Union members and their
so-called “Children First” supporters have attacked
the CUSD reform trustees with despicable mob behavior
from the first day the trustees were seated as a
board majority. The union forced its will upon
students, parents and taxpayers with a selfish
teacher strike, staged as a political stunt to gather
recall petition signatures and to protect their
special interest turf. They have waged a political
campaign of lies with dishonest talking points
dutifully parroted by ignorant and corrupt union
members and so-called “Children First” union
It’s not enough that the union and its supporters have already outspent the reform trustees 16:1 in this special interest power grab. Now, they have escalated their unethical behavior by stealing the reform trustees’ signs, proving that the democratic process and the rule of law mean nothing to these thugs -- these so-called “professionals” who hypocritically demand “respect” as they serve as terrible role models for our children. This is more evidence of the misconduct these union thugs and their unethical supporters have inflicted on the district for the past two years as they continue to wage a war of chaos and character assassination to destroy the reform trustees at any cost, even if it means breaking the law.
This video shows some of these amoral low-lifes in possession of stolen reform trustee signs after they were caught red-handed, followed and then confronted in a parking lot. This is just one more wake-up call to remind us of how these special interest fanatics will return CUSD to the darkest days of Fleming corruption in a heartbeat in order to satisfy their hatred for the reform trustees whose only real offense was to bring real reforms to CUSD by standing up to union power politics and opposing their selfish political agenda.
Reform Trustees Save CUSD $5.5 Million Dollars - Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Brought By CUSD's Disgraced Former Supt. Carter
Read OC Register Article
Read Carter's Termination Report
The Trustees obviously did the right thing when they fired this corrupt and greedy educrat. It really makes us wonder why Erin Kutnick's pro-union "Children First" group, as well as hundreds of union members, fought so hard to protect Carter from being fired. Why did they fight so hard to protect Carter when the facts so clearly showed he'd been caught "red handed" trying to rip off the school district by inserting a golden parachute severance clause into his own employment contract without board approval? Read More...
Click Here to WATCH THE TRAILER in HD or
Click Here to WATCH THE TRAILER on YouTube
Please join us in watching the television premiere of PRI’s Not as Good as You Think: The Myth of the Middle Class School tonight, at 8:30pm Pacific Time.
"Not As Good As You Think: The Myth of the Middle Class School" is a groundbreaking documentary that shatters the myth that "good" schools located in "nice" neighborhoods are shielded from the education crisis that pervades schools in poor, urban areas. The CUSD Recall Committee’s successful five year campaign to bring badly needed reform to the Capistrano Unified School District is prominently featured in this movie -- as an example of just how badly broken the American public school system can be in one of the country’s most affluent areas…and how tremendous improvements and reforms can be achieved by dedicated, vigilant citizen action and oversight. Read More...
"Not As Good As You Think: The Myth of the Middle Class School" is a groundbreaking documentary that shatters the myth that "good" schools located in "nice" neighborhoods are shielded from the education crisis that pervades schools in poor, urban areas. The CUSD Recall Committee’s successful five year campaign to bring badly needed reform to the Capistrano Unified School District is prominently featured in this movie -- as an example of just how badly broken the American public school system can be in one of the country’s most affluent areas…and how tremendous improvements and reforms can be achieved by dedicated, vigilant citizen action and oversight.
READ OC Register Story
READ the Official Invitation
WATCH the Trailer in HD
Report Confirms Superintendent Carter Was Insubordinate and Guilty of Numerous Illegal and Other Improper Acts
See OC Register story, official CUSD news release and official report on the board's decision on termination of Carter's employment.
See OC Register story.
New OC Register Column: Public School System Doesn't Need More Money - Its "Bankrupt Culture" Needs Reform and Common Sense.
Click here to read Ms. Star's column.
There is a new battle being waged in our school district…and it is every bit as dangerous as the battle voters just won when they removed the last of the corrupt Fleming era trustees from office.
The voters of South Orange County have spoken…clearly and unmistakably -- for the third election in a row. Voters in CUSD have rejected the corrupt status quo and elected seven reform trustees by landslide margins. Voters have given you a mandate for positive reform in CUSD.
In my remarks to this Board just one month ago, on the night the newly-elected board members were sworn in, I stated:
“With the removal of the last Old Guard Trustee, one battle is over…But no one should misunderstand – the fight is far from over. Many who directly profit from CUSD’s multi-million dollar budget are continuing their efforts to frustrate and rollback the reforms you are striving to implement…”
If all you heard were the impassioned gushing over Woodrow Carter (aka Arnold Carter) by employees and a few parents incited by union boss Vicki Soderberg, and their equally impassioned and vile attacks against our new trustees, you would think Carter should be beatified and the trustees condemned to the fiery pits of hell.
