Paso Robles trustee resigns amid outcry at school district

David Lambert

With the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District embroiled in several controversies, a member of the school board resigned citing disagreements with the district.

Former board member David Lambert served for four years on the school district’s board of trustees and was early in his second term when he resigned this week. At a contentious meeting on Tuesday, Board President Field Gibson claimed Lambert’s resignation had to do with health reasons. However, Lambert sent a statement to North County radio station KPRL saying Gibson’s claim was not true.

“There has and continues to be decisions made that I definitely did not agree with, and I did not want my name associated with those decisions,” Lambert said in the statement. “There was absolutely nothing in my resignation letter about my health.”

Lambert, who was said to be a big supporter of Paso Robles High football and other extracurricular activities for students, is married to Debbie Lambert, who works for the school district as a human resources administrative assistant, according to the district’s website. Following his resignation, critics have alleged Lambert’s wife was facing retaliation at work for her husband’s actions on the school board.

At a recent meeting, Lambert accused Paso Robles Superintendent Chris Williams of lying about a broadcast contract. The district is currently involved in a financial dispute with KPRL. The station has stopped broadcasting Bearcat football games.

Over the last year, the dispute with KPRL and several other controversies involving the Paso Robles school district have made headlines in local media. The largest of the disputes have each related to the Paso Robles High School football team. Still, much of the outcry from the community has been directed at district officials.

Late last year, longtime Paso Robles High head football coach and math teacher, Rich Schimke, lost his coaching job following a locker room incident in which he poured syrup on the belly of a 17-year-old player and licked the syrup. The incident was caught on camera and spread through online media, igniting a feud in the community, which was split for and against Schimke.

In March 2017, the school district board censured one of its members, Chris Bausch, an outspoken Paso Robles real estate agent who had been clashing with other board members.

District officials drew up a censure resolution stating Bausch made comments to individual board members regarding him carrying his “cache of weapons” and a “gun with big bullets” and that he “aims for the head.” The resolution, which the board adopted on a 6-1 vote with only Bausch dissenting, also accused the trustee of spreading misinformation about the district in the local media, having a real or perceived conflict of interest and intending to violate the Brown Act by wandering off topic during meetings to discuss issues like a bond, sales tax, minimum wage and Obamacare.

Chris Williams

Bausch responded by saying the district had taken alleged threats he made out of context and that the motive of the censure was to punish him for dissent. Bausch said the board would not succeed in getting him to relinquish his first and second amendment rights or stop asking hard questions and criticizing the district.

In August, a 50-year tradition of KPRL broadcasting Paso Robles High football games came to a halt after Superintendent Williams decided to begin charging radio stations $100 to broadcast Bearcat football games. Williams reportedly asked KPRL and KJUG to place bids in a sealed envelope in order to gain access to the press box.

Neither KPRL nor KJUG submitted bids. Rather, both stations opted to carry other schools’ football games.

Late in August, and one game into the season, the school district abruptly parted ways with Paso Robles’ new coach, former NFL linebacker Larry Grant. Neither Grant nor the district disclosed the reason for his sudden departure.

Some media have speculated Grant’s quick exit from the North County coaching position could relate to his godson and nephew transferring into Paso Robles High under questionable circumstances.

On Tuesday, Grant’s predecessor Schimke broke his silence when he chastised the school district during public comment at a board meeting. Schimke delivered a five-minute speech in which he criticized district officials for backroom deals, faulty hiring and firing practices, intimidation, censorship and pushing a culture change.

Commenting on Grant’s situation, Schimke said he never met the coach, but the district should not have run him through the media regarding his godson and nephew. Schimke said numerous district officials knew for months that the teens were at Paso Robles High, yet they did not inform the players whether or not they would be eligible to play during this years football season.

Schimke received an ovation from much of the audience at the board meeting following his remarks.

Lambert, who submitted his resignation just prior to the meeting, was not present Tuesday night. The board must now decide whether to appoint a new trustee or hold a special election in order to replace Lambert.