Troubled Trifecta: a slate of school board candidates in Manhattan Beach comes under scrutiny [UPDATE]

Members of the Trifecta slate of candidates for the Manhattan Beach Unified School District Board of Education leave the stage at the Mira Costa High School auditorium following a candidates forum in September (left to right) Mike Welsh, Johnny Uriostegui, and Christy Barnes. In the background are candidates Jen Fenton and Tina Shivpuri. Photos by Kevin Cody

[Retraction: An article in Easy Reader’s November 3 print edition, titled “Troubled Trifecta,  a slate of school board candidates in Manhattan Beach comes under scrutiny,” assert that candidate Mike Welsh was not registered to vote until the day he pulled papers to run for school board. The article also asserts the real estate developer had multiple foreclosures. Easy Reader based its voter registration assertion on Los Angeles County Registrar voter records that reported Welsh registered to vote on July 19, 2022, and that he was not registered prior to that date. The report did not list his voting record, as it does for other voters. Easy Reader has learned the County records were inaccurate. Following publication, Welsh provided a report from the State of California voter election website that showed he was a registered voter previous to July, and had voted in previous elections. Easy Reader’s assertion that Welsh had been involved in several foreclosures was also based on Los Angeles County records. Welsh said the County documents Easy Reader relied on referred  to properties he foreclosed on, not properties foreclosed on him.
Easy Reader apologizes for the mistaken assertions regarding Welsh’s voter registration status, and his foreclosure transactions.]

by Mark McDermott 

Three candidates on the November 8 ballot for the Manhattan Beach school board are running as a slate. They call themselves “the Trifecta,” a gambling term referring to a bet on the top three finishers in a race. Two  members of the slate have unlikely histories for candidates seeking to serve as trustees of a school district. 

Candidate Johnny Uriostegui has a history of legal trouble, documented by court documents spanning three decades. 

Candidate Christy Barnes spent a decade working for two companies that pioneered payment processing for internet pornography, and gambling. 

Court documents show that in 1989 and 1992 Uriostegui was arrested for driving under the influence. He was also arrested twice for driving with a suspended license, the second time, in 2015, when he was also charged with driving on a sidewalk. He was convicted on the first DUI. The second DUI charge was reduced to a reckless driving conviction. 

Civil court records show he was sued in 2005 for sexual harassment, discrimination, and battery by a longtime co-worker, and that his former fiancée sued him for fraud and deceit in 2002. Uriostegui was also arrested for domestic violence in 2008, four months before filing for divorce from his then-wife. Attorneys representing Uriostegui in part of the divorce proceedings later sued him for breach of contract.  

Beginning in 2001, Barnes worked for Paycom, one of the first companies to handle internet financial transactions, largely within the pornography industry. A few years later, she left Paycom when its CEO, Christopher Mallick, was fired, and for the next decade was involved in start-ups with him, including ePassporte, another company that handled online financial transactions, this time with prepaid credit cards, mostly used for gambling and pornography. Visa eventually suspended verification of ePassporte transactions, creating a controversy in which thousands of customers claimed millions in lost funds. This occurred in 2010. Barnes also worked with Mallick in a Hollywood production company, called Oxymoron, which produced a film released in 2010 called “Middle Men.” The film was about the early days of internet pornography, and the money made in processing its purchase. At the time, Barnes was president of Oxymoron. Over the next three years, the production company made two documentaries, one about retired porn stars, and one about a camp for special needs children. 

Barnes has described Mallick on social media as a gifted “serial entrepreneur” from whom she learned much. 

Barnes’ family home in Manhattan Beach is currently in pre-foreclosure, having fallen into default in April. 

Uriostegui, in his first interview after announcing his candidacy —  which is his first run for public office, as it is for Barnes and Welsh —  was aware that elements of his past would face scrutiny. 

“I am always very controversial,” he said. 

