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.