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Around the Valley: Don't trust until you verify

Original post made on Jan 7, 2023

There is a campaign to discredit newly-elected SRVUSD trustee Jesse vanZee. One of vanZee's competitors, Michelle Petersen, claims he pulled 'dirty tricks' that cost her the election. It's heavy on intrigue, but light on facts...

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, January 5, 2023, 3:57 PM

Comments (10)

Posted by Mike Arata
a resident of Danville
on Jan 7, 2023 at 3:57 am

Mike Arata is a registered user.

Given the “NOTICE OF SEPARATION FROM CITY SERVICE” shown, it appears that Michelle Petersen did not even take affirmative action to resign. Under “REASON OR COMMENTS REGARDING SEPARATION,” we see “Voluntary Separation – Failed to Return from Leave of Absence.”

Additionally, instead of showing an Employee’s [Petersen’s] Signature, that line indicates she was “Not Available for Signature.” She was evidently considered by Fire Department administrators as “resigned” by default.

The apparently relevant “Employee Separations” section in San Jose’s Administrative Policy Manual ( Web Link , “PROCEDURES,” bottom of page 2) says that the separating employee “Notifies supervisor of intention to leave City service and date of separation if the separation is voluntary. If the separation is involuntary, the employee will be notified by a City representative, in a manner determined by the reason for leaving.”

Further, if the resignation is actually “voluntary,” then the employee is expected to have filed the “Notice of Separation” herself, with her signature, “fourteen (14) days before the last day of work.”

Petersen’s campaign website conceded belatedly that she did not “retire.” And though the “Notice of Separation” is marked “Resigned,” that itself did not happen in the manner specified for voluntary separation from service (i.e., resignation).

It was very young East Bay Times reporter Rachel Heimann Mercader who wrote the initial specious article attacking Jesse vanZee, in a front-page editorial portrayed as news (Web Link ), on December 16.

LA Times columnist Mark Baraback then echoed the same theme on December 29, also being given EBT space for his similar version ( Web Link ).


Posted by Jennifer
a resident of Danville
on Jan 7, 2023 at 8:08 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

In God we trust. All others are under intense scrutiny. Okay, Petersen lied which destroys her credibility. I think "retired" looks worse than "former." We all have former employers, and the first thing I think is someone quit and they're looking for work elsewhere. Retired makes you sound old, and you're ready to relax, not seek further employment, including an SRVUSD election. Yes, some professions retire in middle age, but "retired" will always carry a certain stigma.


Posted by Jimbo
a resident of Danville
on Jan 7, 2023 at 2:54 pm

Jimbo is a registered user.

I appreciate you thoughtfulness and integrity. Both seem completely lost in popular media.


Posted by Mike Arata
a resident of Danville
on Jan 7, 2023 at 7:10 pm

Mike Arata is a registered user.

The ”East Bay Educators” Oct. 31st press release ( Web Link ) linked in the Heimann Mercader article ( Web Link ) said that “In late 2012, Ms. Sinnott Petersen was placed on full paid medical disability. Seven months later in the summer of 2013, Ms. Sinnott Petersen was competing in cycling and endurance races in violation of the terms of her disability claim with the San Jose Fire Department. Ms. Sinnott Petersen and the San Jose Fire Department mutually agreed to her leaving the department in January 2014.”

In the Nov. 5th East Bay Educators e-mail, three unnamed San Jose firefighters alleged (a) that Petersen was about to “get fired for workers comp fraud… on disability but competing in tough-mudder events and posting pictures online”; (b) that she “got in trouble for running triathlons while on disability, and she got fired/quit”; and (c) that she “resigned in disgrace.”

Heimann Mercader quoted Petersen not as denying all that directly but instead as saying that she “went on disability for pregnancy, and then had [her] baby,” that she “exhausted all of [her] own personal time off, took a year unpaid leave off, and then just quit.”

According to podcaster Matt Todd: in denying any connection to “East Bay Educators,” van Zee wrote to Heimann Mercader that “All felt the nastiness during this campaign, and there was a TON of misinformation floating around on social media for all the candidates. However, there is a big difference between a supporter of a candidate and the candidate himself. I never blamed Jerome or Michelle for untrue things their supporters said about me because I knew they couldn’t control their supporters.”

But Heimann Mercader misleadingly included only the second sentence of that statement, said Todd.


Posted by Parent and Voter
a resident of Danville
on Jan 9, 2023 at 7:22 am

Parent and Voter is a registered user.

It is a shame that some reporters had abused the access that they have with the public and attack one candidate while covering up activities of another (Peterson in this case). That is opinion, not news.
I always wondered about Peterson's background, whether her work and volunteer activities or associations with activist groups. Now we are learning more.
And she showed her "character" with her poor loser comments after she lost the SRVSD election.
Just my opinion.


Posted by H
a resident of San Ramon Valley High School
on Jan 9, 2023 at 9:08 am

H is a registered user.

The real issue is censorship and controlling the narrative. There is also an irony here: The truth that Ms. Petersen quit instead of retired came out and her cadre of terminally online fanatics decided to attack the winner of the election instead of addressing the actual issues. Now in the end, it comes out that the lies were not from who won the election but who lost. The lazy reporting ended up being more inaccurate than the press release in question! The outlandish behavior of these Nextdoor wakos beclowned Ms. Petersen and two news organizations by insisting (as always baselessly) that their opinion and voice is the only one that mattered - only in the end to be completely wrong.

