The barrage against Capistrano Unified School District's handling of an investigation into an alleged slush-fund scam continued Wednesday night.
Although the put football coach Eric Patton on administrative leave two months ago under suspicion of participating in the alleged scheme to kickback funds, its investigator only this week contacted the parent volunteer that oversees the program’s money.
That’s the word from Mark Klein, president of the Trident Touchdown Club, who’s managed the football team’s finances for the past six years.
"I was finally contacted by the investigator, 2 ½ months after Eric Patton has been put on adminsitrative leave and the investigation has supposedly been concluded," Klein told the district's Board of Trustees at its regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday.
Since September, he and other Patton supporters have been regularly attending Board of Trustee meetings to complain about what they believe is unfair treatment.
“Eric Patton has done nothing wrong,” Klein reiterated.
The district put head coach Patton on administrative leave in mid-August, mere weeks before the start of football season. The move followed a PBS investigation in spring that contended Patton and others were involved in a kickback scheme with a now-defunct sports equipment company.
Just the month before, Superintendent Joseph Farley appeared on PBS SoCal, saying the school district might have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in an alleged “slush fund” scam. Without naming any coaches in the program, Farley said on the air that arrests might be appropriate.
“If there were any errors, it was done by the district accounting personnel,” Klein said Wednesday. “I don’t think it was anything intentional … The spotlight should be directed from Eric Patton to you.”
The item was not on the agenda, so trustees could not respond. District spokesman Marcus Walton has said he cannot comment on personnel matters.
Supporter David Marohnic, who played for Patton at Capistrano Valley High School and later at Stanford, said a coach’s job is to always consider the motivation and character of his players and opponents. Because the accusations come from two people who made a “poor investment” by buying Lapes Athletic Team Sales of Laguna Hills as it was going under, it’s fair to ask what their motivation is for launching charges at Patton.
But he didn’t stop there. Looking directly at the trustees, Marohnic asked, “What’s this board’s motivation? What’s this board’s character? I hope it’s to protect the reputation of the teachers, the coaches and the district.”
In other board news the board:
- Approved two new classes that will become part of the “elective wheel” at . The classes teach students . The wheel allows students the chance to experience several electives throughout the year so that they can move on to high school more focused in their goals, said Julie Hatchel, assistant superintendent of education services.
- Discussed changing the forms for student athletes to give to their doctors when they go in to get the mandatory physical. Dr. John Cheng, a family and sports physician with a practice in Aliso Viejo, said the district’s high schools’ forms are not consistent with each other or the private schools in the area. He referred the board to consider a form created by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
- Heard from Ronda Whalen, president of the California School Employees Association’s local chapter 224 and Trustee Ellen Addonizio, who both sit on a committee to devise a school calendar, that changes may be afoot. While nothing is official, Addonizio said they’re thinking “outside of the box.”
Correction/Clarification: An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect spelling of David Marohnic.