.

San Juan Resident Sues School District

Jim Reardon wants recent restoration of two furlough days and partial restoration of teacher salaries declared "null and void."

San Juan Capistrano resident Jim Reardon filed a lawsuit this week against the Capistrano Unified School District, seeking to halt the board of trustees' recent restoration of two furlough days and employee salaries.

In late February, Reardon’s attorney, Wayne Tate of Laguna Hills,  to “correct and cure” what he said were violations of the state’s open-meeting law.  to address the issue March 16, but Tate called it a “sham.”

“It was nothing but an ill-disguised, dog-and-pony show,” he said.

He said his client decided his only resort was to pursue a lawsuit, which Tate filed Monday in Orange County Superior Court.

The lawsuit seeks to declare the restoration of two furlough days to the academic calendar—one of which has already passed—and salary bumps for teachers “null and void.”

School district officials declined to comment. “We don’t comment on pending litigation or litigation,” said spokesman Marcus Walton.

The district has 30 days to formally respond to the lawsuit, then a legal conference will be scheduled. 

At issue is the restoration language included in the contract with teachers the trustees approved to end the three-day teachers’ strike a year ago. At the time, the teachers agreed to take five unpaid furlough days and a 10.1 percent pay cut.

But in December, the school district announced it would . In early February it announced  so that their pay cut this year amounts to a 6.49 percent decrease over last year’s pay.

In his lawsuit, Reardon alleges wrongdoing on two fronts: One, that the board took action in closed sessions when it should have been done out in the open; and two, that the conditions of the restoration language do not exist to justify pulling the “trigger.”

In an as-yet publicly disclosed accusation, Tate said the vote to reinstate the furlough days and salaries may have actually taken place at the Dec. 13 meeting.

A Jan. 11 memo to the school board said the vote did take place Dec. 13, but district officials now say that report was in error. There was no correction of the report when it was presented to the board at its Jan. 11 meeting.

In a letter to the district’s contracted lawyer, Jack M. Sleeth Jr. of San Diego, Tate wrote, “I have confirmed that items not listed on the Dec. 13, 2010 special meeting were discussed [by] the [board] at that meeting, and that the [board] most likely voted on items not listed on the agenda.”

Tate told Patch that nobody has illegally disclosed the content of the closed-session discussion and/or votes. “The only information I’ve been provided is that items were discussed that weren’t on the agenda. I don’t know what it was.”

In the one and only response Tate received from his Feb. 28 demand letter, Sleeth did not mention the Dec. 13 meeting at all.

No matter which day the board approved the restorations, Tate said it should have been done in front of the public. “None of the exceptions to an open meeting (which are strictly construed) apply,” the lawsuit states.

Superintendent Joseph Farley has said the board had . The topic fell under the protected category of labor negotiations.

Tate told Sleeth that explanation is a “farce.” The contract was already board-approved and a public document. Board “discussions regarding whether or not certain terms in the [contract] have been triggered are required to be conducted in an open session and in the public’s eye.”  

Besides reversing the restorations, Reardon is calling for the board to tape-record closed sessions for three years. The board used to tape its closed sessions in compliance with a 60-page report District Attorney Tony Ruckaukas released in October 2007, citing many violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state's open-meeting law.

As for the actual restoration, Reardon contends the the return of two school days and a partial reinstatement of teacher salaries. The trigger can happen, according to the agreed-upon language, “following the adoption of the 2010-11 and 2011-12 state budgets, CUSD’s actual funded base revenue limit increases from the governor’s January 2010 proposed budget proposal."

Reardon said the word “and” means the governor needs to sign off on both years’ budgets, and approval of the 2011-12 budget is still pending.

Reardon’s lawsuit also says the increased revenues need to be “actual funding that is received by CUSD, i.e. in the possession of CUSD.” Because the additional monies promised to school districts in the Oct. 8, 2010,  passing of the budget is to be deferred until the 2011-12 year, the school district cannot claim that condition has been met, the lawsuit states.

