Honig, State Board in Bitter Feud Over Agency's Control
Sacramento, Calif--If BillHonig and Joseph D. Carrabino were attending California's public schools, rather than running them, their teachers would be well-advised to seat them far apart.0
Even as Gov. Pete Wilson and the legislature contend with a $12-billion deficit and the prospect of huge cuts in state aid to schools, their struggles have at times been overshadowed by a very public brawl be0 tween the state superintendent of public instruction and the chairman of the state board of education.$
Both Superintendent Honig, who was elected by the voters, and Mr. Carrabino, who was appointed to the board by former Gov. George Deukmejian, have seen their posi0 tions threatened as the result of their power struggle.$ !
If the two had any hope of recon0 ciliation, it seemed to vanish April 12, when the 11-member board voted 6 to 4 to reject a memorandum of understanding that Mr. Honig had proposed to bring peace between himself and the board.0
The panel then voted by the same margin to seek an independent counsel who could sue Mr. Honig if he fails to abide by resolutions for0 mally passed in March. Those provi0 sions limit the superintendent's power and give the board greater authority over the 1,200-employee state education department's oper0 ating budget and policy statements.0
Mr. Honig, who controls the board's budget, told panel members they would get no department fund0 ing for their attorney. A spokeman for Mr. Honig said the superinten0 dent had no intentions of complying with the board's demands.
This month's skirmish was just the latest episode in a long-running feud between Mr. Honig and Mr. Carrabino's board faction that be0 gan under Governor Deukmejian.$ In February, Mr. Honig and his wife, Nancy, had appeared before the board to refute allegations that Ms. Honig's education consulting firm, the Quality Education Project, had benefited from her relationship with the state schools chief.$=
The Honigs admitted that they may have been politically naive for allowing the nonprofit firm to lease space in their home, but denied any wrongdoing.3
Although the board declined tolook further into the question, the is sue provided a new round of ammu nition for Mr. Honig's critics. Mr. Carrabino, for example, describedMr. Honig's relationship with theqep as "his biggest mistake."$
Also taking up the case was The Sacramento Union, which has pub$8lished several stories discussing the q.e.p. issue and various alleged in discretions within the department.$
Mr. Carrabino, who frequently cites his expertise on management is sues as a former professor of manage ment at the University of California at Los Angeles, maintained in an in terview this month that the q.e.p.controversy and newspaper reportshave highlighted the need for greater oversight of the department.
"In any situation where you are going to have a lot of money and no oversight, you are going to have cor ruption," Mr. Carrabino said. Hehas termed Mr. Honig an "education czar" whose "one-man rule'' has led to wasteful policies.0
Mr. Honig has responded to theboard's moves by cutting its budget by 25 percent, seeking to strip it of all powers not specified by law, and ques tioning whether Peter G. Mehas, one of the Carrabino faction, can legally serve on the panel while holding the % post of superintendent of the Fresno schools. Mr. Mehas abstained from the board votes this month.0
Mr. Honig maintained in an inter view that the department has routine audits, and termed the board "a politi cal hit operation of Deukmejian hold overs" that already has more power "than they could ever use." 0
"If you ask them their educational agenda, they won't know what you're talking about," said Mr. Honig, who accused the board of being jealous of the role he has had in reforming edu cation in the state. Mr. Carrabino"wants to get his hands" in the day-to- day operations of the education de partment "for mischievous purposes," Mr. Honig charged.0
In the interview, the superinten dent offered the following descrip tions of Mr. Carrabino: "malicious"; "a bully"; "a good destroyer"; "not a very intelligent character"; "not the caliber of person who should be in government"; and "an embarrassnt to everyone in the whole city."
Mr. Honig also asserted that Mr. Carrabino has engaged in "McCar thyism" as part of an "organized" con spiracy to put him out of office mount ed by conservative Republican egislators, creationists angered over his stands on the teaching of evolu tion, and Mike Pottage, city editor of the Union and a former spokesman or Assembly Republicans. "It's Gulliver and the Lilliputians. They're like flies buzzing around," said Mr. Honig, asserting that Mr. Carrabino's "cabal" plans strategy and "got nothing" after going "to ev ery agency around trying to throw me in jail and get me indicted."$
Mr. Carrabino vehemently denied Mr. Honig's allegations, however,adding, "That guy, he's a paranoid."
Mr. Pottage replied to Mr. Honig's conspiracy claim by saying, "If public officials don't like to read what they are doing, then they shouldn't do it."
For his part, Mr. Carrabino was the subject of a recent Los Angeles Times profile that described his un usual demotion to associate profes sor at u.c.l.a. in 1982. He called the story "a hit piece" and said he had been demoted by "off-the-wall liberH als" at the university.
Mr. Honig said time was on his side in the battle with Mr. Carrabino. Maureen DiMarco, Mr. Wilson's secretary of child development and education, said the Governor has"clearly indicated" to the board that the feud "served no one's purpose," and those who continue it do soagainst his wishes. Mr. Honig said there was "noway" Mr. Carrabino would be reapH pointed next January, "unless Wil son wants to declare war." But Mr. Carrabino predicted that that conflict was at hand. "I'll give [Mr. Honig] about another month,and he'll bash the Governor," he said.