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Ruiz reelection has union squawking

November 04, 2004

Jeff Benson

Tuesday's election didn't change anything in the Coast Community

College and Newport-Mesa Unified districts, as six incumbents

retained their posts.

Coast Community College District trustee Armando Ruiz won his

reelection bid Tuesday night, just days after retiring from the post

to cash in on a loophole in state law allowing him to collect a hiked

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pension.

With 40.8% of the vote, Ruiz fended off challengers Bonnie Castrey

and Diane Lenning, who pulled in 31.6% and 27.5%, respectively.

Because he retired Sunday, Ruiz won't return to the boardroom until

Dec. 15, when his next term begins.

Castrey's campaign was heavily backed by the district's teachers'

union, the Coast Federation of Educators, and Ruiz said he believed

the controversy over his retirement was a ploy by the union to

install a more liberal candidate.

"I feel the voters had very good confidence in me, even though the

negative press I received from the union," he said.

Castrey interpreted her loss differently. She said she believes

the majority of voters were opposed to Ruiz but split their ballots

between Lenning and herself.

The teachers' union is not ready to give up efforts against Ruiz.

On Monday, Coast Federation of Educators President Dean Mancina

hand-delivered letters to the Orange County District Attorney's

Office and Orange County Department of Education requesting an

investigation into Ruiz's actions leading up to his retirement and

election. He also mailed a request to the Fair Political Practices

Commission and requested a temporary restraining order to bar Ruiz's

certification as a trustee if he won the election.

In his letters, Mancina requested a restraining order be imposed

against the certification of Ruiz's election until an investigation

can be completed.

Ruiz has been scrutinized by Mancina and fellow trustee Jerry

Patterson for running for reelection without notifying voters of his

intention to retire three days before the election.

"As you can see from looking at the results, 59% voted against

Armando Ruiz," Mancina said. "A hard word to overcome is the word

'incumbent.' Only 41% of the public voted for the incumbent. We're

very disappointed, but we tried our best to get the word out. We

didn't know he retired until Friday night at 4:30. It's such a

devious plan to not tell the public."

By retiring from the board and his counseling job at Irvine Valley

College on the same day, Ruiz is eligible to cash in on a loophole in

state law that enables him to double-dip in both pensions and collect

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