This also makes clear that some local political organizations are tied directly with both social and traditional media and that connection was used to make frivolous claims against the legitimate winner of an election. This should be a lesson to value local objective publications like DanvilleSanRamon and support them with a subscription. This type of actual investigation with document evidence is what real local news should be about. It shouldn't be about just giving an outlet to the hurt feelings of online extremists with which a biased reporter politically sympathizes.


Posted by Mike Arata
a resident of Danville
on Jan 9, 2023 at 8:22 pm

Mike Arata is a registered user.

As this publication noted in endorsing Jesse vanZee for the SRVUSD Board ( Web Link ): “the current board is overly compliant with the administration's wants and whims” and “tends to disregard parent concerns way too often.” One example mentioned was “the “California High School cheer mascot debacle” that was amplified by Supt. Malloy ( Web Link ).

The endorsement observed correctly that “only vanZee promises to bring the independent thinking and the change this board needs.”

In a Sept. 27 candidate forum, and in contrast, Michelle Petersen applauded the current board's direction and vision — i.e. she sought to maintain/expand what sensible people recognize as SRVUSD’s perversely twisted objectives. She also warned against any removal of books already subject to school complaints elsewhere.

I wrote to Supt. Malloy and the Board of Education in November to advise that “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy,” two of those challenged books, are among the notorious, grossly pornographic titles available in high school libraries here. They likely fitted someone’s warped notion of “LGBTQ equity,” and should be removed.

Meanwhile, a recent “Engine of Matt Todd” podcast ( Web Link ) reveals the related problem at San Ramon Valley High School, already the site of other major scandals.

A distraught mom reported to Todd that her 14-year-old student’s English class was taken to the school library in order to select/be assigned a book on “gender identity,” thence to write a report.

The student was expected to write on “Gender Queer” — but refused, based on the book’s sordid content. The student reportedly then received a grade of zero on this depraved exercise.

SRVUSD and its corrupted administrators need adult intervention/rescue, like the schoolboys who’ve become savages in "Lord of the Flies."


Posted by Malcolm Hex
a resident of San Ramon
on Jan 25, 2023 at 9:47 am

Malcolm Hex is a registered user.

Trust but verify is an idea lost in the minds of people like Schiff and Swalwell. To wake up this morning and find out how upset Schiff is about being kicked off the House Intelligence Committee was simply beautiful. As for Swalwell, he lied too.

Swalwell and Schiff stated repeatedly that they have proof former President Trump is, not was, an agent of Russia. Mr. Mueller proved them wrong. I also find it interesting that this local rag endorses Swalwell. Balanced journalism appears to be a thing of the past.

What goes around comes around, Democrats.






Posted by Parent and Voter
a resident of Danville
on Jan 26, 2023 at 7:40 am

Parent and Voter is a registered user.

Now that we are finding out more about Michelle Peterson and both her campaign of mistruths and post campaign "activities" I wonder what the people who endorsed her think. A couple of the endorsees, including Newell Arnerich, are currently part of our Town Council. Perhaps it is time for voters to start bringing in some new voices to represent us in all parts of our local government.


Posted by Mike Arata
a resident of Danville
on Jan 26, 2023 at 4:14 pm

Mike Arata is a registered user.

Last October, Danville “Mayor Newell Arnerich” (via a personal gmail account) endorsed Petersen in a syrupy message. It included additional endorsements by then “Vice Mayor Robert Storer,” “Councilmember Dave Fong,” and “Current School Board Trustees Rachel Hurd & Susanna Ordway.”

Normally, elective-office persons include title disclaimers in such communications, to indicate that they’re not writing in official capacities. I don’t find that requirement quickly in online Danville postings, and it didn’t happen in Arnerich’s message. But to me and many others, it is nevertheless an abuse of privilege.

Perhaps worse was the Town Council response of Arnerich and Renee Morgan during 2020’s runup to the fall election that year. Democrat State Senator Glazer sought support for SB1349, essentially to ignore State Code, thereby to permit the local Contra Costa portion of sales taxes to exceed California’s statutory 2.0% limit (Section 7251.1, Revenue and Taxation Code Web Link ).

Though Danville’s “Legislative Framework” expects a Council subcommittee and then full Council to “Advocate the Town’s legislative interests,” Town Manager Joe Calabrigo, responding immediately and unilaterally “On behalf of the Town of Danville,” endorsed SB1349, saying in double talk that the bill wouldn’t “raise the existing 2% cap,” instead that it “simply clarifies existing law.”

I objected officially in July 2020, when there was still time for Town Council to act consistently with its own Legislative Framework — i.e, to retract Calabrigo’s letter, then to act on Glazer’s request in publicly noticed meetings.

The Council refused, with Arnerich and Morgan responding to me derisively. SB1349 later passed, aided by Calabrigo’s unilateral endorsement. The County then placed what should have been an illegal half-percent sales-tax increase on the Nov. 2020 ballot.

It passed, though 57% of Danville voters said “NO.”


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