MBUSD school board candidates at the Chamber of Commerce-sponsored forum at Mira Costa High School last month (left to right) Christy Barnes, Jen Fenton, Tina Shivpuri, Johnny Uriostegui, Wysh Weinstein, and Mike Welsh. Photo by Kevin Cody

The Trifecta candidates say they are running because they feel drastic reform is needed within MBUSD. They cite declining enrollment, a statewide trend in public schools, as evidence of district dysfunction. One of the key issues in their campaign is they feel parents who voice opposition are silenced by district leaders. An example each has raised in public forums is the cease and desist letters issued by school district attorneys in January 2021 to three residents who acknowledged involvement in the otherwise anonymous newsletter group WeTheParentsMB. The newsletter group alleged that MBUSD teaches Critical Race Theory, and accused then-board president Jen Fenton (currently a candidate for reelection) of hiring “race and gender police” to do classroom walkthroughs in MBUSD schools, among other unsubstantiated claims. Fenton, at the time, said she faced threats from within the community due to the assertions. 

All three candidates were likewise inspired to run because of the citizen initiative Measure A, a proposed $1,095 parcel tax intended to fund local schools. Measure A was rejected by 68 percent of voters last June. The measure was supported by members of the current school board and its campaign committee was co-chaired by Wysh Weinstein, who is one of six candidates for three seats on the November 8 ballot. An anonymously funded campaign against the measure was the subject of a complaint and an ongoing investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission. Barnes, who said she was not involved in the anonymous campaign, is one of the parents being investigated. 

The Trifecta has been vigorously supported by Councilperson Suzanne Hadley, a candidate for reelection on the November 8 ballot. This week,  Hadley publicly urged voters to support the Trifecta so the new board majority would be able to “sever” MBUSD superintendent John Bowes’ contract. Bowes was hired in July 2021. 

The Trifecta candidates have said their combined business backgrounds would help them better manage the school district. 

In her first interview with Easy Reader, after announcing her candidacy, Barnes said the Trifecta would bring change to MBUSD. 

“If you are really happy with how the district and the school board is right now, we are probably not your candidates,” Barnes said. “If you don’t want change, we are not your candidates. But if you want the school district to be really focusing on academics, focusing on bringing back the children, and families who have left, and really paying attention to what their needs are —  not just exit interviews, but really communicate with them the first time —  we are your candidates. We are very business savvy, we really care about your children, we are willing to have those ugly conversations, and we are not going to make parents feel ridiculed. We will listen.”

Uriostegui was unruffled by any of the issues raised about the Trifecta. In response to questions about the sexual harassment and battery lawsuit, he said that allegations in the lawsuit against him were “100 percent untrue.” Uriostegui said that as a broker for some of the biggest financial firms in the country, he has faced thorough scrutiny throughout his career yet, his CRD (Central Registration Depository) license and work history —  which includes the investment adviser public disclosure record kept by the Securities Exchange Commission —  is unblemished. 

“I have a very, very, very thick skin,” Uriostegui said. “And I think it’s interesting, very few things have been dug up on me, but it seems like Christy’s the flavor of the week. Every Sunday night, it’s like, ‘Let’s find out what kind of dirt we can throw at her.’ I support her now more than I ever have because this is the thing — there are either wedding friends or funeral friends. Everybody loves you when everything’s good. When [stuff] hits the fan, that’s when you know who your real friends are. I’ve watched this girl go from ‘the book burner,’ to ‘hating gays,’ to forfeiting the house, the foreclosure. And she sits there and says, ‘Yeah, but the issues are this…’ And I just look at her and I go, ‘God, I love this woman.’” 

Uriostegui said the Trifecta’s personal lives have been repeatedly attacked as a means of distracting voters from the actual issues at stake in the election. He said the only issues the Trifecta brings up regarding the other candidates —  Weinstein, Fenton, and Tina Shivpuri —  are those that are directly relevant to MBUSD policy. 

“We have never personally attacked Jen, Wysh or Tina,” Uriostegui said. “All I’ve specifically said is, ‘This is what Jan has done while she has been on the school board,’” like how we went back to school five months after LA County allowed kids to go back [to classroom learning during the pandemic], or a number of different issues on the budget. But those are real issues, real things that apply to people who are voting. Wysh is the co-founder of Measure A. She spent all of her time and money putting effort into that, including taking money from kids, PTA funds and Ed Foundation funds [that were used for campaign donations].” 

“If you can’t talk about the subject, this is what happens. You know, that a kid got two drunk driving tickets when he was in college, or drove on a sidewalk or something….Talk to me about the issues.” 

