Dabo departure is long overdue

Mitchell Dabo offers advice at 801 San Benito Street in Hollister.

Mitchell Dabo is leaving the San Benito County Board of Education. At least he said three weeks ago that he would. The sooner the better.

He could have announced his plans to resign when he told us last week that he would not seek to be returned as board president. But he didn’t.

The 34-year public servant could have told his constituents, the taxpayers and voters of San Benito County, of his plans. But he didn’t.

He could have resigned five weeks ago when Superior Court Judge Marjorie L. Carter slapped him with a $1.74 million judgment and affirmed facts that he violated state probate laws by moving more than $640,000 from a charitable trust fund to his personal accounts. But he didn’t.

He could have resigned from the board when the Community Foundation first filed the lawsuit, seeking the funds promised to San Benito charities by the late Tony and Barbara Matulich. Mr. Dabo knew at the time that he had been caught red-handed, and could have saved this community and his school board colleagues embarrassment. But he didn’t.

For that matter, when a series of enforcement actions by the federal Financial Industry Regulatory Authority censured him on four separate occasions in 1998, 1999 and 2001, finally pulling all of his certifications for selling securities or acting as a securities broker for violating federal regulations, he could have resigned. But he didn’t.

Mr. Dabo hasn’t said when he will retire. Perhaps he is waiting for the outcome of the Hollister police investigation, or the inspection of his accounts by a forensic accountant hired by the district attorney.

If he is eventually charged with crimes, he might say that he wants to wait until after a verdict, or after an appeal – or after sentencing, before resigning.

Mr. Dabo complained to Krystal Lomanto, superintendent of the county Office of Education, that he and the school board were “under attack.” By whom? The Matulich Charitable Trust? The Community Foundation? The Free Lance, which simply reported the details of the court case?

We don’t know what Supt. Lomanto said to Mr. Dabo. We don’t know if she encouraged him or discouraged him with regard to his board status. We do know that he thanked her for her support. Or more accurately, for her public silence, since she and Mr. Dabo’s fellow trustees have chosen to say nothing to reassure the citizens of San Benito County that public trust is more important than cronyism.

We don’t know much of what he said to Ms. Lomanto, either, because she ran her black marker over most of the email content before sending the public documents to us. In doing so, she chose to define the public’s interests as her own private interests, at the expense of the public’s right to know what elected public officials are saying about their public responsibilities.

Mr. Dabo should resign immediately. Give us a break. Give the county school board a chance to get back to business. Give Ms. Lomanto a chance to put down her black marker and restore transparency to the Office of Education. Give prospective candidates an opportunity to file for his vacant seat.

That would be a great holiday gift and a great way to start the New Year.

 

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