April 2011
December 2012
April 2013
April 21, 2007
August 2006
How much is MiraCosta paying to keep the public from seeing
documents about the Victoria Richart deal?

MCC paid $46K to provide documents in county probe
North County Times
DA's office investigating buyout deal with former president
November 20, 2007

OCEANSIDE -- MiraCosta College has paid about $46,000 so far to a law firm with expertise in
defending companies against allegations of white-collar crime.

The firm, McKenna, Long & Aldridge, was hired in August to review and select documents
requested by San Diego District Attorney's office, said Jim Austin, the college's assistant
superintendent of business services.
MiraCosta faction opposes severance
3 trustees say public must decide on action
By Lola Sherman
San Diego Union Tribune
June 27, 2007

The three-member minority on the MiraCosta College governing
board is hoping a contract giving more than $1 million in cash and benefits to
departing college President Victoria Muñoz Richart can be set aside.

Board members Gloria Carranza, Jacqueline Simon and Judy Strattan spoke out yesterday at Carranza's
Carlsbad home.

They said taxpayers have every right to be irate over the amount of money given Richart to leave the
campus she has headed for three years. But they said they have failed to budge the four-member board
majority on any issue over the past year and a half, so it will be up to the public to take up the gauntlet at
this point.
“You must decide if it is important enough to question the legality of the recent settlement with the
president,” they said in a “report to the public.” But, because the terms of the settlement reached by the
board June 20 after an all-night closed session require that they not discuss it, the three did not specify
what is wrong with the deal, other than its cost.

They posed the choice of a recall of trustees to the public.

“You must decide if you want different trustees to become stewards of your tax dollars,” their prepared
report said.

Strattan acknowledged that by calling a news conference, the three were violating what she called a “gag
order” imposed by board policy, requiring that only the board president speak for the entire board.

Board President Charles Adams was informed of their intent, she said.

Adams, contacted at home yesterday, said he had not received any notification and that the three trustees
are breaching the contract with Richart by talking about it.

Strattan said she was being meticulous in discussing only the “process” that was followed during the
closed session, which ended at 5:40 a.m., after which the settlement was disclosed.

And, she said, Adams already had breached the pact's confidentiality provision by disclosing previously
that the board went into the meeting “to hammer out a deal” with Richart and by saying the board was told
Richart might get even more from a jury if she sued and won.

The settlement pays her $650,000 in undisclosed “damages” and her $18,155 salary plus $3,150 a
month in expenses for 18 months.

The board also is giving Richart, 58, and her husband health benefits to age 65 and Medicare
supplements to age 75, as well as five additional years of retirement credit. It also is paying her legal and
has indemnified her from any future legal action. Four lawsuits against the district are pending.

The schism between the board minority and majority became evident after Richart announced a probe into
the illegal sale of palm trees belonging to the college in May 2006.

But Strattan noted that the faculty had brought up concerns about Richart's leadership style unrelated to
what has been dubbed “Palmgate.” It resulted in two administrators being placed on leave and one suing,
saying she was forced to retire.

Carranza said yesterday that she would like to bring back to campus one of those administrators,
Julie Hatoff, vice president for instruction. The other, Alleen Texeira, pleaded guilty to a grand-theft
charge involving an overpayment to her then-fiance for the sale of palms and has been allowed to
retire and move to Hawaii.

Carranza said that if the settlement is revisited, the three dissenting board members should be given
their own legal counsel because Richart had threatened to sue them.

Technically, all seven signed the settlement agreement, and the three minority members would not
disclose what caused them to acquiesce to a deal with which they were in disagreement.

They would not speculate as to whether the board will be able to agree on an interim president to replace

Strattan said that decision should come in the fall.

In the meantime, the board is supposed to vote at a closed session today on an acting president who will
serve the college for a month or two. Usually, that is an administrator already in place, but that may not be
an easy call, either.

Dick Robertson, who has been holding down Hatoff's job on an interim basis and well as his own as vice
president for student services, is the senior administrator. But the board majority could lean toward Jim
Austin, vice president for business and administrative services, who has been on campus only six months.
MiraCosta hires interim president; agrees to 're-notice'
Richart settlement
August 7, 2007
North County Timesr

OCEANSIDE -- MiraCosta College trustees named veteran administrator John Hendrickson its interim
president and canceled the suspension of former college VicePresident Julie Hatoff on Tuesday after
more than six hours of closed-door deliberations.

Trustees also voted to "re-notice" for the board's next meeting a controversial $1.5 million settlement
reached in June with former MiraCosta President Victoria Munoz Richart.

By re-noticing the meeting, college officials said they hope to deflect a lawsuit by a local attorney Leon
Page, who claims the board violated the state's open meeting law when it made the closed-session deal
with Richart.