Well here are some other facts and points of view that Carter, Soderberg and their bully mob would prefer not discussed. And these are just few examples. Others can be viewed by clicking here.
Schools' exec stirs outrage
By Julie Kay/Staff Writer, The Reporter (Vacaville, CA), December 1, 2006
The superintendent of the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School district is under fire for having displayed to 85 district administrators an image of a 'Ladies Swiss Army Knife' containing attachments including a tampon and a phallus-like vibrator.
A flyer being circulated shows the Swiss Army-like knife on one side and cites on the other side the California Education Code which says a permanent employee can be dismissed for 'immoral or unprofessional conduct.' Read More...
When reformers commenced the first recall in early 2005, CUSD was a school district in crisis. Years of financial mismanagement by the Old Guard trustees and administration created serial deficits and the resulting budget cuts caused severe overcrowding, unhealthy and substandard facilities and massive cuts to educational programs.
These problems were exposed by years of parent complaints and investigations by the Orange County Register and other sources. This not only revealed the severity of the problems, but more importantly, the primary causes. The policies of the district, its leadership and management were found lacking, especially when compared to other school districts.
The Old Guard leadership irresponsibly spent nearly three quarters of a billion dollars on facilities and untold millions more for other purposes without a master plan or budget. To add insult to injury, much of this was knowingly done in violation of numerous laws and regulations. The tragic results were covered up through years of propaganda that misinformed the public by distorting and concealing sources, amounts and uses of funds, conditions of facilities and finances, inequitable spending priorities, prudent alternatives, etc.
Then there were the incessant denials and endless self-adulation by the Old Guard board and staff, coupled with their continuing attacks against their detractors (often illegally through the use of district resources), no matter how egregious or self-evident their offenses.
These are just a few examples of the Old Guard’s notorious “Culture of Corruption,” all arrogantly and dishonestly promoted to inculcate the district's tired, hypocritical mantra, “Kids First.” Read More...
But their dishonest threats and bullying tactics have harmed the district and could backfire on them.
Spt. Woodrow Carter (aka Arnold Carter), was scheduled to undergo a performance review yesterday, but now faces an uphill battle after he joined union boss Vicki Soderberg in a dishonest and disgraceful preemptive strike against the new board by attacking them, playing the victim card and inciting possibly the worst example of mob behavior in CUSD history.
The special board meeting had been noticed as a "performance evaluation" for Carter with possible disciplinary action or termination of an unidentified "public employee." No allegations or charges were disclosed and no action was taken.
Carter delivered a speech before the trustees went into closed session. The speech obviously was written in large part by Carter's labor counsel and was designed to intimidate and influence the new board's decisions by inciting confusion over the facts and the process, undeserved sympathy for Carter and groundless, hysterical outrage against the new board - all coordinated with the support of an unruly mob rallied by union boss Vicki Soderberg. Read More...
CFAC condemns Old Guard Trustees with "Darkness Award," branding them as foes of free speech and open government
Tomorrow, the California First Amendment Coalition, a freedom of press group, will present its annual Darkness Award to three recipients, including the CUSD Board of Trustees, in recognition of "conduct that thwarts freedom of speech and the public's right to know." The award follows the release of an OC District Attorney's report condemning the CUSD Old Guard trustees for their "disturbing disdain, if not outright contempt" for district residents. The same report praised the CUSD reform trustees for their commitment to end such disgraceful practices at CUSD.
Here is an excerpt from The California First Amendment Coalition's official blog:
The California First Amendment Coalition has named the 2008 recipients of its “Darkness Award,” given in recognition of conduct that thwarts freedom of speech and the public’s right to know. The awards, to be presented Saturday, October 18 at UC Berkeley, are given to:
-- The Capistrano Unified School Board, which was so indifferent to anti-secrecy laws that the Orange County District Attorney issued a public report outlining the board’s many violations of the Ralph M. Brown public meetings law. In a follow-up inquiry, the District Attorney found further violations and concluded that the board had proven itself “incapable or unwilling” of complying with the law. Read More...
• Union Leadership and Candidates are Illegally
Coordinating Campaign Efforts
• Union Trying to Buy the Election with $72,797.49 Spent So Far
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. The Teachers Union PAC is the largest special interest group involved in the CUSD local school board races -- and they are trying to buy the election using deceptive and illegal tactics. To date, the Teachers Union PAC has already spent $72,297.49 on behalf of candidates Duane Stiff, Erin Kutnick and Andrea Kooiman!
