Turlock

Donation of coffee and doughnuts for Turlock mayor’s speech brings heartburn

Sandy Sessions (left) with a tray of rotisserie chicken just plated and ready to go as Scott Soiseth, Child Nutrition Director looks on in preparation for lunch at Turlock High School.
Sandy Sessions (left) with a tray of rotisserie chicken just plated and ready to go as Scott Soiseth, Child Nutrition Director looks on in preparation for lunch at Turlock High School. Modesto Bee File

The Turlock Unified School District apparently has placed its longtime child nutrition director on leave while it looks into his donation of nearly $134 in coffee and doughnuts to his son the mayor’s State of the City Address in July.

Mayor Gary Soiseth, 33, said Monday that his father, Child Nutrition Director Scott Soiseth, was on leave. Soiseth said he confirmed that with his father after The Bee asked whether his father had been placed on leave. Scott Soiseth did not return phone calls left with another family member.

Gary Soiseth said that based on his conversation with his father, it was his understanding that the school district is “just looking into the process to make sure the donation occurred correctly.” Soiseth said he did not have any more information.

David Lattig — the school district’s assistant superintendent for human resources — provided the Bee with this statement:

“Thank you for your email regarding Scott Soiseth’s donation to the City of Turlock ... Because the nature of your request concerns personnel records under Government Code section 6254, prior to disclosing personnel records, the District is legally required to give the employee notice of the request and the opportunity to seek a court order preventing disclosure.

“We will promptly provide this notice to the employee. In addition, we are also researching whether or not such records are subject to disclosure under the so-called balancing test under Government Code section 6255.”

In addition to confirming whether Soiseth was on leave and the reason for that, The Bee requested a copy of any investigation into this matter.

The Turlock City Council is expected to accept at its Tuesday meeting Scott Soiseth’s $133.88 donation of coffee and doughnuts to his son’s July 12 State of the City Address.

The city has purchased food from the school district for city events, including luncheons, breakfasts and trainings, since 2012, according to records provided by the city. That is before Gary Soiseth took office. He was elected to his first term as mayor in November 2014.

Turlock paid the school district $150 for coffee and doughnuts for the mayor’s 2017 State of the City Address.

When asked why his father would pay for the food for the most recent State of the City address, Soiseth said: “From my understanding, my dad wanted to personally donate the coffee and doughnuts. He’s proud of his son.”

Soiseth is running for re-election in November and is being challenged by Councilwoman Amy Bublak, former Mayor Brad Bates and former council candidate Jaime Franco.

Scott Soiseth has worked for the school district since at least 1999, according to Bee archives, and has been a leader in providing healthy meals for students while getting most of the food from California producers.

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