Salt Lake Board of Education members have been receiving phone calls objecting to the candidacy of Robert Archuleta for a vacant school board seat because he is an avowed Communist.
Archuleta acknowledges he is a Communist, but he says his political philosophy would not interfere with his ability to defend the U.S. Constitution nor to serve in the nonpartisan position."I see the major question as being: Will you support the Constitution? I will. No one has ever produced any proof that I have ever done anything anti-Constitutional or been involved in any terrorist activities," Archuleta said.
Archuleta said he has no allegiance to the Soviet Union and his philosophy is "pro-socialism," meaning he defends the rights of the worker, the poor and minorities.
He described the local Communist Party as a fraternal organization. "It's no more subversive than the Kiwanis or Rotarians worldwide. It's fraternal," he said.
Archuleta and five other applicants are competing to fill Precinct 3 seat, which became vacant last month when Steven L. Olsen resigned because he is moving. The other candidates are Ila Rose Fife, Kay M. Garske, Niel E. Cowles, Glenda Gaudig and B.T. Price Sr.
The candidates were interviewed Monday afternoon. The board will announce its new member at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Board President Stephen G. Boyden said all applicants appear qualified to fill the slot, but school district insiders say that Archuleta, a retired teacher and administrator who has worked extensively with minorities, should be a strong contender during the board's closed-door negotiations.
Boyden said he and other school board members have received a number of complaints about Archuleta's political beliefs.
Superintendent John W. Bennion heard similar protests and received a copy of a 1968 petition filed with the Subversive Activities Control Board of the U.S. Justice Department. The Deseret News was given a copy, too.
A Justice Department spokesman said the now-defunct board was an executive-branch agency, formed in 1950, that looked into allegations of Communist activity.
The 21-year-old petition, filed by then Attorney General Ramsey Clark, charges Archuleta and another Utahn, Wayne Dallas Holley, with being Communists. The two never confirmed nor denied the allegation, but the control board decided both were members of the Communist Party.
One paid FBI informant who testified against Archuleta was Clarence Duane Price. A man claiming to be Price called the Deseret News twice Monday, giving extensive details about the control board hearing and the Utah Communist Party.
"I could care less about what goes on at the Salt Lake school board, but I've studied Marx and Lenin. I understand the dangers," he said.
After the control board's findings, Archuleta, who was a junior high school teacher at the time, was transferred to another school because of parent complaints. He later worked in the district office, where he dealt with curriculum and minority issues. He retired two years ago.
Bennion said he was vaguely aware of Archuleta's politics, but "it was never an issue as long as I've been in the district."