Here is a link to the California Secretary of State’s website disclosing the Teachers Union PAC filings:
Illegal and Deceptive Tactics. The Teachers Union PAC, as well as the three candidates they are supporting for School Board, have engaged in illegal and deceptive campaign practices, including without limitation the following:
Privacy laws restrict our new trustees from openly discussing personnel matters involving public employees. This restricts them from discussing specific allegations or charges, if any, against Superintendent Woodrow Carter (aka Arnold Carter). The law is clear and Carter knows it. He has taken the same position as the board in the past.
Despite this, Carter and his new booster-in-chief, union boss Vicki Soderberg, have done nothing to properly inform disrespectful and unruly district employees about the law or attempted to bridle their disruptive behavior. Instead, Carter and Soderberg have stood by and watched, and even encouraged ignorant or mean-spirited employees to intimidate the board with their mob-like behavior.
With Carter's job on the line and Soderberg fearing for her union gravy train after betraying reformers in the last two elections, they are intentionally destabilizing the district in a power struggle to control the board, the legitimate governing body of the district, and preserve the dominance of a power-hungry administration that hasn’t respected the legitimate chain of command since the early days of the Fleming administration. Hopefully, the board will remain strong and keep their promises to the voters by setting this upside-down situation, right.
In the meantime, the board may not be talking, but that hasn’t stopped community members from weighing in on the subject. Here is one community member’s list of Top Ten reasons why Carter should be dismissed: Read More...
Superintendent Woodrow Carter (aka Arnold Carter) and Old Guard Trustees Implicated
Recently-elected Reform Trustees Praised For Exposing the Ongoing Corruption
Rancho Santa Margarita, Ca. The Orange County District Attorney has issued a new stinging report dated September 2, 2008 – the fourth such report in a little over a year – detailing the results of their on-going investigation of the Capistrano Unified School District for numerous Brown Act violations and other illegal acts. The scathing report confirms that Trustees Duane Stiff, Mike Darnold, Marlene Draper and Sheila Benecke – four trustees who served for years with the now indicted former Superintendent James Fleming – continued to engage in illegal behavior despite repeated rebukes by the District Attorney. The report also condemns numerous actions taken (and not taken) by current CUSD Superintendent A. Woodrow Carter (aka Arnold Carter) – the acting CUSD Superintendent during the entire period of time covered by the latest D.A. Report.
See copies of:
District Attorney’s reports, dated:
October 9, 2007, February 28, 2008, March 13, 2008, May 12, 2008 and September 2, 2008
Joint Statements by ABC Reform Trustees, dated:
October 19, 2007, February 10, 2008 and March 27, 2008
CUSD Recall Committee press releases, dated:
October 9, 2007, May 9, 2008, May 27, 2008 and September 9, 2008 Read More...
Oh no, not that again! "Good Things Happening in CUSD"? Superintendent Carter borrows one right out of the James Fleming playbook
• Carter ignores facts and attacks OC Register study, instead
• Carter announces another revisionist dog and pony show
In his latest weekly update, Superintendent Woodrow Carter (aka Arnold Carter) announced his reaction to the OC Register's May 30th study of Orange County's Best High Schools. Carter's reaction proves how thoroughly he has embraced the corrupt practices of the Fleming old guard at CUSD.
Contrary to years of "happy talk" from CUSD, the OC Register study revealed the performance of CUSD high schools to be below average across the board. But never a district to let facts challenge the incessant, self-laudatory praising of the old guard, Carter has announced he will do what his predecessors have done best since the darkest days under the leadership of now-indicted, former Superintendent James Fleming...he's going to SPIN! Read More...
Committee Also Calls for Public Censure of Superintendent and Board President
Board President Mike Darnold and Superintendent Woodrow Carter signed illegal secret contract
See CUSD Recall Committee’s formal complaint letter.
See CUSD Recall Committee press release.
See illegal secret superintendent's contract.
See Government Code section misrepresented by superintendent.
See OC Register cartoon that mocks Carter's secret contract.
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. The CUSD Recall Committee filed a formal complaint today against Capistrano Unified School District Superintendent Woodrow Carter (aka Arnold Carter) and Board President Mike Darnold for fraud, conspiracy and continuing intentional violations of the Brown Act and other applicable laws. Read More...
CUSD Recall leader says contract is unenforceable and calls for complete investigation
Tom Russell, Spokesperson, CUSD Recall Committee
My name is Tom Russell. I am the spokesperson for the CUSD Recall Committee.
On February 25th -- the same night this Board called a Special Meeting to fire hundreds of teachers and increase class sizes, a split Board voted in closed session to offer Superintendent Woodrow Carter (aka Arnold Carter) a new three-year contract and a massive salary increase.
Understandably, a deafening public outcry immediately resulted, and hundreds of constituents urged Superintendent Carter to reject the offensive contract offer for the good of the district.
