Though he walked out of last night's meeting before all four of his colleagues voted to censure him, it was clear that Steven Nelson, the embattled Mountain View Whisman School District trustee, had seen the writing on the wall.
With a few modifications, MVWSD trustees Ellen Wheeler, Bill Lambert, Phil Palmer and Chris Chiang approved the "Censure of Trustee Steven Nelson," shortly before 10 p.m. on Oct. 3.
But Nelson was already gone -- walking out of the meeting about 10 minutes before the remaining trustees cast their votes. Earlier in the meeting, Nelson told the board that he had a flight to catch the following morning and therefore wanted to get home before it got late.
"Guys, go ahead and do it," Nelson said, before packing up his things. "I'm leaving... Now. You guys can tell me what your vote is."
At that point in the night, however, it had already become clear that all four of his colleagues were prepared to vote for the censure motion. Palmer, who had previously expressed reservations about the idea of condemning Nelson for certain charges he deemed less serious, made it clear early on that he was prepared to support a censure, as he felt that many of the allegations facing Nelson were serious. In particular, Palmer said he was upset with a March 28 incident in which Nelson raised his voice and used profanity in the district office after a meeting with MVLA Superintendent Craig Goldman got heated.
While acknowledging he deserved to be censured for a number of transgressions -- including that March incident -- Nelson defended himself against other accusations he considered to be baseless or trivial.
Nelson insisted that he had not crossed any lines when he publicly expressed his dissatisfaction with Superintendent Craig Goldman in an interview with the Voice. The trustee said he was doing his job when he raised suspicions that the District Advisory Committee -- a group of involved community members that advises Goldman on ground-level developments at each of the district's schools -- was illegally constituted.
Nelson succeed in getting his colleagues to strike a paragraph in the censure's supporting evidence document which stated he had violated board bylaws by raising his concerns over the District Advisory Committee. He did not succeed in getting them to strike or adjust the charge that he had been out of line in expressing his disagreement with Goldman when speaking to the Voice.
In addition to serving as an official statement of the board's condemnation of Nelsons behavior, the censure also carried with it a punishment. Nelson has been removed from his position as the clerk for the board and of his position as observer for the board at meetings of district committees.
At the conclusion of the meeting, both Goldman and Lambert expressed satisfaction that the censure had been approved.
"I'm grateful to the board in its support for a respectful and productive environment for our students, our community members and our employees," Goldman said after the meeting.
"I value him (Nelson) having statements and having differences of opinion, like all the other board members," Lambert said. "But, what really is important, when you're communicating those (differences of opinion) is that you show respect for others." In Lambert's opinion, Nelson had not demonstrated the kind of respect and professionalism he should have in his interactions with the board, district staff members and the community.
When asked what he hoped would come of the censure in the future, Lambert had a one word answer: "Civility."