School officials both within and outside the school district have said that the law allows school districts to consider , even if they have to draw from their rainy-day reserve fund or take out bridge financing to address the cash-flow issues created by deferred payments.

shelly April 05, 2011 at 04:25 AM
capo parent, The board did not give the teachers money. The teachers earned the money by working additional days. Our children have two more days of school. There was a super majority with the former board. It was 7-0. This former board awarded money to their campaign supporter in a lawsuit. This former board signed the teachers contract that the current board honored. The current board like the previous board were elected to office by the people of CUSD. There are only a little over 2000 teachers in CUSD and some were unable to vote because they live outside the CUSD boundaries. The three new board members were elected by more of a margin then 2000 votes so it was not the union who voted them in but the majority of people in CUSD who voted in the last election..
Capo Parent April 05, 2011 at 05:25 PM
If the restoration language in the agreement was not triggered the board gave furlough days, i.e. money and pay cuts it did not have to. Since it needs to cut, at a minimum, $12 million this year, and apparently close to $25 million next year (per Penny) giving away millions CUSD does not have and needs to cut makes no sense in the real world. I have come to learn, the hard way, that public education apparently operates outside the real world. In the real world you don't spend money you don't have. In the real world you don't increase you indebtness dramatically when you face having to cut millions and millions of dollars (unless of course you are the Federal Government and you have the ability to print money). If the train wreck known as CUSD continues on the same track, our kids are going to be the one's who bear the overwhelming lion share of the cuts that will have to be made. Of course, since your kids are in a Spanish immersion school (which I assume will be mostly white after the proposed changes to those schools are made, i.e. you have to start in Kindergarten), your kids will be at a "special" school with small class sizes, your kids will be sheltered from the massive increase in class sizes that will occur in K-12 in order to cover the fiscal black hole that CUSD is creating.
Shripathi Kamath April 05, 2011 at 07:18 PM
"If the restoration language in the agreement was not triggered the board gave furlough days, i.e. money and pay cuts it did not have to" In complete agreement there, CP. If a court so decides, we can all agree that the CUSD board did a great disservice to its constituents, and Mr. Reardon should be recognized for being a vigilant watchdog and doing us all a favor. But should the court decides otherwise, what are we to make of this lawsuit and the time, energy and monies spent on the matter? " In the real world you don't spend money you don't have" Er, no. In the real world spending money that you do not have is all too common. Just about every business has some point or other has spent money it does not have. As long as it is able to borrow, and project better times. Without a line of credit, most businesses will not be able to pay wages to their employees, who are promised a certain compensation through their employment contracts. The CUSD has exactly such contracts with the teachers and other employees. As I understand it, entered into by the former board, but which is binding on the new one. Virtually everyone with a mortgage is spending money they do not have, and should they have a financial crunch (due to loss of employment, for instance) they will increase their indebtedness massively before they surrender their house. As long as they can borrow, or renegotiate with a lender, and project recovery in the future.
Capo Parent April 05, 2011 at 07:45 PM
SK While most businesses try to maintain a line of credit, I don't know of many that will use their line of credit at the same time they need to cut multi-millions of dollars. Your analogy to a mortgage is misplaced. A mortage is secured by an asset, i.e. real property. If a lender looses money on a mortgage it is because the lender misvalued the asset securing the debt. Further, if a homeowner defaults on a mortgage the homeowner faces the loss of the home. If CUSD borrows money and defaults what happens? Does the state come in and takeover like it did in Oakland? If CUSD puts up schools as collateral (CVHS & 2 other schools) like it did with the financing for the Education Center, does the lender get the schools? As for the contract, it was negotiated and agreed to by the old board. 5 members of the old board have stated, unequivocally, that the restoration language has not been triggered. Bryson keeps repeating the mantra that we " have to honor our word" though she is apparently confused as to what the word really is. As for Brick, he has said nothing on the subject that I am aware of, and that's not surprising. Since many are pinning the contracts on the old board, then their understanding of whether or not the restoration language has been triggered is entitled to some weight. I do find it more than interesting that Dr. Farley claims to have gotten legal opinions from 3 different attorneys, yet not one of the allege opinions has been made available. Why is that?