John Uriostegui. Photo courtesy of the candidate

Uriostegui’s legal history

Uriostegui was arrested for driving while intoxicated, and reckless driving in 1989, according to court records. He was convicted of what attorneys term a “wet” reckless driving charge, in which the DUI was dismissed. Three years later, Uriostegui was again arrested for driving while intoxicated, as well as driving with a suspended license. He was convicted on the DUI charge. 

Uriostegui was sued for fraud and deceit in 2002 by his former fiancee, who is the mother of his first child. The complaint states they were engaged in November 1998, and that he ended the engagement in January 2001, when she was two months pregnant. The former fiancee sought damages for Uriogstegui’s “despicable and egregious conduct” that the complaint alleged caused lasting physical harm and emotional distress. The complaint alleged he gave her a lifelong venereal disease.

“Defendant admitted to Plaintiff that he had engaged in a pattern of late night partying, drinking excessive quantities of alcohol and sexual relations with at least two women, other than Plaintiff,” the complaint alleged. 

The case was not pursued beyond the initial complaint and was dismissed by the court in August 2002. Uriostegui said he had no recollection of that lawsuit, but did recall his former fiancee suing over alleging he’d failed to pay child support, and being herself fined by the court for “blatantly lying” after cashed checks were submitted. 

Another civil lawsuit, filed against Uriostegui in 2005, involved his workplace. 

Uriostegui has worked as a financial adviser since 1990, and has been a broker for some of the largest companies in the industry, including Dean Witter, Deutsche Bank, and Smith Barney. In August 2005, while at Smith Barney, a civil suit was filed against him and the firm by a coworker. The woman who filed the complaint (whose name was on the complaint but will not be used in this article) sought damages for sexual harassment, retaliation, and discrimination under California Government Code and sexual battery under California Civil Code. The complaints were also lodged with the California Department of Employment and Fair Housing. No criminal charges were filed.

According to court documents, the woman was a sales assistant who began her employment with Smith Barney in 1999, working for Uriostegui’s team in the firm’s El Segundo office. The complaint alleges that from the outset he “constantly and continuously” commented on her looks and clothing. Then, in July 2001, the complaint alleges, Uriostegui was signing off on a phone call and said, “Mitch, I’m busy, gotta go, [she]’s down on her knees, I gotta take care of business,” and then hung up the phone and laughed. Then, a month later, the complaint says that Uriostegui met the woman while out with friends, and offered her the use of a spare room in his home since she’d been drinking. 

“While at his home, Plaintiff awoke in the middle of the night to find Uriostegui sexually assaulting, attacking, violating…her,” the complaint alleges. 

The complaint says that the woman confronted Uriostegui about the alleged assault afterward, and states that over the next few years, he made indirect reference on multiple occasions, including telling co-workers “I had that” in reference to her. The complaint also alleges that Uriostegui  slapped her buttocks on multiple occasions, and at one point in 2004 told the woman “she could make more money as a stripper.” 

The complaint says that in February 2005 the woman was “constructively and wrongfully terminated” from employment at the Smith Barney office and transferred to another brokerage firm, CitiFinancial. Under California law, constructive termination means an employer intentionally creates or knowingly permits intolerable working conditions for an employee so that the worker feels no choice but to quit.

The woman filed to dismiss the case in January 2006. She declined to comment when reached for this article. Her lead attorney,  Marcus Mancini, was the principal in a firm that specializes in California employment law. Mancini’s most prominent case was a $2 million award in a civil case against Larry Flynt, and Hustler for a secretary who sued for sexual harassment. Mancini died in 2020. A junior attorney who worked on the matter said he could not comment on this case. 

In an interview, Uriostegui recalled that the woman had been his assistant’s assistant and worked for him for “six or seven years,” including a period of a year or so when she left and then came back. He said she filed multiple complaints over the years involving different co-workers. He said she alleged that she had not been promoted due to her race, was subsequently promoted, and then filed the sexual harassment charges.

“This has been almost 20 years ago, but I just remember it seemed like every three or four months, there was always something new,” he said. 

A search of court records did not find other lawsuits filed by the woman against Smith Barney. Her civil suit against Smith Barney and Uriostegui does name other parties, including another broker who worked at Smith Barney, and CitiFinancial, where she briefly worked for that broker after both left Smith Barney. The allegations against the other broker were about sharing inappropriate sexual material via email. 

