The harassment of Fresno State Student Body President Pedro Ramirez by a Tea Party activist continues unabated.
The latest move of so-called citizens’ advocate Neil O’Brien was the launching of an online campaign in early February via his Web site. He’s trying to pressure Fresno County District Attorney Elizabeth Egan into filing a misdemeanor charge of not presenting a driver’s license at the scene of a traffic collision against Ramirez. There’s been dead silence from the District Attorney’s Office.
An attempt in late January to remove Ramirez and Cesar Sanchez, vice president for finance, by the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI), Senate was stalled after attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California sent the organization a letter. The letter warned that the two could only be removed from office by the Senate for missing too many meetings or for violating campus policies or rules.
According to the ACLU letter, a “review” of Ramirez and Sanchez was prompted by anonymous complaints made in December 2010. The review was done behind closed doors by the Senate Personnel Committee, and Ramirez and Sanchez were not informed of the review or allowed to present their side of the story to the committee.
O’Brien seems to think there was a grand conspiracy between the university and Bill Simon, the former chair of the local ACLU chapter. O’Brien is demanding copies of “communication between university officials, Pedro Ramirez, administrators, Bill Simon and you (Dr. John Welty),” as well as a copy of “the letter submitted to ASI on 1/26/11 by the ACLU” in his latest Public Records Act request.
Speaking of Public Records Acts requests, the university responded to O’Brien’s first request, submitted in late December 2010. The university denied most of his request, citing federal and state privacy laws and the “deliberative process” exemption. Less than 200 pages of e-mails were released. O’Brien appears to think the e-mails are some sort of a “smoking gun.” What the e-mails reveal is that University Communications provided media services support to Ramirez after the Collegian, the campus newspaper, outed him in November.
“University Communications provides media assistance to campus entities and facilitates coverage for media members who request it” according to University Communications’ Shirley Armbruster. “When there is a major news story of national and international significance, as was the case here, we assist the campus office or individual as needed. ASI handles its own routine communications, and through the years we have helped with other newsworthy matters that exceed its capacity, but there never has been an ASI news story that has risen to this level of interest.”
The e-mails also reveal what might be considered aggressive behavior by O’Brien and his supporters. In one instance in December, O’Brien’s behavior while in the ASI office was such that another staff member had to intervene.
On January 3, O’Brien “and his crew” showed up at University President John Welty’s office during lunchtime and started banging on the doors. According to staffer Michelle Nelson, “Neil introduced himself and presented a series of documents…preceded by a sealed, confidentially stamped envelope. He handed these documents to me, one by one, accompanied with his commentary on the contents. I, of course, not wearing my glasses, could not read them, but nodded in acceptance of said documents. (I am sure I looked like a bobblehead). Neil expressed his concerns with each flip of the page. I kept nodding in acceptance. [am so going to look so goofy when this is posted].”
The most recent developments revolve around the vehicle crash in which Ramirez was involved in early January. O’Brien is making much of a photograph taken at the accident scene on January 9. The photo shows a campus parking permit lying on the ground near the truck Ramirez was driving. O’Brien is making the ridiculous claim that the university is “soliciting” illegal aliens to buy parking permits.
According to the campus parking Web site, anyone can purchase a Student/Visitor parking permit. Anyone (me included). You don’t have to be a student, faculty or staff member to buy a permit. Ramirez’s father could buy a permit in his name for his vehicle.
O’Brien also demanded to know whether the campus has reported Ramirez for his many alleged illegal activities to law enforcement. First, there’s nothing illegal about being the president of a student club (the College Democrats). There’s nothing illegal about being a member of any group that registers voters. The campus Democratic club is not a political action committee; O’Brien’s postings on his Web site prove that.
Moreover, the state supreme court essentially ruled in the student fee case last year that under California law, Ramirez’s presence on the Fresno State campus is legal. The state high court also determined in a challenge to the Medical Marijuana identification card program that the primary responsibility of local and state law enforcement is the enforcement of state laws and there is no obligation to enforce federal laws, which means there’s no obligation on the part of the university, as a state entity, to report anything.