shelly April 05, 2011 at 08:13 PM
Capo parent, This is not about me and where my children go to school. It is about a contract that the former board signed and the legality of honoring it or not honoring it. Our district cannot spend money it does not have. Legally school districts must stay within a yearly budget. CUSD has done this year after year. Mr. Reardon has taken the easy and expensive way (to our children) to investigate a wrong that he feels has been done. Litigation instead of investigation. He has already sued the district once that I know of. The former board that you say agree with him are the very same who awarded him the money. "The first settlement agreement, for $475,000, was reached Aug. 14 with Aaron, Jill and Jared Case; James and Helen Welch Reardon and their minor son; and Bo Klein. Capistrano trustees authorized that agreement Sept. 15 in a unanimous 7-0 vote." O.C. Register, Sept. 29, 2009, Scott Martindale Five of the seven are the very same trustees who agree with Reardon now. Two of these five were recalled in the last election by the voters of CUSD and one of the reasons was the above lawsuit and its conflict of interest issues because some of the people who were awarded the money were also campaign supporters.
shelly April 05, 2011 at 08:29 PM
Have you visited Las Palmas, San Juan Elementary or Viejo and to see whether the population is mostly "white". The immersion program was designed to be in Kinder 5o% Native Spanish Speaking students and 50% Native English Speaking students. The proposed changes will make it 60% Native Spanish Speaking and 40 percent native English Speaking students. So I do not know what you mean by the following comment. "Of course, since your kids are in a Spanish immersion school (which I assume will be mostly white after the proposed changes to those schools are made, i.e. you have to start in Kindergarten), your kids will be at a "special" school with small class sizes, your kids will be sheltered from the massive increase in class sizes that will occur in K-12" where is your data and proof to make such a statement. My children were slated to go to school an elementary that had a predominantly "white" population which you seem to think is important for some reason. Because CUSD has school of choice we chose a different school. The immersion programs feed into BAMS, Marco, SJHHS, SCHS, DHHS, and any other high school. There are no small class sizes. The dual immersion program works because all kids are immersed in two languages.
shelly April 05, 2011 at 08:30 PM
My previous comment was to capo parent.
Shripathi Kamath April 05, 2011 at 08:35 PM
CP, the point you raised was that people "in the real world" do not spend what they do not have. Clearly that is shown to be not true -- individuals and businesses do it all the time. I cited two instances where they do exactly that. Now, if you feel that the analogy to a mortgage was misplaced, note that it was not to equate "public education" with "house ownership", it was to show that people raising their indebtedness even as they face bad times is all too common. So you are right only in that they are not the same thing. Of course then, you are guilty of confusing "public education" with a for-profit business. Since you do not find the need to answer my question, I find it difficult to reciprocate. I already agreed with you that should a court rule as Mr. Reardon alleges, he would done us all a great favor and the board a disservice.
shelly April 05, 2011 at 09:37 PM
Capo Parent, You seem to want to make this personal but it is not. I simply don't agree with you and it has nothing to do with the choices that I make or you make for our children's education. Almost every school district in America is in dire straights because of the economy. Less money is going to schools and yet they are still expected to fulfill every mandate and standard. As a parent I do not blame the schools, teachers or administrators for this. But they have suddenly become the scapegoats because the pundits (just who is speaking into the pundits ears?) have decided they are. I don't buy into the rhetoric. So if my school district is "facing a massive multi-million dollar deficit." then I am willing to pay more or volunteer to help provide the same services and programs that I believe are important. Blame isn't always the answer. I don't agree with sueing to find the answer everytime. As a citizen you do have the right to investigate the government and the school district but it is hard work. So investigate it a little further and then if you do not find the answers go to court. And if you choose to sue then do it on your own dime not our kids since "CUSD is facing a massive multi-million dollar deficit".
shelly April 05, 2011 at 09:46 PM
When did the board stop taping its closed sessions?
shelly April 05, 2011 at 09:53 PM
