In response to the indictments and continuing problems in beleaguered CUSD, local officials from across South Orange County are now speaking out and demanding change. Thompson is Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Rancho Santa Margarita.
Whistleblower and former CUSD Communications Director Smollar's initial reaction to the Waldrip investigation report.
CUSD spokesperson says CUSD is a 'full disclosure' agency, but district stonewalling tells a different story
DeNicola sent this to Full Disclosure in response to an email from Leslie Dutton, whose repeated attempts to interview the CUSD trustees and Superintendent Fleming for nearly two years had been rejected by the district. As CUSD's Director of Communications, DeNicola carries on the tradition of her predecessor, David Smollar, by spinning to cover the district's obvious stonewalling.
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.
OC Register calls CUSD Recall win "stunning," "overwhelming" and says voters did the right thing at the ballot box
An Orange County Register editorial
Perhaps now, finally, the tumult at the Capistrano Unified School District can die down, following a stunning and overwhelming recall this week of two of the school board's holdouts from the bad old days. Longtime Trustees Sheila Benecke and Marlene Draper were tossed out of office by overwhelming majorities, with about 70 percent of voters agreeing to recall both members. Ms. Benecke was replaced by former Assemblyman Ken Maddox, and Ms. Draper was replaced by teacher Sue Palazzo.
The two new board members’ three reform-oriented colleagues won their seats in November 2006. The reform crowd holds a 5-2 majority. It has taken three years and enormous time, money and effort to gain control of a board that was previously known for its consistent unanimous votes and its unyielding support for a powerful former superintendent – James Fleming, who faces criminal charges in August related to his compilation of an "enemies list" of district parents who had supported a previous recall attempt. Read More...
By Barbra Casserly, Mission Viejo
Good evening Honorable Mayor and City Council. Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to speak. My name is Barbara Casserly and I am a resident of Mission Viejo.
The last time you considered this item you considered the cost of the election. I ask you to consider the cost of allowing the current leadership to continue to take from our children’s schools. We cannot allow the current leadership to pass one more budget. We are experiencing our sixth year of budget deficits because for several years CUSD was a district where our seven Trustees voted together – on every single item. Details were left to key staff members who were rewarded with frequent contract renewals and high praise. CUSD Trustees did not display dirty laundry in public as the dirty laundry was swept under the rug the infrastructure of the district started crumbling.
$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.
• Specific Examples of Coercion, Intimidation and Fear
• We call upon the District Attorney to conduct a full and complete investigation
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
• 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...
This is a chilling abuse of power that should be thoroughly investigated by the county district attorney. One parent, appropriately enough, called the behavior “Nixonish.” Read More...
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...
By David Haldane, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
• 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
I'm glad that the proponents of a recall of the Capistrano Unified School District board have filed a lawsuit against the Orange County Registrar of Voters. Parents claim that the registrar unfairly rejected their petitions, and the registrar argues that he was only following state law. The only way to resolve this is in court. I am sympathetic to the recallers and read their report alleging improprieties in the registrar's office. I can't know which side is right, given that I have not analyzed the signatures. But I do know that this needs to be looked at by an impartial party, and that if the CUSD recallers' allegations are correct, that there could be major problems in the registrar's office. Read More...
The Register's front-page article today details an outrageous abuse of power that should result in a DA investigation, civil rights lawsuits against the Capistrano Unified School District and the firing of its arrogant superintendent James Fleming.
Read "School district kept tabs on parents."
Posted at 10:32 AM
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...
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...
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...
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
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...
• 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...
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.
In a new Information Bulletin published by Superintendent Fleming on June 16th, the total cost of the new District Administration Building is now estimated at $35 million! On April 26th the Superintendent published a in which he stated that the new District Administration Building "is built with some $20 million." That is an additional $15 million (75% increase) that is being spent on the administrators, instead of improving the schools for our kids. How much more money will be taken away from the kids before the building is actually completed? Read More...