To his credit, Superintendent Carter publicly rejected the outrageous contract terms and on multiple occasions confirmed he would not sign the contract. Read More...
• Superintendent Had Publicly Rejected the Contract Offer
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. Despite numerous public statements to the contrary, it has now been confirmed that CUSD Superintendent Woodrow Carter (aka Arnold Carter) and Board President Mike Darnold executed and delivered a secret and illegal superintendent’s employment contract. This action violated the California Brown Act and other applicable laws, and the contract is unenforceable for numerous reasons, including the following:
See illegal secret agreement, press release, news coverage and speech delivered by CUSD Recall Committee Spokesperson Tom Russell at the May 12, 2008 CUSD board meeting. Read More...
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. An Orange County Superior Court has stricken “in their entirety” the 200-word candidate statements filed by recall targets Marlene Draper and Sheila Benecke, two trustees of the Capistrano Unified School District. A copy of the court order is attached hereto.
The court’s action ensured Draper and Benecke’s illegal campaign statements will not be published in the sample ballots to be sent to all voters prior to the June 24 special election.
Leaders of the CUSD Recall Committee filed the lawsuit seeking court intervention to strike numerous “false, misleading and illegal statements” made by Draper and Benecke in their optional “Candidate Statement of Qualifications.” Read More...
Lawsuit Asks Court To Sanction Trustees Draper and Benecke for Illegal Campaign Statements
Committee leaders and lawsuit petitioners Jennifer
Beall and Tom Russell
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA.
April 28, 2008, a superior court judge will hear the
lawsuit brought by members of the CUSD Recall
Committee asking the court to strike numerous false,
misleading and illegal statements contained in
candidate statements filed by recall targets Marlene
Draper and Sheila Benecke, two trustees of the
Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD). The matter
has been scheduled for hearing before Judge Steven L.
Monday, April 28, 2008, at 8:30 a.m., in Department C32 of the Superior Court of California, County of Orange, at 700 Civic Center Drive West, Santa Ana, CA 92701.
CUSD Recall Committee Members Ask Superior Court To Sanction Trustees Draper and Benecke
Recall Committee leaders Jennifer Beall and Tom Russell
See copy of complaint and press release.
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. Yesterday, leaders of the CUSD Recall Committee filed a legal action in Orange County Superior Court against Marlene Draper and Sheila Benecke, two trustees of the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD).
The legal action seeks expedited court intervention to strike numerous false, misleading and illegal statements made by Draper and Benecke in the optional “Candidate Statement of Qualifications” each filed with the Orange County Registrar of Voters on April 12th. Any final approved Candidate Statement of Qualifications will be published in the sample ballot sent to all voters prior to the special election. Read More...
Full Disclosure re-releases six-part series on parents' battle to restore honesty, integrity and accountability to CUSD
• Chaos follows corruption allegations in OC school district
• Release Date: March 7, 2008
Orange County, CA. The Full Disclosure Network® is re-releasing a ground-breaking six part series covering the historic battle to restore honesty, integrity and accountability to the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD). The citizen revolt began in 2005 with a petition drive to recall all seven members of the Board of Trustees and has now culminated in a full scale criminal investigation of the school board members and the indictment of former superintendent James Fleming for multiple felonies.
Provocative Series This provocative series will be featured on Cox South Orange County Cable Channel 31 starting Wednesday March 12th at 6 p.m., and will continue each and every Wednesday for the next six weeks. Read More...
"As you know, I do not read my packet..."
Parents expect their children to do their homework -- don't they expect at least that much out of their elected officials?
Read Benecke's fax memo here Read More...
Mean-spirited CUSD hijinks reveals corrupt mindset of CUSD old guard and their contempt for CUSD constituents
Hennes: "Jim, I just had to share the poetry that Bruce wrote following last night's meeting."
Fleming: "Shelia, Phenominal! What a talent. JF"
Left: James Fleming; Right: Shelia Henness
If you took offense at being called “jackasses” and being told to “slither” to the podium by Trustee Shelia Benecke, you haven’t heard anything yet.
Just read the following poem by Bruce Henness, husband of former Trustee Shelia Henness, who takes mean-spirited contempt for CUSD constituents to new heights. The accompanying fax cover reveals that Shelia Henness agreed with her husband and couldn’t wait to share his disgusting “masterpiece” with then Superintendent James Fleming, who praised the disgraceful poem as “Phenominal!” and Henness’ husband as “a talent.” For insight into the corrupt and hateful mindset of the CUSD old-guard that made the infamous CUSD enemies lists and other forms of retaliation possible, read the soon-to-be infamous Henness poem, below, and the original fax memo, here: Read More...
