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Eureka district race sparks confrontation, privacy breach

Three candidates running for two seats on school board
By: Sena Christian, Staff Reporter
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EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a two-part series on news in the Eureka Union School District. The Friday, Sept. 28 article will focus on recent leadership and policy changes. Both articles will be available on www.rosevillept.com.

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The Eureka Union School District is known for small class sizes and high-performing students, but recently the district has also become the scene of discord and division.

With two school board seats up for grabs and three candidates running in November's election, the tension is simmering.

In mid-August, a confrontation between two candidates at a Republican dinner resulted in a call to the Roseville Police Department. Also last month, the Eureka Schools Foundation revealed its private database had been improperly used for political fundraising.

Candidate says she felt threatened

On Aug. 16, local registered Republicans who serve as elected public officials were invited to a Placer County Republicans dinner at Cattlemens in Roseville to make a brief presentation. At some point during the dinner, school board candidate Renee Nash approached incumbent Kristie Greiss and the two spoke.  

A description of the incident appeared that night on the website of local Republican blogger Aaron Park, who had been hired as a political consultant for Greiss's campaign until the two later parted ways, according to Park.

Greiss called the police at 11:46 a.m. the following day to state that she had felt threatened by a remark Nash made. No report was taken, according to Dee Dee Gunther of the Roseville Police Department.

"My husband and I felt the appropriate action was to refer the incident to law enforcement," Greiss said. "At this time, out of respect for our district and community, the only comment I have is that Mrs. Nash's behavior was surprising. My focus is my work for EUSD. My campaign efforts will be spent concentrating on my experience and maintaining and improving upon the future success of our district."

When asked about the incident by the Press Tribune, Nash said the "allegations are blatantly false."

"At a public meeting, I simply asked my opponent why she had been absent from recent important school board meetings," Nash said. "Instead of personal attacks and mudslinging, I, my campaign and my supporters will continue to focus on bringing our community together to provide our children with the excellent education that they deserve."

Foundation database used

Another controversy recently popped up when it was discovered that a breach of privacy had occurred within the Eureka Schools Foundation (ESF). This nonprofit organization was founded in 1992 to raise money to help fund enrichment programs throughout the district such as foreign language classes, music, junior high athletics, technology, libraries and more.

In a recent letter to the school board and ESF supporters, foundation President Tory Griffin said he was informed that the organization's donor database had been used for political purposes in the school board race.

The database had been used to invite parents to an event in late August benefitting the candidacy of Nash - a former president of the foundation -- and incumbent Ryan Jones, who are running as political allies.

Nonprofit organizations are prohibited from participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for elective public office.

Once Griffin learned of the breach, the event was immediately called off, as confirmed by a cancellation email.

"I became aware that, in one isolated incident, ESF's email database was used to create an invite list for a campaign event," Griffin told the Press Tribune. "My investigation into this incident confirmed it was an innocent mistake by one of only two members of ESF's board who has access to the database, and was not done at Ms. Nash's direction. I immediately sent an email to all ESF board members clarifying that as a non-profit organization, ESF does not endorse political candidates nor can its resources be used to assist in political campaigns in any way. This issue was handled swiftly and more than appropriately, keeping ESF's donor data and integrity safeguarded."

Griffin added that all three candidates have either served on the foundation's board of directors or as an appointed liaison to ESF's board, and each has "supported and contributed to ESF and to our local schools in many ways." 

"The actions were taken without my consent or knowledge, but I nonetheless take complete responsibility and took immediate proactive action to both cancel the event and ensure that it never happened again," Nash said in a statement to the Press Tribune. "I also reimbursed the foundation for the value of the list that was used. It was an honest mistake by one of my volunteers who did not understand that what he was doing was inappropriate."

Jones echoed that statement, explaining the mistake as a clerical error that was immediately remedied. He said all of the campaign volunteers have since been educated on this issue.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.