"Last Tuesday, the Board of Trustees voted to place the Superintendent on administrative leave. It was not a decision arrived at easily. Regrettably, the Board is prohibited by law from sharing the details of our closed session discussion.
Our faculty and staff are expected to provide a quality education despite this recent action. I have every confidence in our CUSD personnel.
I will do my best to dispel any rumors and keep the pubic informed as we move forward. Yesterday, I met with the PTA to discuss the superintendent issue and anticipated budgetary shortfalls. It was a lively and candid discussion." Read More...
As previously reported, the Board of Trustees of the Capistrano Unified School District, at its meeting on January 6, 2009, took action to place Superintendent, A. Woodrow Carter, on paid administrative leave. The District and several members of the Board of Trustees have received questions as to why this action was taken.
The Board of Trustees is committed to making employment decisions based on the best interests of the students and community that it serves. However, such decisions inevitably involve issues relating to how public employees are performing their responsibilities. While the public’s interest in such matters is well understood, it is also the case that California law establishes a right of privacy in favor of the employee with respect to their job performance, and makes confidential the Board’s deliberations with respect to such matters. The employee’s right of privacy derives from the State Constitution, as well as other statutory provisions and case law. Accordingly, and out of respect for the Superintendent’s privacy rights, as well as the confidentiality associated with the Board’s deliberations, the Board cannot comment on or respond to questions concerning its decision to place the Superintendent on paid leave. The District and the Board will share further information at the appropriate time and in compliance with the law.
Chief Communications Officer
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...
The OC Register published this excerpt from a report by the OC District Attorney, dated September 2, 2008. Draper's statement was quoted from a February 25th closed session board meeting to discuss a permanent employment contract for Superintendent Carter. Draper's comment was in response to reform trustees Ellen Addonizio, Anna Bryson and Larry Christensen, who argued that a proposed $58,000-a-year raise was too high in light of the district's pending fiscal crisis. Their point was that such excesses were not in the best interests of the "them" in question...the constituents of CUSD. The District Attorney took issue with Draper's insulting, wrong-headed remark, concluding the report by mocking Draper with the obvious truth: "It is all about them."
ABC Reform Trustees issue joint statement calling on Fleming Trustees to comply with Brown Act and transparency in hiring legal counsel
Ellen Addonizio, Anna Bryson and Larry
Christensen, the "ABC Reform Trustees"
San Juan Capistrano, Ca. In the election of
November 2006, the people of 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. We ran as the “ABC Reform”
candidates on a reform platform, vowing to restore
honesty, integrity, accountability and transparency
In October of 2007, the Orange County District Attorney issued a report citing dozens of instances where the four Fleming-era Trustees (Marlene Draper, Sheila Benecke, Mike Darnold and Duane Stiff) illegally discussed district issues in secret behind closed doors, in violation of the Brown Act. In order to avoid further enforcement action by the District Attorney against them, Trustees Sheila Benecke, Marlene Draper, Mike Darnold and Duane Stiff accepted the findings of the District Attorney’s report, admitted they had repeatedly violated the Brown Act, and promised to fully comply with the law in the future.
They have broken that promise.
Recall targets Sheila Benecke (left) and Marlene Draper (right)
Some have said that we should wait until the November general election to bounce Benecke and Draper out of office to save the district the cost of a recall election. I would ordinarily agree, however, these two Fleming-era leftovers keep proving they cannot be trusted to vote in even one more board meeting than necessary.
Last October, they admitted to repeatedly violating the state's open meetings law (the Brown Act) to avoid civil prosecution by the D.A. But in every regular board meeting since then, they have continued to violate the Brown Act by failing to provide proper public notice of important agenda items. The urgency is that the proposals Benecke and Draper are advocating without proper notice involve district spending of millions on very controversial (and arguably, luxurious) projects to the exclusion of well-known, needier projects. Read More...
Sheila Benecke, Marlene Draper, Mike Darnold and Duane Stiff, the "Fleming-era Trustees"
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA – The CUSD Recall Committee filed a formal complaint against Capistrano Unified School District Trustees Shelia Benecke, Marlene Draper, Mike Darnold and Duane Stiff, for actions they took during their most recent CUSD Board Meeting in violation of the Brown Act and other applicable laws.
In particular, Trustees Draper, Benecke, Darnold and Stiff (the four senior, members of the Board who served with recently-indicted former Superintendent James Fleming) voted to approve sending several highly controversial, multi-million dollar construction projects out to bid – projects that were never placed upon an official board agenda. 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.
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...
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...
• Calls for Accountability and Resignations of Fleming-Era Trustees Increase
See Fleming criminal attorney fees request letter 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
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...
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...
Gee, Marlene, any chance you heard about Waldrip's wishy-washy report before hand? Waldrip failed the "independence" test from the start, and though the report strained to make excuses for virtually everyone at CUSD, it's scope was actually limited to very few real issues. And how about those recommendations -- very little bark and absolutely no bite. The report clearly shows that no blame or accountability for you, your colleagues or staff were ever intended. No wonder you're comfortable.
• CUSD Recall Committee Calls For Draper’s Immediate Resignation
San Juan Capistrano, CA. As part of the on-going criminal investigation of the Capistrano Unified School District, Board President Marlene Draper just spent three days testifying before the Orange County Grand Jury. A criminal defense attorney charging $395/hour is representing Draper … and, the taxpayers will be forced to pay the bill! Read More...
San Juan Capistrano, CA. As part of the on-going criminal investigation of the Capistrano Unified School District leaders, Trustee John Casabianca has been called to testify before the Orange County Grand Jury. A criminal defense attorney charging $395/hour is representing Casabianca…and, it has just been confirmed, the taxpayers will be asked to pay the bill! Read More...
Current registrar Neal Kelley has come under fire after the Register reported on mistakes and even a possible illegality in how he handled a recent failed attempt to put a recall election on the ballot. The matter concerned signatures handed in by supporters of a recall of the Capistrano Unified School Board and has been unusually contentious largely because of the sense that the registrar didn't handle the election professionally.
In case you missed Sam Miller's story, the Capistrano Unified School District trustees voted last night to hire a $400/hour attorney to represent former Superintendent James Fleming in investigations being conducted by the distict attorney and the county grand jury. Fleming resigned at the end of last month amid growing controversy. The Total Buzz dossier on the matter is here. 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...
San Juan Capistrano. The CUSD Recall Committee announces that investigators armed with search warrants are raiding the headquarters of the Capistrano Unified School District.
• 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...
Whistleblower and former CUSD Communications Director Smollar's initial reaction to the Waldrip investigation report.
Volzke is the publisher of the Capistrano Dispatch.