Beverly Hills Unified School District Board of Education Vice President Tristen Walker-Shuman has denied allegations that she no longer resides in Beverly Hills. According to state law, school board members must reside “in the trustee area which he or she represents.”
A complaint sent anonymously to several governmental agencies and a handful of media outlets accuses Walker-Shuman of continuing to serve on the board after moving out of state in August. She said the complaint is a “distraction.”
“It’s unfortunate,” Walker-Shuman said. “There are no consequences short of a finding post-investigation, and I haven’t been notified that an investigation has even been started. So this is, at this point, just allegations that have not been fact checked and have allegedly been filed. I don’t know that it actually has been, and no one has contacted me in terms of trying to verify any of the contents of the complaint.”
The complaint, which included photographs of moving trucks outside of a home it identifies as Walker-Shuman’s, was addressed to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the California Secretary of State, the Los Angeles County Office of Education and the Beverly Hills City Clerk’s Office.
The city of Beverly Hills confirmed receipt of the complaint but deferred questions to the school district. Representatives of BHUSD declined to comment.
A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office said the complaint was received and is under review. The secretary of state and county office of education did not respond to media inquiries by deadline.
The complaint alleges that Walker-Shuman moved from California to Pennsylvania in August. The photos of the moving truck are dated Aug. 5.
In a statement, BHUSD Board of Education President Rachelle Marcus said she has requested that the district’s legal counsel launch a “full investigation” into Walker-Shuman’s residency status.
“Regardless of the parallel investigations by other legal entities, I believe that the full school board, aside from Mrs. Walker-Shuman, who would be required to recuse herself, will eventually have to address this matter, after a full investigation has been completed,” the statement reads. “Each individual board member, as an elected official, has a fiduciary responsibility to uphold the law. Personally, I believe that Mrs. Walker-Shuman, as an elected official, must fully address her residency status and be truthful and transparent considering the numerous and detailed allegations contained in the complaint.”
Walker-Shuman said a single board member cannot direct district counsel, though she hopes the board opts to investigate.
“I would welcome an opportunity to demonstrate that I fully meet the defined standard for residency of the state of California and the city of Beverly Hills,” she said.
The board vice president shared a copy of her California driver’s license and her absentee ballot, which is addressed to a property listed in the complaint. According to the complaint, the address listed is for a home that belongs to her mother and stepfather and is a “facade” to maintain a presence in the city.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m not going to speak to the status of my family, because that’s nobody’s business. I remain a resident of Beverly Hills, and I will continue to serve the students and the community of BHUSD,” Walker-Shuman said. “I hope there is an investigation, because I would love for my name to be cleared of these allegations. I am on solid legal footing. So, I’m not really concerned.”
The school board member surmised that the complaint is a spillover from her call for the district to abide by Los Angeles County Department of Public Health orders. Walker-Shuman said she was harassed and verbally attacked afterward.
“That turned into a lot of really petty name calling, badgering, harassing threats of recall,” Walker-Shuman added. “So, I took a fairly active role in sharing that information, sharing those allegations.”
She said the allegations lobbed at her are a “political hit job” by individuals who are “so morally bankrupt that they are perfectly OK using my children, my family and the most difficult moments of my life as fodder for a smear campaign.”
“I continue to reside in Beverly Hills,” Walker-Shuman added. “The alleged complaint was made anonymously, clearly an attempt to shield the author or authors from litigation for defamation, libel and slander. That alone should cause any thinking person to question the information.”
Walker-Shuman said she has enjoyed her time on the board thus far, even though it has been taxing. She specifically referenced the district’s handling of COVID-19 and its school reconfiguration efforts.
“We’ve navigated several back-to-back crises – difficult, challenging environments – and it still is difficult and challenging,” she said. “But even with the change on the board … I think we’re unified in all of the decisions that we’ve made about reconfiguration and about COVID and when to close the schools and how to adapt to the COVID environment. …So I think we’ve had a very strong board. I think we’ve made a lot of really good changes.”
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