what is best for children.

Board members expressed support for all three.

“The pool of candidates was small but strong,” said Lisa Sparks, president of the board.

But then it’s time to vote.

Trustee Ken Williams moved to nominate Iglesias, and seconds later, trustee Tim Shaw moved to nominate Valdez.

When neither motion got a second nod to go ahead, Williams again nominated Iglesias.

Zilch. Back to the drawing board, Shaw again nominated Valdez. This time, Sparks upheld his motion, but Williams and his trustee Mari Burke abstained.

“We fail because we don’t have three votes,” Williams said.

Sparks quietly commented, “This is going to be interesting.”

That was the beginning of a series of votes that failed one after another.

None of the trustees voted against any candidate and chose to abstain every time — except for Shaw, who not only voted every time, but also Valdez and Iglesias in hopes of breaking the impasse. I switched my support several times between

“I voted for Ceci and George[Valdes]did you vote five times for this one?” Shaw said to a colleague.

Shaw repeatedly named Valdez, with Sparks’ endorsement. However, Burke and Williams withdrew. With Shaw’s endorsement, Williams repeatedly named Iglesias. However, Burke and Sparks withdrew.

Finally, the show nominated Valdez again, joined by both Burke and Sparks. Williams abstained.

“I couldn’t leave that meeting without appointing someone,” Shaw said Thursday. I had to get three votes.”

The board member, who had worked on both the county board of education and the Tustin City Council, faced a 60-day deadline to replace Gomez, who resigned after being sued for an alleged conflict of interest. Gomez — who is often the sole dissenting vote on the board — said he wasn’t in conflict but didn’t want to bear the costs of litigation.)

Before the candidate’s statements and interviews began, Shaw announced that it had once worked with Iglesias, “in the spirit of abundant transparency.”

“I was her boss,” Shaw said. “I don’t think it prevents us from voting here tonight.”

Barke says:

Barke is a consultant for the libertarian nonprofit California Policy Center, where Iglesias serves as director of Latinx engagement, and founder of the group’s Parent Union.

Asked if they should have declined the vote, Shaw and Burke claimed they had no conflict of interest in an interview Thursday.

“We spoke out loud that we worked together to be fully transparent,” Shaw said, adding that he served as district director for former state senator Bob Hoff, and Iglesias was the field representative. . “There are no legal disputes.”

Burke initially said she abstained from voting for both Iglesias and Valdez because Iglesias worked for the same organization and Valdez was her competitor. But then when the four trustees stalled over and over again with her two votes and two abstentions, she decided to take action.

“If I stopped doing that, it became clear that it would be bad for taxpayers,” Burke said.

“I felt very conflicted,” Burke added. “I really don’t like seeing people abstain unless they have a good reason.”

“I’m used to everyone voting together,” she said.

Iglesias recently served on the Santa Ana City Council until a recall campaign funded by the Santa Ana Police Officers Association removed her from her post in 2020, a year after she voted against a pay raise for police officers. was a member of parliament.

During Wednesday’s meeting, the candidate was asked if he plans to seek re-election if appointed. Valdes, Barba and Iglesias (who are running for mayor of Santa Ana) said they would.

Valdes will represent Trustee Area 1, which includes Fountain Valley, Santa Ana, portions of Garden Grove, and Tustin for the remainder of his term in 2024.

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