A former Smith Barney employee who worked in the El Segundo office at that time agreed to talk on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. The former employee did not directly witness the behavior alleged in the lawsuit, but alleged seeing similar behavior by Uriostegui with other women in the office. 

“Everybody in the office knew that inappropriate things were being said,” the former employee said. “Johnny thought he was a big swinging you-know-what, and nothing would stick to him. Because that is how they act, the top producers, and they could get away with it. Nobody said anything because everybody is benefiting from what they do.” 

At the time, the alleged victim confided with her co-worker regarding the incidents detailed in the lawsuit, the former employee said. Uriostegui’s sales assistant was an African American, single mother of two children, with a high school education, the former employee said, and thus felt powerless to do anything about the circumstance lest she lose her job. 

“Sales assistants in wirehouses can make six figures,” the former employee said. “I don’t think she thought she could replace that job, and she had two teenagers to take care of.” 

Uriostegui said none of the allegations had any basis in fact. He said he was deposed on the matter, and that Smith Barney attorneys thoroughly investigated the allegations, at one point taking his phone and computers.

“They had a guy go to my house,” he said. “They went through my personal email. I mean, my firm went through every nook and cranny. They went through paper files. She said there were inappropriate emails. They went through everything, personal and work. My firm was a lot harder on me than her attorney. Then they said, ‘Okay, we’re going to back you 100 percent.’ I said, ‘Back me on what?’” 

“I never heard anything more,” he said. “They never wrote me up, never said anything. If there was a settlement or credible complaint that involved me, there would’ve been disciplinary action. It would have been on my U4 [employment history report] and CRD. Both are sparkling clean.” 

Urigostegui said he bears no animosity, either towards the woman who made these allegations, or the fact that they have come up now that he is running for office. 

“I am an open book,” he said. “I’ve got nothing to hide. I’m ready to go.” 

In April of 2008, Uriostegui was arrested for alleged domestic violence in Hermosa Beach, according to court and police records. The charge was not prosecuted. In July 2008, he filed for divorce from his wife, Angel Maffei. 

Uriostegui acknowledged the allegation but said it was among many that occurred around the time of the divorce. 

“That’s what they do when you get divorced,” he said. “They throw a bunch of [stuff] at the wall, and some sticks. That one didn’t stick. Call her divorce attorney, Bill Glavin. That’s who she married. They put my life through hell for 10 years, and they both support me [in the school board election]. How is that for a comment? My signs are in their yard.” 

The law firm that Uriostegui initially hired to represent him in those divorce proceedings later filed suit against him for breach of contract, alleging he’d failed to pay $25,834 in fees. Court documents show the firm began pursuing the money in 2011 and filed to dismiss the complaint in 2013. 

Uriostegui said a lawyer for the firm represented him for a few months but didn’t recall a breach of contract lawsuit. 

“I knew we ended on bad terms,” he said. 

Disputes continued for a decade in the divorce proceedings. The couple have two sons. Conflicts arose regarding child support, and attorneys fees Maffei incurred, successfully increasing that support in court actions.  Those conflicts were ongoing through 2019. Uriostegui fought against paying $25,000 in attorneys fees all the way to state appeals court, succeeding in Superior Court and then losing in the California Court of Appeals. 

In 2015, Uriostegui was again arrested for driving with a suspended license, as well as driving on a sidewalk in Hermosa Beach. He was convicted for the latter. 

Uriostegui did not recall that arrest. He expressed exasperation regarding questions about his legal and criminal history. 

“Seriously, you are calling me about these things?” he said. “If you want to call me about what I did with a policy or a product or something that I did coaching that was totally out of line or something that was representative of what was going on for the last 30 years…You are trying to find anything that I ever did that was wrong, and package it together to show that is my character. That is perfect for what you guys are.” 

“If I get elected, I’m going to do the old  Donald Trump thing. You can quote that. I am going to do Twitter, I am not going to deal with you guys. It’s just unbelievable. Like, are you serious?”

Christy Barnes. Photo courtesy of the candidate

Barnes’ background

A scene early in the 2009 movie “Middle Men,” depicts when the character based on Christopher Mallick first understands what the underlying technology developed by his soon-to-be business partners is capable of doing. 

