PALMDALE – Palmdale Elementary Teachers Association President Hugo Estrada was photographed this week placing a handwritten “Don’t Re-Elect” sign next to the Palmdale School District incumbent campaign signs belonging to Sandy Corrales-Eneix, Jeff Ferrin and Carol Stanford.
Ferrin, who said he took the photos on Tuesday (Oct. 29), claims that Estrada placed the sign illegally.
“Political signage not approved by the State Fair Political Practices Commission, the county or the City are not legal,” Ferrin stated, “I’m certain the union knows this, and certainly Mr. Estrada. This isn’t his first election.”
Ferrin claims he observed Estrada exit his car, place the handwritten “Don’t Re-Elect” sign at the corner of Avenue R-8 and 60th Street East (just a few blocks away from Los Amigos Dual Immersion School), and then leave the scene. He said he observed Estrada prior to school letting out at 3:25 p.m.
“The photo was taken at 3:15 p.m.,” Ferrin said. “I have asked Interim Superintendent Pauline Winbush to investigate if Mr. Estrada was participating in illegal campaign activities during the work day.”
The handwritten sign does not include a “Paid for by the committee to elect…” line, leaving no room for accountability, which is “sort of like a hit and run,” according to Palmdale School Board President Sandy Corrales-Eneix.
“These types of desperate tactics, mean-spirited tactics are indicative of the type of campaign that they run,” Corrales-Eneix said Thursday.
Of the 250 signs that the incumbent trio has posted, more than half of them were vandalized within days, and some were trampled, torn or taken away, according to Ferrin.
Contacted by phone Thursday, Estrada said the teachers union had nothing to do with any alleged vandalism.
“That is ludicrous. Our teachers would not engage in any type of vandalism,” Estrada said. “As a matter of fact, we could make the same claim because many of our posters have been disappearing.”
Asked about the photos taken by Ferrin, Estrada said there was nothing illegal about his actions.
“[The signs] were handwritten by myself and I’m not a committee,” Estrada said. “As a concerned citizen, I have every right to express my opinion. It’s given to me via the Bill of Rights, First Amendment.”
Estrada said his work hours are usually from 8 a.m. until about 2:30 p.m., therefore he was not on the clock when he placed the handwritten sign on Tuesday.
He said he’d placed no more than six handmade signs around town, mostly on the weekends. “I have the right as a citizen to do that,” Estrada said, adding that he requested permission from property owners if posting on private property. When he posted the handwritten “Don’t Re-Elect” sign on Tuesday, Estrada said he had not gotten permission because it was not needed.
“That’s a vacant lot… I can put it there, it’s right next to their sign,” Estrada said.
Read the city of Palmdale’s requirements for campaign signs here.
Corrales-Eneix and Ferrin also claim they’ve received complaints regarding teachers campaigning for the PETA union slate of candidates at various school sites. There are several pending complaints and some of the most egregious have seen teachers electioneering in the classrooms, urging their students to tell their parents who to vote for, the incumbents claim.
“Classrooms are for learning, not campaigning,” Corrales-Eneix said. “No teacher has the right to violate that sacred, safe place.”
Estrada said only one teacher has been accused of electioneering during the school day, and the investigation has already concluded.
Asked about the most recent accusations between the school board and teachers union, Interim Superintendent Pauline Winbush responded in general terms.
“Whenever we do conduct an investigation and we find that an employee has been doing that, then we take appropriate action because it’s a very serious matter… it exposes the District to liability if folks are campaigning on our campus,” Winbush said. “We also want to make sure there’s no solicitation around the students. We’re there for the education of the students, we want to focus on that.”