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Citizen Drops Half of His Lawsuit Against Capistrano Unified

With the passage of the 2011-12 state budget, the lawsuit challenging the district for partially restoring teacher salaries and reinstating two furlough days is moot.

The man who sued the Capistrano Unified School District earlier this year over restorations to teachers’ contracts has dropped his legal challenge.

San Juan Capistrano resident Jim Reardon, however, will still pursue the part of  that contends that the board of trustees violated the state’s open-meeting laws when it in December 2010 and in January.

School district officials have maintained that the moves were automatically triggered by the contract language the board and teachers agreed to after a three-day strike in April 2010. , however, said the restorations couldn’t possibly be automatic because the clause that allows for the restorations requires both the 2010-11 and 2011-12 state budgets to have been passed.

But now that state Legislature has passed the 2011-12 budget, the challenge to the restorations is moot, said Wayne Tate, Reardon’s lawyer.

“There’s no relief the court can give,” Tate said.

Without elaborating on Tate’s withdrawal of the challenge, Jack M. Sleeth Jr., attorney for the school district, said he agrees with Tate’s conclusion.

Although facing a multibillion-dollar deficit, the Legislature passed a budget hinged to rosy, economic predictions. With full funding headed to schools, the  for the first time in four years.

 to fund state agencies and school district, and CUSD may face $17 million in midyear cuts to adjust. However, that doesn’t change the need to drop the portion of the lawsuit dealing with the restorations.

“They got lucky,” Tate said. “It’s better to be lucky than good. They were lucky, because no one foresaw the deal for K-8” education.

“Fighting over the restoration language is a waste of everyone's money at this point,” Reardon said. “However, I have no regrets about having raised the issue. The current status of the state proves that our original objection was correct.”

Reardon is not dropping his challenge that the board of trustees approved the restorations behind closed doors without properly notifying the public ahead of time or reporting afterward what action was taken. He believes that portion of his lawsuit is “firm.”

The trustees held a  to discuss the restorations in the open. The meeting was designed to “cure and correct” any violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act, even though the board didn’t violate the Brown Act, Sleeth told Patch. In paperwork to the court, he argues that this portion of Reardon’s lawsuit should be dismissed because the special meeting remedied any “alleged violation.”

“The district does not believe that it did anything that was wrong, but it did not want the expense of litigation, and it did not want to leave the impression with the public that it might have done something wrong, so it held another meeting to correct the impression of a violation of the Act,” Sleeth said.

“That also put the district in the correct position to argue to the court that the lawsuit should be dismissed, thereby saving the cost of further litigation,” he said.

But Tate said the district still hasn’t admitted it violated the Brown Act, which is an important component of any amends a public agency must make.

“Under the facts, the court is going to assume they’re going to do it again,” Tate said. Given the district’s history, that’s not an unrealistic assumption, he said.

In 2007, the Orange County district attorney’s office wrote a 60-page report about the then school board, alleging similar violations, including discussing anything under the sun under the guise of a superintendent evaluation.

In May, the district attorney’s office came out with , this time focusing on restorations. The school district has asked the D.A. to reopen the investigation. 

Pam Sunderman August 22, 2011 at 05:38 PM
He seems to be more of a gadfly than a watchdog. And now a frivolous lawsuit is justified because "the court is going to assume they will do it again." What a total waste of district resources.
Shripathi Kamath August 22, 2011 at 10:02 PM
I find it not unreasonable that a citizen if he or she chooses to expose any corrupt practices should be motivated enough to pursue legal action. Commendable even. This is neither to assign credence to the charge that the district is guilty of any corruption, or that Mr. Reardon is pursuing this line of action out of only greed or conversely purely selfless civic duty. Perhaps it is wasteful, but democracy is wasteful that way for a good reason -- we do not succumb to instant gratification. I would hope that Mr. Reardon's fears are found to be baseless because that would mean that the district is acting as it should. Should his fears turn out to be true however, and his lawsuit results in a victory, it should be considered as a victory for all us, and we should thank him. Clearly precedent is on his side since he sued successfully before.
cookie August 23, 2011 at 02:56 AM
Reardon is a kook.
cookie August 23, 2011 at 02:57 AM
Reardon is a kook.
Pam Sunderman August 23, 2011 at 03:27 AM
It seems that is the only method of communication he knows how to use. Sadly for the students of CUSD.

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