“You two figured out a way to take a credit card from somebody anywhere in the world and deliver a product anywhere in the world, and neither side ever sees each other?” asks his character, played by actor Luke Wilson. 

“That’s correct,” one of the two men says. 

“And that was your idea?” 


“Well, that’s a great one. And that’s a way to make money long-term.”

The scene takes place in 1997 and is based on when Mallick first became involved in a business that would become Paycom, which was a pioneer in online payment transactions. The industry that made Paycom possible, and essentially launched what would later be known as e-commerce, was adult entertainment. Prior to Paycom, and a handful of other companies, people were unable to buy things on the internet. Online pornography drove this technology. It was the first business in which customers began making millions of dollars in transactions on the World Wide Web. 

“Middle Men” tells the story of how Mallick and his business partners grew extremely wealthy very quickly, and the moral quandaries that came with their dealings, which were deeply enmeshed with the pornography industry,  the Russian mob, and eventually the FBI. Mallick told Details magazine “about 80 percent” of the script was based on real events. Christy Barnes was then president of Oxymoron, the production company that made the movie, one of a series of ventures in which she worked alongside Mallick. 

Barnes went to work for Paycom in October, 2001, shortly after graduating from college. By that time, Paycom was a thriving, multi-million dollar business with hundreds of employees based in Marina Del Rey. She worked in corporate relations. 

“I started working for Paycom when I was 22 years old, and I learned everything there is to know about the payment processing industry,” Barnes said. “It’s not all porn and gaming. You’ve got anti-money laundering rules, you’ve got know-your-customer rules. There’s so many regulations and so much compliance that’s part of the product —  specifically, the payment processing part. I mean, there is all the fraud [issues], all of the compliance, and working with the FBI. We had the FBI in our office every week and we’d go through all the fraudsters. There is so much to it, from the payment processing side, that I am proud and happy I have that experience.” 

Barnes said much of “Middle Men” is accurate, including a plotline in which Paycom is able to assist the FBI in identifying 9/11 terrorists, who used the payment processing system to purchase pornography. But the scene involving the accidental murder of a Russian mobster, she said, was entirely fictional. 

“It’s a little bit embellished,” she said. “We didn’t murder anybody. Nobody was killed.”

Barnes does acknowledge that she dealt, at a corporate level, with the pornography industry. 

“Just from the payment processing side, was a really great experience, regardless of the industry,” she said. “Then the porn thing came along —  it was a business. It was hundreds and hundreds of employees. We had to go to trade shows. You had to set up meetings. You had to set up reserve accounts….I am proud of the experience and what I learned in regards to the accounting side and the business side of payment processing, which is huge. It runs our entire life.” 

But Barnes bristles at the notion that she worked in the porn industry. 

“It was not the porn industry, and I am very offended that anybody would say such a thing, to be honest,” Barnes said. “That is really, really dirty. People who say that over a school board election should be ashamed. I’ve got a family. I’ve got children in this school district. I’ve poured my life into this community since my kids were little. It’s pretty shameful, to be honest. from the opposition.” 

Mallick left Paycom under litigious circumstances in 2005 but took with him another payment processing business he’d helped develop, called ePassporte. Barnes left with him, and went to work at ePassporte, which was a peer-to-peer based payment processing system Paycom had developed to capitalize on the void left after PayPal in 2003 stopped allowing its service to be used for adult entertainment purchases. The ePassporte card allowed for anonymous purchasing. It was a virtual, prepaid credit card, but ePassporte also issued physical ATM cards that included the Visa imprint. Like Paycom, it began as an extremely lucrative business. But in 2010, only weeks after “Middle Men” was released, Visa International suspended the ePassporte Visa program, including a card issued by St. Kitts Nevis Anguilla National Bank that allowed ePassporte customers to withdraw cash at ATMs around the world. At the time, former Washington Post financial reporter Brian Krebs conducted an investigation in which he found both ePassporte and the primary bank it listed for customers wiring or transferring funds, United International Bank, were based at the same physical address, in Curaçao, a small island nation in the southern Caribbean Sea. Within a month of the Visa suspension, ePassporte folded. An estimated 100,000 account holders were left without the money they’d prepaid into the ePassporte cards.  Mallick told Details magazine the missing funds were about $5 million, while some account holders believed the number was much higher —  as much as $100 million. “Middle Men,” meanwhile, cost $32 million to make and generated $800,000 at the box office. Conspiracy theories arose that claimed the movie was made with ePassporte funds, and several websites still exist —  presumably run by angry former account holders —  with names like On those sites, Barnes is portrayed as an accomplice. 