Ellen Addonizio, Anna Bryson and Larry
Christensen, the "ABC Reform Trustees"
San Juan Capistrano, California – In the election of November 2006, the people of the Capistrano Unified School District elected the three of us to the Board of Trustees by 17% landslide margins of victory – a clear mandate for change in the administration of the school district. We ran as the “ABC Reform” candidates on a reform platform, vowing to restore honesty, integrity and accountability, as well as returning scarce dollars back into the classroom. We answer only to the constituents of CUSD and we are charged to do what is best for all of the district’s 53,000 students, as a community.
Under the watch of Trustees Sheila Benecke and Marlene Draper, the school district has experienced a tumultuous decade of controversies that has included unlawful secret meetings, misappropriation or mismanagement of public funds, five years of budget deficit spending (2002-2006), unchecked funding of questionable building projects compounded by misrepresentations of their funding, including the extravagant construction of the district’s 126,000 square foot administration building. Read More...
The status quo Fleming-era trustees continue to prove how out of touch they are with the reform mandate sent by their constituents in the November 2006 general election when the ABC reform trustees were elected in landslide victories. Last night, the contrast between the status quo senior trustees and the ABC reform trustees couldn't have been clearer. It was also clear that the old guard is hunkering down for a fight to the bitter end, leaving no doubt that district reform will be impossible as long as they remain, and leaving reformers no choice but to complete the recall of Benecke and Draper ASAP.
Just when you thought it was safe to expect some rare, but welcome financial responsibility from CUSD, some of those persistent Fleming-era trustees and staff members bring back the controversial SJHHS stadium proposal, eager to spend meager district resources before the long-awaited, district-wide facilities needs assessment and master plan are even finished. Fiscal responsibility? Facilities equity? They continue to prove that they don't have a clue what those terms mean, as they undertake to cherry pick expensive pet projects, making a mockery of the district's master plan, driving the district into deeper financial peril, and setting the stage to pit parent against parent, again, at next Monday night's Board meeting.
The announcement came mid-term, without prior notice and with only a flimsy "to-pursue-other-opportunities" excuse, suggesting Hart actually "retired" to avoid imminent termination. She leaves a legacy of an over-built school, wasted millions and a bitterly divided community. In the face of overwhelming community opposition, Hart helped champion the ill-conceived Arroyo Vista school expansion in one of the most dishonest, partisan campaigns in CUSD history. Hart was notorious for playing favorites, covering up district wrongs and openly targeting district critics for retaliation. She helped Fleming co-opt a corrupt and politicized PTA that continues to misinform parents and obstruct true district reform. Hart's departure is an overdue, but welcome step in the right direction.
Editorial, The Orange County Register The Capistrano Unified School Board’s 4-0 decision last week to accept the Orange County district attorney’s findings that the board had repeatedly violated the state’s open meetings law was perhaps the most sensible decision the board has made in quite a long time. The three newest board members – Anna Bryson, Ellen Addonizio and Larry Christensen – rightly abstained from the vote, given that they had nothing to do with the legal violations of the past board. Read More...
With chronic open-meetings law violations confirmed by D.A., chorus of outrage and demands for resignations grows
Sheila Benecke and Marlene Draper
Two of the Fleming-era trustees Read More...
By Tom Russell, Spokesperson
CUSD Recall Committee
This time, however, the seeds of dissention were being sewn by Fleming-protégé Marlene Draper, who pandered to the interests of parents at the district’s new “gold-plated” San Juan Hills High School. Read More...
(IRVINE, CA) - The Republican Party of Orange County Central Committee, with over 100 elected members, unanimously approved the following resolution pertaining to four members of the Capistrano Unified School District. Resolution of the Orange County Republican Party Central Committee on Monday, October 15, 2007 - passed by unanimous vote of the Committee:
Be it resolved that the repeated and consistent Brown Act violations, as reported by the Orange County District Attorney, and other egregious acts by Marlene M. Draper, Sheila J. Benecke, Duane E. Stiff and Mike Darnold are inconsistent with our Republican Party principles and, accordingly, the Republican Party of Orange County Central Committee asks these Trustees to immediately resign from their positions as Trustees of the Capistrano Unified School District.
"The four people that were asked to resign are all registered Republicans, but they are not governing by our party's principles," said Scott Baugh, Chairman of the Republican Party of Orange County. "The cumulative effect of all their improprieties leads us to no other conclusion but that these Republicans have forfeited their support from the Republican Party and they should resign."
For more information on the Republican Party of Orange County, please visit us at www.ocgop.org
See copy of official GOP press release.
• It's "case closed" for Benecke, Draper and Darnold.
• The evidence is in and it is time for them to resign.
