Trustee Draper made this sarcastic remark to rebut the crowd's vocal disapproval of the district's proposed expansion of Arroyo Vista School at the March 9, 2003 Board of Trustees meeting, where local residents made public comments unanimously opposing the district's expansion plans. The meeting was carefully controlled by district officials to avoid discussion of the actual issues of concern to residents (i.e., overbuilding on such a small school site, unsafe traffic and other impacts on the local community, increased usage of the adjacent community park, etc.). Public speakers were kept to one minute instead of the usual three minutes for public comments to squelch community input. Those who tried to speak were met with sharp reminders from officials that the evening's discussion was centered on K-8s in general, not Arroyo Vista in particular, thus effectively killing the issues that were of real concern. Draper's comment was rebuffed with defiant applause from the Arroyo Vista crowd who opposed the intrusive changes proposed by the board and staff for their school, neighborhood and park.
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.
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.
Thanks for the explanation, Marlene. At least now we can all rest easy knowing that the improper concealment of the district’s financial affairs wasn’t your only purpose in violating the state’s open meetings law.
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.
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."
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...
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...
I'm proud to be at the forefront of the fight to reform the Capistrano Unified School District.
Our five-year campaign to restore honesty, integrity and accountability into the Capistrano Unified School District has already achieved much...and on election night, we will celebrate a truly remarkable achievement:
For the first time in nearly two decades, the seven-member CUSD Board of Trustees will have a majority of Trustees dedicated to restoring honesty, integrity and accountability!
Please vote -- Tomorrow, June 24th -- If you vote by mail - return your completed ballot Today.
Please "Vote Yes" to recall Marlene Draper and Sheila Benecke.
Please elect Sue Palazzo and Ken Maddox to replace them.
You can visit our website at www.CUSDrecall.com to learn more about these very important issues.
Please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com should you have any questions, require any additional information or if I may ever be of any assistance to you.
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...
Special guest column by CUSD Trustees Ellen Addonizio, Anna Bryson & Larry Christensen that appeared in the June edition of the Trabuco Canyon News
Come June 24th, constituents who live in the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) will have the opportunity to make a positive change in direction of our troubled school district.
Three years ago, citizens dedicated to reforming CUSD gathered over 177,000 signatures in a failed attempt to recall all seven members of the Board of Trustees. The following year, the three of us sought seats on the seven-member school board running as the “ABC Reform Slate” candidates. Read More...
The CUSD Recall special election will be held on June 24th.
CUSD Recall Committee spokesperson Thomas Russell was present for the May 19th Central Committee meeting and stated, “We are pleased the Republican Party agrees that Marlene Draper and Sheila Benecke should be recalled and removed from office.” Read More...
• Ladera Ranch Republican Assembly, based in Ladera Ranch,
• Rancho Santa Margarita Republican Assembly, based in Rancho Santa Margarita
• Saddleback Republican Assembly based in Mission Viejo, and
• South Orange County Republican Assembly based in Dana Point.
The CRA units also officially endorsed Sue Palazzo and Ken Maddox, the two reform candidates running to replace the incumbents in the upcoming June 24th special recall election.
• 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...
ABC Reform Trustees expose, condemn new Brown Act violation by Fleming-era Trustees and call upon D.A. to intervene
Joint Statement Condemns New Brown Act Violation and Effort to Conceal Critical Information from the Public
Addonizio, Anna Bryson and Larry
Christensen, the "ABC Reform Trustees"
San Juan Capistrano, Ca. We believe that during our most recent March 24th board meeting, the four Fleming-era Trustees (Marlene Draper, Sheila Benecke, Mike Darnold and Duane Stiff) violated the Brown Act -- again. We believe the facts clearly demonstrate they did so with a specific intention to conceal from the public critical information they knew should have been made available to the public. As a result of this most recent flagrant violation (which continues a systematic pattern of illegal actions), we hereby call upon the Orange County District Attorney to immediately intercede. As a result of these illegal actions, we also will demand that the official agenda for our next board meeting on April 21, 2008 include an item calling upon CUSD to stop all expenditures and further action to construct the San Juan Hills High School Football Stadium Complex because all prior approvals for that project were obtained by presenting misleading and incomplete information to the Board of Trustees – and to the public.
On March 24th, we recessed into closed session for the stated purpose of participating in a conference with legal counsel related to potential litigation. Agenda Item 3A was entitled:
“A. CONFERENCE WITH LEGAL COUNSEL – ANTICIPATED LITIGATION
Significant Exposure to Litigation: Two Cases…”
DAILY NEWS BLAST: Neutral On CUSD
The City Council on Tuesday voted 3-1 to rescind a 2005 resolution that supported CUSD trustees under fire in an attempted recall. The vote, with Joe Soto abstaining because of a landscaping contract with the district, officially leaves San Juan Capistrano with "no position" on the current recall attempt against Trustees Marlene Draper and Sheila Benecke. A handful of residents and Councilman Lon Uso argued the move should have gone farther to support the current recall, but that effort failed to garner any support. Councilman Tom Hribar voted against even rescinding the 2005 decision. Read More...
By Sharon Campbell, Mission Viejo
I am a longtime parent volunteer and active supporter of Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) schools. I, like many others, have dedicated time to serve the students and staff of CUSD. As a resident of Mission Viejo I can say I have never believed Trustee Draper had any interest in the condition of the schools or the children of my community. I have heard her talk a lot about the schools and children in San Juan, but in the past three or four years I have not heard any level of interest about other communities in CUSD, and I attend every board meeting. Trustee Draper does not seem to understand the impact she has on the schools outside her own city. I recently wrote to her about two comments I continually hear her make that led me to my conclusion, but she did not respond. Read More...
Draper denies existence of enemies list & infiltration of Registrar's office after one-day "investigation"
By Jonathan Volzke
Editor, (949) 248-2296
The Capistrano Dispatch
• 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
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...
After consulting with the recall proponents and the three seated CUSD Reform Trustees, for strategic reasons a decision was made not to circulate petitions to recall Trustees Duane Stiff and Mike Darnold.
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...
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...
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...
This is a momentous event – there has never been a recall in the history of CUSD – and now the national news media has taken note of this citizen revolt. Read More...