Candidate at CCHS event raises questions

CAMPAIGNING QUESTIONS—Council can- didate Freddy Puza was on the Culver City High School campus this week, reportedly campaigning for the November election. (Courtesy of Ramsey Houston Salem)

Questions were raised this week after City Council candidate Freddy Puza was seen at a volunteer event at Culver City High School, with some parents accusing him of illegally campaigning on school grounds.

The United Parents of Culver City group posted a statement to social media which read, “United Parents of Culver City was sad to learn yesterday that candidate Freddy Puza, running for city council, openly campaigned on CCHS property in clear violation of the rules put in place. We are further disappointed in the weak response and lack of apology from the superintendent.”

The controversy comes at a time when there’s a measure on the forthcoming ballot to lower the voting age to 16, with some believing Puza was prematurely canvassing for young voters. 

CCHS principal Dr. Lisa Cooper sent out a letter to explain the situation.

“Today the high school had a public service fair during brunch and CP Flex,” Cooper wrote. “This is an annual event that our students enjoy and appreciate. We sent out a request for volunteers, and a city council candidate was present at the event, as one of the volunteers. It was brought to the attention of the administration that the candidate was campaigning during the event. We are taking the steps to rectify this and educate our staff on the CCUSD Board policies that pertain to campaigning and political activity on school grounds or events.”

However, some members of the community have accused the school of lying when stating that Puza was there as a volunteer. The Culver City Unified School District also released a statement: 

“The District has received a number of communications from the community regarding a volunteer sign–up event held at Culver City High School on Oct. 12, 2022.  The event in question is held annually by CCHS to afford students an opportunity to complete volunteer service hours requirements for graduation [and] by connecting students with community service organizations. 

CCHS sent out a school newsletter to the school community. In response to this newsletter, a candidate running for election to the City Council contacted the staff in charge of the event, requesting to participate, and staff approved the request. Based on this approval, representatives of the campaign were present on campus for a portion of the event, campaign materials were given out, and some students did sign up to volunteer with the campaign. 

“When this was brought to the attention of the site and District administration, immediate steps were taken to clarify to school staff that District policy prohibits use of District resources to support any political campaign. However, in reviewing these events and how they came about, we have identified a need for better communication to inform school staff of these policies.

“The Culver City Unified School District does not endorse or oppose any candidate for any elective office, and prohibits use of District funds, services, supplies, or equipment for urging support or defeat of any ballot measure or candidate.  As a result of this occurrence, we will be taking steps to ensure that all employees are aware of and abide by restrictions in Board policy and law on permitted uses of District funds or facilities.”

The CCN reached out to Puza for comment, but he did not respond by our Tuesday night deadline.