The October 9th DA report states that the Fleming-era trustees will not be prosecuted criminally for violations of the Brown Act for want of evidence of their intent to violate the law. Ignoring the utter shame of the findings of wrongdoing in this scathing report, Benecke, Draper and Darnold are attempting one last desperate spin, claiming that they didn’t know what they were doing was wrong, that they relied upon bad advice from counsel.
Well, the facts contradict this disingenuous argument and, now, there is direct evidence from one of their own that they intended to violate the law. Read More...
Here are links to copies of the District Attorney’s investigative report and cover letter.
The District Attorney has now given the corrupt old guard Board Members a choice. The District Attorney has confirmed that legal action will be commenced against the CUSD Board for these obvious violations of the Brown Act, UNLESS the CUSD Board takes a formal vote to admit their guilt and accept the District Attorney's detailed findings that confirmed the old guard committed numerous violations of the Brown Act. Read More...
• Internet exclusive: On Full Disclosure® Video News Blog
• Video Preview Time: 8:19 min.
• Release Date: September 1, 2007
Orange County, CA: Parents, taxpayers and Americans who have been frustrated with the leadership of their local School Boards, can look to South Orange County California for what will surely be a text book case for how to conduct a complete political revolution, using the democratic process. The Full Disclosure Network®(FDN) presents a FREE eight minute Internet video preview of the two latest episodes (Part 5 and 6) of an on-going cable TV series covering the real life grassroots campaign to recall or replace all seven of the elected Trustees within the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD). Read More...
OC Weekly assesses recall chances: "A lock. With Fleming already indicted and a well-seasoned recall team ready for war."
Sheila Benecke, Mike Darnold, Marlene Draper, Duane Stiff, Trustees of the Capistrano Unified School District
Gustavo Arellano, OC Weekly Opponents Accuse Them Of: Mishandling millions of dollars in school funds, gerrymandering school boundaries to ensure racial diversity, and being lackeys for former superintendent James Fleming, whom the Orange County Grand Jury indicted for misappropriating funds and creating an enemies list. Read More...
It’s obvious we are now witnessing the final gasps of the corrupt Fleming regime. The four leftover trustees – Benecke, Draper, Stiff and Darnold – are on their way out. The employees of CUSD no longer need to hide in fear. Now is the time to come forward and expose the corruption you have witnessed at CUSD.
Benecke, Draper, Darnold and Stiff
The Leftover Fleming Trustees
This is Draper's testimony before the grand jury as she tried to defend the board of trustees' illegal, secret behavior. Since "secret" and "confidential" are synonymous, she offers a difference without a distinction. Now that really smells.
My child is on the CUSD enemies list. So is my wife…and so am I.
Today, you are scheduled to meet in closed session where you are scheduled to consider who will be the next interim superintendent – the third since recently indicted former Superintendent James Fleming left in disgrace. Read More...
1990-1991 Grand Jury Report exposes the deep roots of, and players behind the CUSD culture of corruption
Is it possible for me to take my City Council hat off for a minute and discuss an issue that I have been talking to you about for six or seven years, an issue that we may all be sick of hearing about but is so very important none-the-less, the CUSD.
I was personally not shocked to hear of the indictments of Jim Fleming and Susan McGill, although I thought there would be a few more names included, of course this may change before this article is published. Read More...
The indictment last week of two former top officials at Capistrano Unified capped a long and bitter battle at that south county school district over efforts to reform leadership that had grown arrogant and out of touch with the public. An indictment is a far cry from a conviction, but the county grand jury’s decision is indeed vindication for the hearty band of parents who attempted to recall the school board and offers encouragement for grass-roots activists who want to keep their government accountable. Read More...
We get news that former Capistrano Unified School District Superintendent James Fleming and Assistant Superintendent Susan McGill were indicted by the grand jury. Fleming was indicted for misappropriation of public funds, for using school funds to defeat a recall of his political allies and conspiracy, according to DA Tony Rackauckas' statement. McGill was indicted for conspiracy and perjury. These are all felony charges, relating to their efforts to stop the recall and the compilation of an enemies list. Read More...
The CUSD Recall Committee filed a formal complaint against Shelia Benecke, President of the Capistrano Unified Board of Trustees, for actions she took during the open session of the most recent CUSD Board Meeting in violation of the Brown Act and other applicable laws.
