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Residency question contributes to Citrus trustee’s defeat

After serving on the Citrus Community College District Board of Trustees since 1982, it had become a foregone conclusion that Gary L. Woods—representative for Azusa and portions of Duarte—will win a seat on the board each time he comes up for reelection.

That expectation was dashed in Tuesday’s municipal election when 36 percent of voters opted to bring a fresh face, Barbara Dickerson, to the board. Mr. Woods took third place in the election, capturing 24.9 percent of the votes.

Ms. Dickerson’s current term on the Azusa Unified School District Board of Education, for which she has served as vice president, will expire just in time for her to be sworn in for her Citrus College post. She also is executive director of Neighborhood Homework House, an Azusa nonprofit aimed at helping the city’s at-risk PK-12 students “advance academically in a supportive setting through parent involvement, mentoring relationships, community partnerships and spiritual support.” In other educational experience, Ms. Dickerson spent many years as a professor and administrator at Arizona State University and Grand Canyon University.

Five candidates vied for one open board seat, making for a competitive race that contributed to Mr. Woods’ defeat. An ongoing controversy likely played a part as well. The longtime trustee has been under investigation for several months amid allegations that he does not live in the area he represents.

The conflict began in March of this year, when Citrus College Faculty Association President John Fincher questioned the legitimacy of Mr. Woods’ longstanding claim that he lives in a one-bedroom senior apartment in Azusa. At Mr. Fincher’s urging, the California Teacher’s Association undertook an investigation regarding the matter.

Evidence was collected allegedly showing Mr. Woods, a professor at Pasadena City College as well as an attorney, coming and going from a $1.1 million home in Sierra Madre. While Mr. Woods has denied the allegations throughout, the Citrus board of trustees voted in April to obtain legal council regarding the residency concerns. At the following meeting on May 7, it was decided the board form an ad-hoc advisory committee consisting of three trustees, including Sue Keith—who represents Claremont and portions of Pomona and La Verne—to look into the matter. 

Aided by attorney Chris Keeler of the Fagan, Friedman & Fulfrost law firm, the committee concluded at the September 10 meeting that there was enough evidence casting doubt as to Mr. Wood’s claim he lives in Azusa. They went on to sue the board member in quo warranto. Quo warranto is a legal proceeding during which an individual’s right to hold an office is challenged.

With Mr. Woods voted out, that decision is likely a moot point, according to Ms. Keith. What’s more, Ms. Keith confirmed on Wednesday that Mr. Keeler had not yet filed an application with the attorney general’s office. Mr. Keeler explained the delay by saying it was unlikely the attorney general would grant leave to sue in quo warranto as a public official’s term came to an end. Mr. Keeler had planned to move forward with the suit after the election, had Mr. Woods regained his seat. 

Mr. Woods has maintained that detractors are trying to smear him publicly, asserting in an August interview with the COURIER, “They’re trying to try me in the press rather than in the courts,” he said.

And, in the end, news of the residency issue may have been a deciding issue for some voters.

Ms. Keith had little to say on Wednesday about Mr. Wood’s defeat, but did say that Ms. Dickerson’s background in K-12 and higher education makes her a qualified and promising addition to the board.

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com

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