Barnes said she was as surprised as anyone when ePassporte imploded. 

“It did just disappear,” she said. “I was a good, loyal employee. Thankfully, I was not an owner. I didn’t have any affiliation with funds. I’ve read all the news accounts as well, even though I try to stay off the internet when it comes to those kinds of things. And I think to have a small stain on all the positive things we did is shameful.” 

Barnes said it is also important to note how drastically the internet has changed in the last 22 years. 

“The internet when I started is not what it is today,” Barnes said. “What people need to understand is that when E-Commerce first started on the internet, it was built by porn and gambling sites. They were the early adopters, and then came banking and other industries. The security protocols and policing was developed as part of this new E-commerce technology, and our company was a payment processor for all industries engaged in E-commerce on the internet at that time.”

Barnes is particularly proud of the films Oxymoron Entertainment made while she was its president, which in addition to “Middle Men” include a pair of documentaries made in 2012 and 2013, “After Porn Ends” and “Camp.” The latter is about a camp for special needs children. Because her association with Mallick became a frequent topic of social media discussion during the campaign, Barnes posted on social media about it. 

I would like to directly address the recent attempts to undermine and marginalize me due to my professional affiliation with Mr. Mallick,” Barnes wrote.” I began working for Mr. Mallick a year after graduating college. Put simply, he is a gifted, uber creative serial entrepreneur with a proven knack for identifying disruptive technologies, investing in them and then harvesting them. Over the span of two decades, I had the incredible opportunity to develop several groundbreaking companies and unique technologies, creating many millions of dollars of equity value, creating hundreds of jobs, and —  most relevant to this campaign —  learning from the ground up how to grow, finance and successfully manage all aspects of a thriving business entity.” 

Barnes wrote that she managed over 200 employees and processed “multiple billions of dollars of transactions,” and that she and Mallick utilized the success of Paycom to contribute to several important causes. 

We helped create the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, donated valuable office space and IT equipment, and lended our unique transactional expertise to the FBI, and in doing so assisted them to apprehend a 9/11 bomber,” Barnes wrote. 

 Barnes also noted that some of their businesses had nothing to do with online payment processing. 

“We also created StereoD, an innovative company that cost-effectively converted 2D movies into 3D,” Barnes wrote. “I worked directly with such famous directors as James Cameron and M. Night Shyamala on films such as Avatar, Titanic, The Last Airbender, The Green Lantern, etc. I negotiated all the contracts with the major studios to provide them our innovative technology to enable their movies to come alive.” 

Barnes did not directly reference the controversy surrounding Paycom or ePassporte but did write that her loyalty ran perhaps too deep. 

“I am an extremely loyal and dedicated employee, almost to a fault, and when things get tough, I persevere and manage through adversity,” she wrote. “I don’t quit! I am a scrappy, brutally honest, highly ethical person and I am proud of my work experience.” 

Barnes, in an interview, also addressed her home’s preforeclosure. Real estate records show her family’s home loan went into default in late April, for $69,000. Barnes said the loan has recently been purchased by a different bank and a loan modification is underway, taking the home out of pre-foreclosure. 

“Like many other families, we went through a hard time during COVID,” Barnes said. 

Councilperson Suzanne Hadley, herself a candidate for reelection on the November 8 ballot, is an unflinching supporter of the Trifecta school board candidates. Photo by Kevin Cody

The election

The November 8 election, at the local level, is unlike any previous election in Manhattan Beach history. Majority control of both the school board, and city council are at stake, and battle lines have been starkly drawn. 

Hadley has thrown her considerable support behind the Trifecta. Over the past two years, she has on a few occasions appeared before the school board to take up issues that are echoed in the national political movement, exemplified by, a site that has attacked the “woke” movement over issues that include reading lists, and the alleged influence of Critical Race Theory on what is being taught in schools. 

Hadley is a key player in the election. At the last filing date, she had raised $68,000 for her reelection, by far the most of any candidate, and among the largest amounts ever raised by a single candidate in a Manhattan Beach election. She has an avid base of support and is using it to help elect the Trifecta. 

