Crime - Sacto 911

Man arrested in assault on Elverta school district trustee

A man who school authorities say has been harassing district officials for years was arrested Tuesday for allegedly punching an Elverta Joint Elementary School District school board member in the face at a local grocery store.

James Melvin Stewart, 45, of Elverta was taken into custody at his home at 6 p.m. Tuesday, five days after he allegedly assaulted trustee Richard Currier at an Elverta supermarket.

Stewart was booked at the Sacramento County jail on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and felony assault causing great bodily injury. His bail was set at $30,000, according to records. Stewart has one prior misdemeanor conviction.

“It’s a shocking, brutal thing, and it cannot be tolerated by our community,” said Michael Borgaard, superintendent of the school district.

Currier was shopping at the grocery store at 4:20 p.m. last Thursday when he heard his name called out and saw someone who once was a friend, said Lisa Bowman, sheriff’s spokeswoman. “The suspect punched him one time, and he next remembered waking up in an ambulance,” she said.

The impact of hitting the floor resulted in a large gash to the back of Currier’s head, Borgaard said. Currier was treated at a local hospital and required “numerous stitches and staples,” according to a letter sent to parents on Wednesday.

“We are happy to report, however, that he is doing well and expected to recover,” Borgaard wrote in the letter. Currier attended Tuesday night’s school board meeting, according to the superintendent.

Currier could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools Dave Gordon said Stewart has a long history of harassing school district officials in the tiny Elverta district, which serves 290 students from Sacramento and Placer counties.

“School officials should not be fair game for disgruntled individuals,” Gordon said. “It is unfortunate that this was allowed to get to this extreme where the guy was allowed to attack a board member and put him in the hospital.”

The district’s problems with Stewart began after the previous superintendent, Elizabeth Golchert, was fired in November 2010 over allegations that duct tape was placed on a student’s mouth. Stewart was angry about the decision and law enforcement had to be called, according to Borgaard.

A timeline prepared by Borgaard shows that Stewart came to him with a list of grievances shortly after he started as the new superintendent in August 2011. In the intervening years, Stewart challenged Borgaard to a fight and accused Borgaard and Currier of being romantically involved with his estranged wife, who was employed with the district.

Stewart posted cardboard signs throughout the community repeating his allegations. “It’s very disturbing to this community to have someone making these baseless accusations,” Borgaard said Wednesday.

Borgaard, who calls Stewart “a dangerous man,” was granted a restraining order against him in 2013.

“He has really traumatized people,” Gordon said. “It is the smallest district in Sacramento County. … There is the superintendent, and that is about it. He does not have a lot of staff. My office does a lot of his back-office work. He has his hands full just trying to run the district properly, much less have to deal with these kind of situations.”

Law enforcement personnel were contacted dozens of times about Stewart, but said they could take no action. “He hadn’t crossed the line,” Borgaard said. “He crossed the line the other night.”

District officials are concerned about Stewart’s potential release and have increased the number of police officers on its campuses and at its school board meetings. The district contracts with the Twin Rivers Police Department for police services.

Despite those concerns, Borgaard said he doesn’t want parents to be concerned. “We don’t think he will come on campus and harm students and staff.”

Call The Bee’s Diana Lambert, (916) 321-1090. Follow her on Twitter @dianalambert.