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CUSD Fires Three Football Coaches Caught Up in Kickback Scandal

Former coaches from San Clemente, Capistrano Valley and Dana Hills high schools are sacked for payments allegedly received through personal accounts set up at a now-defunct sports equipment company.

The terminated three employees Monday night -- and it is widely believed they were football coaches caught up in an alleged kickback scheme with a now-defunct sports equipment company.

Trustees met in closed session for 1½ hours, coming out to announce the terminations, but identified the employees only by their district ID numbers. However, the sacked trio was believed to be Eric Patton, now-retired head football coach for San Clemente High; Chi Chi Biehn, former head football coach for Mission Viejo's Capistrano Valley High; and Brent Melbon, former head football coach for Dana Point's Dana Hills High.

Patton confirmed with Patch that tonight’s special meeting to discuss possible disciplinary action involved him.

The vote was unanimous, with Trustee Anna Bryson attending by teleconference from Washington D.C.

President Gary Pritchard said the district would be seeking restitution but did not elaborate.

Teresa Sando and her husband, Geoff Sando, bought Lapes Athletic Team Sales in 2008 as it was going under. After the purchase, they discovered coaches from across Southern California had personal spending accounts with the retailer.

Sando was at tonight’s meeting and said she believes justice was done.

“They came to the right decision,” she said, adding that she expects other school districts to follow suit. She said the Saddleback Valley Unified School District’s board of trustees has just received the report about its coaches.

A in June.

Company records show Lapes billed Capistrano Unified for thousands of dollars of merchandise, and credited Patton's personal company account with the amounts billed. Then Patton purchased different items using his credit – purchases for which the district had no oversight, the Orange County Register reported. 

Capistrano Unified policies prohibit employees from using district funds without approval, or from making exchanges or returns without authorization from the district's purchasing department.

Sando said the restitution amount to be sought from the coaches could easily be in the hundreds of thousands.

In August, , just before the start of a season that would see the Tritons .

Patton has become the focal point of the district’s internal investigation if only for the fact that his  to complain of unfair treatment and a slanted investigation.

Sando, however, said the law was on her and the school districts’ side. Capo did in November.

Through his attorney, Patton said he approached the district’s investigator last fall with the hopes of clearing up a misunderstanding. But he found investigator Robert Price to be an “incompetent, belligerent zealot,” wrote Irvine attorney E. Nicholas Hansen in a letter sent to the district.

In a letter to the district, Hansen asked that school board trustees wait to make a decision until the Orange County Sheriff’s Department concludes an investigation of its own.

Patton “wholeheartedly trusts that honorable and objective professional investigators and prosecutors will carefully examine the governing facts and fairly and justly apply the applicable law,” Hansen wrote.

He ended his letter:

As President Abraham Lincoln correctly stated, “you can’t fool all of the people all of the time”. After reading this Open Letter, it is clear the only person fooled by external investigator Robert Price’s official investigation is Superintendent Joseph Farley. In the coming weeks, Superintendent Farley will be the subject of intense public scrutiny for his actions and will be held accountable for the consequences of an official investigation and public promises to be “ultra-fair” and “ultra-empathetic” that are both: inexcusably inaccurate, embarrassingly ludicrous and undeniably a sham.

 

Chris Fore February 28, 2012 at 07:17 AM
It's a shame that Coach Patton has had to deal with this. The Capistrano Dispatch has an open letter from his attorney to the school board which outlines how this "investigation" has been handled, how board policies have been misappropriated, and how an over zealous investigator has failed to include all of the facts. Anyone interested in the truth should read his letter.
Pondo Vleisides, Pastor February 28, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Pondo Vleisides, Pastor 7:37 am on Tuesday, February 28, 2012 Coach Patton, I honor you. You're a great man who always taught lessons of life to thousands of young men. I remember the first day I met you, I was a Sr. at SCHS and I knew you were an ALL American Middle Linebacker from Nortre Dame! You came right over to me and shook my hand and were so nice to me. That humility is who you are. This pastor only wishes more men like you would guide our young people for the pennies and hour they do pay coaches. Gary McNight and Burce Rollinson can only be laughing at the Nike, monies they get with no problem. This town honors you, no man is perfect but you sure did not deserve this. In a church, it only takes 10 people to cause a problem for the pastor, in the world it seems the same. Thanks for letting me take sick and hurting people on the field. God Bless You and Love, Pastor Pondo Vleisides, The Church of Imperfection www.talegachurch .com
Dorianne ricci February 28, 2012 at 05:32 PM
I'm curious how a decision could be made when the treasurer of Capo football for three years of this alleged BS was never even talked to. I'll always stand behind Cheech. This is wrong. D. Ricci. "Maierhofer's Mom"
jim capistrano February 28, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Put them all under oath...and ask them if they did the deed...I'm sure these leaders of young men won't lie...
jim capistrano February 28, 2012 at 06:37 PM
...then check their bank accounts...
george gregory February 28, 2012 at 09:05 PM
more misappropriation just like max berg park it seems that not a week goes by that larceny or perversion is a pone us ,, courtesy of capo unified

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