Meanwhile, two of Hadley’s colleagues on the council, Mayor Steve Napolitano and Councilperson Richard Montgomery, have come out against her reelection and have thrown their support behind two former council colleagues, Amy Howorth and David Lesser, as well as the three non-Trifecta school board candidates, Shivpuri, Weinstein, and Fenton. 

Napolitano is a six-time mayor and the most experienced elected official in the city. He is a Republican who also formerly served a deputy to LA County Supervisor Don Knabe, and subsequently ran to succeed him. He said in an interview that local politics used to be an area devoid of partisan politics and expressed concern that this is no longer the case.  

“Running for local office here in Manhattan Beach used to be about giving back to your community and finding common ground on issues that are important to everyone,” Napolitano said. “Unfortunately, the partisan divide of our national and state politics is trickling down to our local races, whether candidates admit it or not. I don’t see how that serves us well locally, when there’s no Democratic or Republican way to fix a pothole, people just want it fixed. Local government is about solving problems, and we can’t do that to the best of our ability when folks lock themselves in ideological boxes, whether they’re on the right or left. Flexibility and compromise are not dirty words, and folks need to know that they’re going to have to work with others when they get elected, whether they want to or not. I think we’re best served by the canoe theory of politics — you paddle some on the left, and some on the right, and that’s what makes the canoe go forward. If you just paddle on one side or the other, you just go in a circle and never really get anywhere.” 

Barnes also decried the bitter partisanship, which she said is reflected in attacks on her and her family. 

“I think what is happening is what’s happening across the country, and I’m really sad to see it happening in our own small town community,” Barnes said. “We walk to school and we see families, and now people don’t even say hi because they don’t believe in what is being said in this election. It’s not the kind of community I want my children raised in if it’s going to continue. And this is exactly why people don’t run [for elected office]. People don’t run because they are afraid about what is going to come out from 20 years ago, and it shouldn’t impact the decisions we are making today, in trying to make the change.” 

Barnes echoed Uriostegui in saying that the personal histories of candidates is a distraction from the real issues in how the school district is being run.  

“We’ve been given similar dirt on our opponents and we’ve intentionally run a campaign focused on the issues and our kids’ education,” she said. “We didn’t call you with this hurtful information about spouses employment changes, failed personal endeavors, in-home parental issues, etc. We stayed focused on the policies and I’m proud of that.”

Brenda O’Leary, a local resident who launched a social media column that has taken aim at the Trifecta, said that personal history matters. 

“I think it’s an integrity issue,” O’Leary said. “It’s so important to our community and to our children’s future to elect people who will lead our districts with integrity. And when you look at the past of Christy, Johnny, or Mike, it shows that they don’t have integrity.”

Hadley, informed of the details of this story, issued a statement. 

“It is the last week of my own re-election campaign,” she wrote. “Therefore I am not in a position to issue a point-by-point response to matters I am just now hearing. Nonetheless, three things stand out to me:

First, as someone who has endorsed Johnny, do I wish I had known some of this beforehand? Yes. But I take a great deal of comfort from the fact that Johnny works in the high-regulated financial services industry. My husband was regulated by the same agency for 25 years. I am confident Johnny would simply not be employed in this industry if these allegations were all true.

Second, what is hiding in plain sight in this school-board campaign is the failure of MBUSD trustees and insider candidates to do their jobs to support education in MB. Trustee Jen Fenton has unconstitutionally and outrageously used MBUSD resources and lawyers to intimidate parents who have exercised their First Amendment rights because they care about their kids’ education. Trustee Jason Boxer has used the MBUSD imprimatur to advocate the unacceptable sexualization of our students on social media, with barely a word of protest from  other MBUSD trustees. MBUSD candidate Wysh Weinstein led the use of $50,000 of MBEF funds (and $130,000 of MB taxpayer funds) to support a divisive parcel tax that MBUSD/MBEF’s own polling told them had no chance of passing. Why is the Easy Reader focused on the private lives of candidates going back 30 years instead of holding the MBUSD and MBEF accountable?

Finally, I would be interested to know who has spent the time and money digging this up? Thirty-year-old allegations on candidates trying to bring much-needed change to MBUSD. I hope the Easy Reader will be clear with its readers on this point.”  





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