Capo Parent, You said, "Mr. Reardon did investigate and did try to informally resolve the matter, but the board would not admit to any wrong doing even though it basically acknowledged at least one violation of the Brown Act." To what extent did Mr. Reardon investigate and where are the results of his investigation? If the board feels it did not do anything wrong why would they admit to any wrong doing? When did the following occur and where is the statement and what did they acknowledge? "basically acknowledged at least one violation of the Brown Act."
Penny Arévalo April 05, 2011 at 10:20 PM
According to Marcus Walton (I asked this very question last week), April 2010.
Capo Parent April 05, 2011 at 10:27 PM
Read the letter that was submitted on his behalf to CUSD outlining the Brown Act violations. To get you started remember that Dr. Farley violated the confidentiality of the 12/7/10 closed session to admit that the board conisdered and voted on the CUEA contract with CUSD even though that contract (which was and is a public record) was not on the agenda for that meeting. Further, CUSD did not report out after that meeting what action it took with regard to the contract. As for 12/7/10 special meeting, Julie Hatchel, in her memo to the board for the 1/11/11 meeting, reported the board voted on 12/13/10 to restore two furlough days. Restoration of furlough days was not on the agenda for the 12/13/10 meeting, nor did the board report out from that meeting that it had voted to restore two furlough days. The foregoing are Brown Act violations. If the board really believes it did nothing wrong, why did it arrange the dog and pony show meeting on 3/16/11? And what vote did it affirm at that meeting that restored furlough days to CUMA and the Teamsters? As for your concern about the costs CUSD will incur in dealing with Mr. Reardon's suit, I note you did not protest when the teachers' union sued Addonizio for allege Brown Act violations. Not only did CUSD incur costs in defending Addonizio, it also paid, if my memory is correct, the teachers' union approximately $20,000. It appears you have a double standard. Ok to sue if you're a union, not ok if you're not.
shelly April 05, 2011 at 10:50 PM
Capo Parent, I will ask again, You said, "Mr. Reardon did investigate and did try to informally resolve the matter, but the board would not admit to any wrong doing even though it basically acknowledged at least one violation of the Brown Act." To what extent did Mr. Reardon investigate and where are the results of his investigation? If the board feels it did not do anything wrong why would they admit to any wrong doing? When did the following occur and where is the statement and what did they acknowledge? "basically acknowledged at least one violation of the Brown Act."
shelly April 05, 2011 at 10:50 PM
Thank you Penny.
Capo Parent April 05, 2011 at 11:03 PM
There is an old adage, "you can bring the horse to the water, but you can't make it drink the water." I have laid out facts for you and pointed you to documents in support, however, I can't make you understand them. That's up to you.
shelly April 05, 2011 at 11:23 PM
Capo Parent, Again, you are trying to make this about me. I don't believe it is okay for anyone to sue unless they investigate what has occurred. I am not union. I am a parent. I support my children's teachers. From what I can gather I believe two violations were filed by the union at the time in one suit, the meeting discussing Carter's evaluation (which was found to violate the Brown Act) and the subcommittee meeting where Addonizzio and another trustee were thought to have engaged in an illegal quorum (which was not found to violate the Brown Act). Was the $20,000 spent exclusively defending Addonizio or was it spent defending the Board of Trustees in the suit filed? "A superior court judge ruled that the Capistrano Unified School District violated the Brown Act, the state’s open meeting law, in not properly preparing the agenda on a closed door meeting on a personnel matter. In recent years the board had been reprimanded five times for violating the Brown Act, and a board with all new members had pledged to do better. -db" First Amendment Coalition,March 23, 2010 by donal brown CUSD was found to have violated the Brown Act in this case so since you believe it is okay if Mr. Reardon filed this case was it not okay for the Union to file their case? As Penny has noted the former board in April 2010 stopped taping their closed meeting sessions. This was during the time the board was negotiating with the teachers.
shelly April 05, 2011 at 11:25 PM
Capo Parent, You also did not answer the questions so there is nothing to drink. I am parched.
Capo Parent April 05, 2011 at 11:41 PM
Shelly I did answer the questions, you didn't like the answers. You're parched because you don't know how to drink or refuse to drink, either way the end result is the same.
Capo Parent April 05, 2011 at 11:47 PM
Shelly I am not making this about "you," only you are making this about "you." You argue the end results justified the teachers' union suing for Brown Act violations since you don't describe what investigation it undertook before filing suit. Maybe you should apply the same standard to Mr. Reardon's suit. As for the $20,000, you apparently did not understand what I plainly wrote. The $20,000 was paid to the teachers' union over and above the costs CUSD paid to defend the trustees.