Draper made this statement in response to a resident who criticized her for historically engaging in nepotism and cronyism by discussing and voting on district contracts with Culbertson, Adams and Associates, an environmental firm where Draper's daughter, Shawna Schaffner, serves as CEO. The Waldrip report had admonished the trustees to avoid the appearance of such improprieties, and cited the Culbertson and Adams agreement as an example. Judge Waldrip advised any trustee with such family relationships to abstain from such discussions or votes in the future, and speculated that the public would see the end of such improprieties as more reasonable judgement prevailed at CUSD in the future. Draper and the other Fleming trustees never apologized or took personal responsibility for any of the numerous wrongdoings confirmed by Waldrip. Instead, Draper disregarded Waldrip's admonitions and advice, discussed and voted for her daughter's contract at the first opportunity, and twisted Waldrip's words to justify her continued unethical conduct. Rather than raise the ethical bar at CUSD, as Waldrip recommended, Draper disregarded ethics and defended the bare legal minimum as good enough for CUSD ... even if it "smells." The crowd and the press were shocked. The new superintendent, Dennis Smith, put his face into his hands and shook his head in disbelief. The only person in the room who didn't seem to get it, was Draper.
When speaking with residents of Rancho Santa Margarita, I am routinely asked, “When will my Mello-Roos taxes go away?”
I am proud to say that our City Council is working to obtain the information and answers you need. Let me explain. Read More...
Arroyo Vista PTA should tell CUSD to fix P.E. facilities deficiencies on school site, leave community park alone
• National, state and council PTAs deny "joining" or supporting Arroyo Vista PTA's improper and illegal political campaign.
• State PTA orders Arroyo Vista PTA to cease and desist.
Documents | Going Going Gone | Photos Read More...
Some will undoubtedly claim the findings of retired Judge Stuart Waldrip’s investigation into Capistrano Unified vindicate the district’s leaders.
After all, he finds the only one who might have committed any crime is spokesman turned whistle-blower David Smollar, and all the former superintendent and trustees are guilty of is bad judgment. To me, that’s a stinging indictment. I tend to count on my elected leaders for good judgment, taking it for granted they won’t break any laws. Read More...
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. A plot to deceive the public into believing that an upcoming “Candidates Forum” is a legitimate, unbiased event has been uncovered.
An investigation doesn’t mean guilt, of course, but there have been many troubling revelations about how Mr. Fleming and the board of trustees have been running the district. It’s a story of power and arrogance, and the unraveling of the administration contains warnings for other districts. Read More...
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. Today, the CUSD Recall Committee sent a letter to the CUSD Trustees demanding they immediately relieve Judge Stuart Waldrip of his duties as CUSD’s “independent” investigator. The CUSD Recall Committee has discovered that Judge Stuart T. Waldrip was a senior partner with the law firm of Rutan & Tucker – CUSD’s primary law firm. Waldrip worked at Rutan & Tucker for thirteen years (from 1967 to 1979)! This obvious conflict of interest disqualifies Judge Waldrip from acting as CUSD’s independent investigator.
A. Immediate Disciplinary Action Must Be Taken.
Very serious allegations involving criminal activity have been leveled against Fleming (and possibly the Trustees). An overwhelming amount
of evidence supporting these allegations has been made public. Given these facts, we believe Fleming cannot be allowed to serve another day as the Superintendent of the Capistrano Unified School District. Read More...
Sure, this is an outrageous case of nepotism and alleged corruption, whereby the son of Capo Superintendent James Fleming earned as much as $101 an hour digging ditches for a school contractor. Heck, that's nothing ... only about a third of what his Dad earns from taxpayers! As my editor points out, the real outrage is that this is what school districts are forced to pay for labor thanks to union work rules. School districts and other government agencies are always complaining that they don't have enough money and that parents are too stingy to constantly raise their taxes for new schools ... yet this is the type of union feather-bedding government agencies pay for. Read More...
• CUSD Recall Committee: Trustees Should Invite District Attorney to Investigate.
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. Yesterday, the CUSD Trustees once again failed their constituents.
For more than three weeks, each of seven CUSD Trustees have refused to take any meaningful corrective action in response to the allegations and evidence of the Superintendent’s unethical and illegal activities. During the Board of Trustees meeting yesterday, a meeting that was supposed to be focused upon these issues, they failed to protect their constituents, they failed to hold Superintendent Fleming accountable, and they spent a good portion of their meeting praising Superintendent Fleming. Read More...
Capistrano Unified Superintendent James Fleming epitomized the arrogance that comes with excessive power. He stepped down after the Register reported that the district had compiled an enemies list of those who supported a school board recall. Fleming denied such a thing, then later admitted that he had a list, but claimed -- one of the most unbelievable claims I've heard in a long time -- that he compiled the data on parents and their children out of concern that they might be hacking into district computers. Talk about paranoia and deception. Read More...
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. CUSD Superintendent James Fleming has “resigned” in disgrace. “This moves us one step closer to restoring honesty, integrity and accountability into our public school system,” said Thomas Russell, spokesperson for the CUSD Recall Committee.
In announcing his resignation, Fleming posted three self-serving, self-aggrandizing and misleading statements on the CUSD official website. In summary, those statements provided: Read More...
