Capistrano Unified won’t have to pay former superintendent James Fleming's legal fees against allegations of wrongdoing, an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday.
Fleming was accused by an Orange County grand jury of committing a crime by creating an "enemies list" of his political opponents and their school-aged children. After an appellate court ultimately dropped the charges in May 2011, Fleming sued the school district to cover his legal fees. Judge James Di Cesare dismissed the case Thursday, finding in favor of the school district, confirmed Trustee Jim Reardon.
He had no other comments.
In papers filed with the court in January, lawyers for the school district argued Fleming had no right to recover money from the district for several reasons:
- Fleming's request for severance and benefits was not made in a timely manner
- The district had no contractual obligations to cover Fleming's legal costs associated with defending the case
- The district covered all it was supposed to in connection with civil lawsuits that arose out of the controversy
Di Cesare agreed with the school district's attorneys on all points.
In a tentative ruling, which he later made final, De Cesare said Fleming voluntarily resigned in July 2006 but didn't file for compensation until June 2011. Fleming had argued he needed to wait to see how the criminal charges panned out, but Di Cesare didn't buy that.
"The law is clear that Defendant Capistrano may, but was not required to, provide a defense for Plaintiff Fleming for the criminal proceedings brought against him," Di Cesare wrote.
Fleming had argued that coverage was mandated by his contract.
"None of that has merit," Di Cesare concluded.
In reaction to the news, one of the parents whose name appeared on the enemies list, Jennifer Beall, wife of Rancho Santa Margarita Mayor Tony Beall, said: "Thank God. He doesn't deserve a red cent."
In a controversial move, a former school board voted to approve settlements with families who sued the district after learning their names were on the enemies list. Current Trustee Reardon's family is among them.