shelly April 06, 2011 at 12:28 AM
Capo Parent, again I will ask You said, "Mr. Reardon did investigate and did try to informally resolve the matter, but the board would not admit to any wrong doing even though it basically acknowledged at least one violation of the Brown Act." To what extent did Mr. Reardon investigate and where are the results of his investigation? When did CUSD acknowledge at least one Brown Act violation and what was it? You made the statement that they acknowledge one. The judge ordered CUSD to pay CUEA's attorney fees of $20,000 for the case. Yes, I think if you file a case it is your responsiblity to pay the fees fees. But that is how I feel and not how the courts deal. Will Reardon be paying his own or is his attorney pro bono? Since you believe it is okay for Mr. Reardon to sue CUSD for the Brown Act violations. Do you believe that it was okay for CUEA to sue CUSD (and win) for Brown Act violations? I ask you questions about the case and you bring up where my children go to school and that I may have double standards because of a case from 2008. We were discussing this case. You have no idea where or what I was doing in 2008 when the former Brown Act violations occurred. I have not said anything personal about you. So yes, I believe in a couple of instances you have made it personal about me. Just stick to the facts of what you believe and don't make it personal.
shelly April 06, 2011 at 12:29 AM
Capo Parent, I ask you about the CUEA case because you asked me. You asked and I answered.
Capo Parent April 06, 2011 at 12:39 AM
Sorry, you're clueless. Your questions have been asked and answered several times. If you don't like the answers, I can't help you. As for whether or not Mr. Reardon will be paying attorney fees, why don't you ask him? As for the teachers' union filing suit, that was its right. I brought it up because you were complaining about the costs CUSD may incur in dealing with the lawsuit filed by Mr. Reardon. It is evident both exercised rights provided to them by law. I don't know where you were in 2008, nor do I know where you are now, and frankly, I don't care, though I do wish the best of luck and good fortune to your children as they make their way through the education system. If I wanted to make this personal trust me, you'd know. As for sticking to the facts, maybe you need to understand the facts and accept them instead of reasking your questions.
shelly April 06, 2011 at 01:20 AM
Capo Parent, You did make it personal and still do. Oh well, we all debate differently. According to you I am clueless, I have a double standards and for some reason where my kids go to school matters. I have read the letters and it does not answer how much Mr. Reardon investigated this himself and what his findings were. I can only find what the lawyers have done and there is no informal letter from Mr. Reardon but a legal document from his lawyer. Where is the informal letter? Can you paste me a link? My question was how much did Mr. Reardon investigate and what did he find. My other question was what Brown Act violation did CUSD acknowledge and when? You stated they acknowledged a Brown Act violation. I asked you what CUSD acknowledged they violated and when. You made the statements so I assume you have the answers. Here is your statement. "Mr. Reardon did investigate and did try to informally resolve the matter, but the board would not admit to any wrong doing even though it basically acknowledged at least one violation of the Brown Act."
Capo Parent April 06, 2011 at 01:49 AM
Sigh, you apparently keep asking the same questions hoping for different answers. Alas, the facts, documents and answers remain the same.
shelly April 06, 2011 at 02:28 AM
Capo Parent, Where are your answers? Please repost. Because I missed them. Where is the informal request made by Mr. Reardon? There are two letters from an attorney to CUSD but no informal letter. How did Reardon "try to informally resolve the matter."? Is there an informal letter? Please post the link. "Mr. Reardon did investigate and did try to informally resolve the matter, but the board would not admit to any wrong doing even though it basically acknowledged at least one violation of the Brown Act." When did CUSD "basically acknowledge at least one violation of the Brown Act"? What violation did they acknowledge. Please repost your answer.
Capo Parent April 07, 2011 at 03:02 AM
Shelly The facts are readily available, you just need to open your eyes to see the facts. Unfortunately, for reasons best known to you, you just don't get it, so let's leave it at that.
mojo jojo April 07, 2011 at 05:46 PM
shelly, If you want this information you should be able to get it through a FoI request from the CUSD school district. But you might have to desire it really very bad 'cause CUSD school district charges lots of money for free information.
PC April 13, 2011 at 10:33 PM
When did the board stop taping its closed sessions? Did we ever get the answer?
Penny Arévalo April 13, 2011 at 11:31 PM
Yes, it's above. April 2010.

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