Editor's note: Part one of a two-part series.

The central allegation against Ontario-Montclair School District board member Paul Vincent Avila is true, an investigator's report released at Thursday night's board meeting said.

Geoffrey Sheldon, the investigator from Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, provided the board with a 95-page report about Avila's conduct at the Serrano Middle School's award ceremony on June 18 as well as five other alleged incidents involving Avila since the beginning of his current term on Dec. 15, 2005.

Avila is alleged to have raised his voice at Leticia Zaragoza, the principal, and Elyse Zugates, vice principal, of the Montclair middle school before the awards ceremony because his name was left off the program.

Avila has denied that was the reason.

The investigation, which was conducted in a month and a half, included interviews with 33 people. It has 53 other pages of documents, including e-mails, letters, photographs, articles, past school board agendas and minutes.

"I was not asked to determine whether there was any violation of board policy or whether anyone should be punished or censured or what other type of action should take place as a result of this investigation," Sheldon said at the board meeting. "I was solely asked to determine what happened."

The investigator said he determined whether the alleged incidents happened by the testimony and evaluation of the credibility of people he interviewed.

Sheldon said he concluded the allegations against Avila about the Serrano Middle School's award ceremony are true based on the assessment of the credibility of the teachers and the administrators who witnessed the incident and heard the statements attributed to Avila.

He said Avila's testimony was inconsistent and that there was an e-mail sent to Superintendent Virgil Barnes at 12:13a.m., hours after the awards ceremony, complaining that his name was off the program.

"He did not say anything about his wife allegedly being injured or tripping or falling or anything like that," Sheldon said. "I believe if he was really upset about his wife being hurt he would have said that in the e-mail."

Based on the evidence, Sheldon wrote, "it appears to the Investigator that Mr. Avila is somewhat paranoid that others are out to `get him' for political reasons or because he is a Mexican-American, and this led him to overact (sic) and publicly chastise Ms. Zaragoza and Ms. Zugates for a simple mistake."

During board member comments, Avila said he did not agree with the findings.

"This report in essence is what I attribute to be very shallow and incomplete and it only serves the people who are driving behind this," he said. "I really hope this matter be dropped before we end up going to court and the real truth will come out. This thing was a waste of time."

Board President Doreen McDaniel said the next step will be for board members to review the material and then provide direction to the superintendent.


(909) 987-6397, ext. 425