A pair of controversial fliers attacking a Sunnyside school board member have caught the attention of U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, prompting him to call for a local and federal investigation.
Grijalva will ask the Pima County Attorney’s Office to investigate the fliers, which began circulating within the district last week attacking board member Daniel Hernandez Jr., including one that targeted his sexual orientation.
In addition, Grijalva will make an inquiry to the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI to assist the county attorney in determining whether the attack on Hernandez’s sexual orientation is a hate crime, he said.
The Pima County school superintendent will assist the County Attorney’s Office, the agency said in a news release.
The County Attorney’s Office had no comment Friday afternoon.
The two fliers surfaced more than a week ago within the Sunnyside Unified School District boundaries, with reports that someone handed out the materials at schools and left the fliers at homes.
One flier said the Sunnyside school board needed a “real man” while noting that Hernandez is gay.
Another flier accused Hernandez, who is the target of a Governing Board recall drive, of wanting to take guns away from people.
Grijalva wants authorities to investigate whether the fliers have led to actual threats against Hernandez, he said.
“As a consequence of the leaflet getting passed out, has it resulted in real threats? The only way to know that is through a discussion with Hernandez and others,” he said.
Grijalva began monitoring the situation this week after reading about the fliers on a media website.
If authorities find evidence of actual threats, which would count as a hate crime under federal law, then the congressman wants investigators to find out who created the fliers. So far, no one has claimed responsibility.
If there haven’t been any threats, Grijalva at least wants to send a message that people should think twice about personal attacks on public figures.
“We don’t want to assume it’s just a silly leaflet,” he said.
The fliers surfaced at a time when two citizens groups are staging separate recall drives against Hernandez and three other board members.
One group is calling for the recall of Hernandez and board member Buck Crouch, questioning their ethics and lack of unity with other board members.
Crouch and Hernandez have been outspoken critics of Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo.
Another group wants to recall board President Louie Gonzales and board member Bobby Garcia, criticizing them for their support of Isquierdo, who has faced a litany of personal and legal issues since he took helm of the district in 2007.
Although the recall drives and opposing views on the superintendent have splintered the Governing Board at times, Garcia and Gonzales have denied any involvement with the fliers.
Garcia and Gonzales have both denounced the fliers, while Isquierdo apologized to Hernandez Tuesday during the Governing Board meeting.