Investigation Continues of OUSD Boardmember and Student

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday July 27, 2007

Oakland Unified School District officials and at least some board members were keeping close-mouthed at the end of this week about allegations of possible improper relations between a male school board member and a 17-year-old female Oakland area high school student. 

The allegations involved board member Chris Dobbins, who was elected to the 6th district seat last November to replace the retiring Dan Siegel. The allegations included email messages, conversations, and meetings between Dobbins and the student, who Dobbins told the Oakland Tribune he was mentoring. 

“This is still under investigation by the district and the police department,” board president David Kakishiba said by telephone, saying that any further statement or possible board action would have to wait “until we have the full story.” 

None of the sources involved revealed the identity of the student, who reportedly graduated from a high school in Oakland last month. 

There appear to be two questions at issue right now. The first is whether the allegations against Dobbins amount to anything that might be in violation of California law, enough for the Alameda County District Attorney’s office to bring charges. The second is whether the allegations, even if not involving criminal activity or unproven, are enough to either seriously damage Dobbins’ rising political career or force him to resign from the board. In addition to any possible criminal charges, the board itself has the power to censure Dobbins, an act that would carry no penalties but would have political implications. 

Kakishiba refused to speculate on any possible future board action. 

The next scheduled OUSD board meeting is August 8. 

At least one board member, Noel Gallo, has publicly called on Dobbins to resign because of the accusations. Dobbins himself was taking the California Bar examination this week and was not commenting, but sources on the board said that he had told board members he would provide them with a decision on Friday as to whether or not he would resign. 

If Dobbins were to resign, the California Education Code allows the board to either select Dobbins’ replacement or call for a new election. If the board were to choose a replacement themselves, District 6 voters could petition for a replacement election. 

Interest in the District 6 school board race was low last November because Oakland Unified was still under full state control at that time, with the board holding no powers. With a small measure of local control restored to the board earlier this month and widespread belief that more powers will be returned in the near future, any new election may spark a fierce campaign for the 6th District seat, including candidates with an eye for a possible run against 6th District Oakland City Councilmember Desley Brooks in three years. 

Dobbins left an upbeat voicemail message referring all questions to his attorney, Scott Newbold of San Mateo, who said that Oakland police “are concluding their investigation. Based upon what I know about the situation, I don’t think they are going to find anything.” 

OUSD Public Information Officer Troy Flint said by telephone that sometime last week district officials “received information about a relationship that needed to be explored.”  

Flint said that OUSD state administrator Kimberly Statham “reviewed the relationship between Dobbins and a student and decided it needed to be referred to child protective services and the Oakland Police Department.” 

Flint said that an Oakland Tribune article which claimed that Statham had called on Dobbins to resign was incorrect. “We are monitoring the situation and reserving judgment until we receive a final report from the police department.” 

Lt. Kevin Wiley of the OPD Youth and Family Services Division did not return telephone calls by press time.