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. At Wednesday night’s Rancho Santa Margarita City Council meeting, every member of the City Council spoke out about the current scandals that have rocked CUSD.
Mincing no words, four members of the RSM City Council publicly called for the CUSD Trustees to fire Superintendent James Fleming. City Council Members Gary Thompson, Neil Blais, Jerry Holloway and Mayor Pro Tem Tony Beall each expressed disdain for Superintendent Fleming’s involvement in the current CUSD “Enemies List” scandal.
Gary Thompson, Neil Blais, Jerry Holloway, Tony Beall
• Specific Examples of Coercion, Intimidation and Fear
• We call upon the District Attorney to conduct a full and complete investigation
$65,000,000 Measure A Bond: Fraud, Conspiracy, Misuse of Public Funds, Conflicts of Interest, Brown Act Violations
• 25% of funds improperly diverted to Fleming pet
• District employee improperly chaired Oversight Committee meeting
• Oversight Committee disbanded with $20 million still unspent
• Oversight Committee members had financial conflicts of interest
• More Brown Act violations
On November 2, 1999, voters approved Measure A – a $65,000,000 bond measure designed to repair and modernize aging schools, bring them up to current earthquake standards, build four new schools, including a new middle school in San Juan Capistrano and a new high school, and new classrooms throughout the district to relieve overcrowding and solve problems associated with portables, which had covered so many playgrounds, the children lacked places to play.
The ballot measure (and legal bond documents) required that an “Independent” Oversight Committee be established to supervise spending of the bond proceeds. That Oversight Committee was convened on December 15, 1999 when CUSD appointed eleven (11) members. After carefully reviewing the ballot measure and minutes from the Oversight Committee meetings, it appears that CUSD officials made numerous false statements to the public and to Oversight Committee members, several committee members had financial conflicts of interest, and Brown Act violations occurred.
A report released Tuesday by Californians Aware, a group that defends citizens’ rights to examine government, found that almost every state agency it examined failed to comply with state full-disclosure laws. Read More...
The truth about portables: CUSD has systematically and fraudulently violationed state environmental laws
• Completely ignored CEQA requirements
• Caused overcrowded and unsafe conditions
• Continues to engage in cover-up schemes
We have received credible reports of CUSD school administrators intentionally falsifying attendance records for the purpose of obtaining State funding that CUSD otherwise would not have been entitled to receive. State funding for schools is based on average daily attendance (ADA). If a student is absent, the school district does not receive money for that child. Therefore, it literally pays for a school district to inflate attendance records to gain funding that they wouldn’t otherwise be entitled to receive. Although there are undoubtedly many, many examples, we have summarized two compelling cases where students were marked as “in attendance” when they were actually absent for extended periods of time for medical reasons. Read More...
RSM City Councilmember urges voters to replace Fleming-trustees Casabianca, Henness & Kochendorfer in November
For far too long, the CUSD Trustees have been given a free pass. And just like any other government that has had no accountability at the ballot box, there is generally a migration to corruption in the organization. While the children languish in broken down, ancient and decrepit portable classrooms, and parents have to buy supplies for teachers because there aren't any provided by the district, the Trustees and the administration build themselves a $52,000,000 building for their bureaucracy. What is even more frightening is this building started out at $25,000,000 and has over doubled in cost.
This is the state of the Capistrano Unified School District today. And it is time for a change. Join me in encouraging new leadership to emerge among the ranks of the south county population to bring new faces and new energy, and most importantly, new accountability to this school district. There are three Trustees up for re-election this year. It is anticipated that all three will run again. But they will have competition this time, and I would urge any and all to support those new candidates that emerge, and help win back this school district for those that depend on it the most, for the children. Read More...
An investigation into allegations of illegal activities at the Capistrano Unified School District has been commenced. The Orange County District Attorney’s office is leading the investigation.
This past summer, residents throughout South Orange County sought to recall the entire school board based upon allegations of corruption and gross fiscal mismanagement. More than 177,000 petition signatures seeking to remove the Trustees from office were delivered to the Orange County Registrar of Voters.
Susan Schroeder, spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office confirmed the District Attorney has assigned a Deputy District Attorney to the case. Schroeder also stated, “We are reviewing the evidence and witness statements.” Read More...
For a long time, the CUSD Trustees and Superintendent have defended their excessive reliance on portable classrooms on their representation that up to one third of all classrooms are required to be portables by law. Since other local school districts had chosen to go a different direction, making permanent structures their priority, something about CUSD's representation didn't seem right. Since facts matter, we researched the issue and it didn't take long to confirm that the Trustees and Superintendent have misinformed us once again. Read More...