Calif. Senate rejects gov’s education board choice |

Calif. Senate rejects gov’s education board choice

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – The state Senate on Thursday squashed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s nominee to the state Board of Education, with those opposed to her appointment saying her current job makes for an “irreconcilable” conflict of interest.

It was just the third time over the last five years that the Senate had rejected a gubernatorial appointee.

The Senate voted 17-11 on a strict party-line vote to reject Jeannie Oropeza. Democrats said her regular job as Schwarzenegger’s education expert in the Department of Finance would prevent her from being an independent voice on the board.

She has worked for the state for 20 years.

“We all respect her work ethic and her knowledge of the issues,” said Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. “But I see an irreconcilable conflict between her day job and the role of Board of Education member.”

California law prohibits individuals from holding two public offices that are incompatible due to circumstances such as one office having hiring or firing power over members of the second office.

In her role at the finance department, Oropeza would be in a position to make Board of Education appointment recommendations to the governor, while simultaneously serving on that board, Steinberg said. He also noted her frequent appearances before the Legislature to testify on matters related to the state education budget.

Schwarzenegger issued a statement Thursday expressing his disappointment with the decision.

“There is no one more knowledgeable about California education issues and no one more qualified to serve on the state board than Jeannie Oropeza,” he said.

The 49-year-old from Woodland was one of four people the governor selected last month to fill vacancies on the 11-member board. She would have received a $100 per diem on top of her Department of Finance salary, which was $135,000 last year.

Before assuming her current role as budget manager of the department’s Education Systems Unit in 1998, Oropeza served as an education budget consultant for the state Assembly for two years.

Oropeza did not return phone calls Thursday from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Republican lawmakers expressed surprise the vote took place more than a year before the May 30, 2011, deadline to accept or reject Oropeza’s appointment.

“If we think there’s a conflict here, let’s take the time to find out if there is,” said Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster. “If not, we’re just talking about relationships and influences, and that describes every political appointee.”

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