Page has demanded that the settlement be abandoned and all payments to Richart cease...

Page said Tuesday he believes the board's action falls short of his demands that the settlement be
vacated. He said he intends to file a civil lawsuit against the college today.

[Maura Larkins' note: The Court of Appeal eventually ruled in Page's favor.]

The deal with Richart capped more than a year of controversy at MiraCosta, much of it stemming from an
investigation into the illegal sale of palm trees by the college's horticulture department.

One employee was eventually charged with theft totaling $305 after Richart conducted a $1.2 million
investigation. That investigation involved placing Hatoff, the

college's vice president of instructional services, on involuntary administrative leave.

On a unanimous vote, trustees ended that leave Tuesday, stating that Hatoff has a "right of retreat" to retain
her former job as an English professor at MiraCosta.

College spokeswoman Bonnie Hall said she did not know whether Hatoff, who has a lawsuit against the
college, will return to a teaching job at MiraCosta. Hatoff did

not return a call for comment Tuesday.

Larry Herrmann, co-chair of Restore MiraCosta, a public action committee formed to recall majority board
members who supported Richart, said he and others who have

supported Hatoff were pleased by the board's decision to cancel her administrative leave.

"Her right to retreat was there from the beginning, and we're glad they're finally acknowledging that," he

The college is continuing to seek a permanent president to fill the vacancy left by Richart, but named an
interim leader Tuesday.

Trustees voted 3-0 with three abstentions and one member absent to hire Hendrickson, who recently
served a one-year stint as the college's interim director of

business and administrative services, to serve as MiraCosta's interim superintendent and president.

Hendrickson will guide the board through the process of finding a permanent president to take his place.

Reached Tuesday, the veteran community college administrator said he was excited to return to MiraCosta
to fill another interim post.

"When I heard they had another need for an interim, I jumped at the opportunity, because I enjoyed every
day at the college when I was there," Hendrickson said.

Charles Adams, chairman of the MiraCosta's governing board, said Tuesday that the board selected
Hendrickson from a field of four candidates. He said that the new

interim president's previous work in an interim capacity at the college spoke well for him.

"There were other employees and administrators who spoke well of him, and some of us board members
had worked with him previously, and we felt like we knew him,"

Adams said.

Adams and fellow board members Carolyn Batiste and Rudy Fernandez all voted for Hendrickson's
appointment, while Trustees Judy Stratton, Jacqueline Simon, Gloria

Carranza and Carolyn Batiste all abstained. Member Greg Post, who was called away for a family
emergency, did not vote.

Stratton said Tuesday evening that she abstained because she was not comfortable with Hendrickson's
contract, though she declined to specify her objections to the pact.

"I just felt like it was not one I was comfortable with," Stratton said.

Carranza declined to state her reasons why she abstained; Simon did not return a telephone call seeking

An employment agreement with the administrator states that he will "be placed on the district's academic
salary schedule in accordance with his experience and

academic credits and background" but does not specify a salary. He will also receive a monthly travel and
housing allowance of $3,000.

Hendrickson lists 38 years of experience in the public administration and consulting fields, including 12
years in senior management positions at four California community colleges. He is currently the director of
financial and resource Planning for Kitchell CEM, a firm that provides construction management for public
agencies. He holds masters degrees in educational leadership and public administration from the
California State University system.

Comments On This Story

What a joke! wrote on Aug 7, 2007 7:39 PM:The board returns Ms. Hatoff to the classroom - what a
magnanimous gesture of nothing! She had tenure rights and they have nothing to do with her right to
return to the classroom. All they wanted to do was stop her from asking questions of the mighty majority
which she would do in the deposition phase of her action. The transparency we seek as a public right is
once again denied us. These absolute dictators must be removed from public office. They have no interest
in saving the taxpayers' money: on the contrary, they just do what the self-serving lawyers tell them. They
will try again to extort money for Richart. Join the recall efforts. Sign to get the recall on the ballot!
A Short History of the $3 million MiraCosta Palm Tree Fiasco

MiraCosta College president Victoria Richart asked attorney Dan Shinoff to organize an
investigation of
the horticulture department.  The theft of $305 worth of water for palm
trees was discovered.

But the palm trees may not have been the real target of the $1.3 million
the trees were allowed to die from lack of water after the people caring for the
trees were fired.

The real targets seem to have been the faculty, which opposed President Richart's
administration, and Julie Hatoff, an administrator who was friendly with the faculty.  

But the board claimed that it was only interested in the money improperly spent in the
horticulture department.  
“If a dollar is misappropriated – and it costs $100,000 to
investigate it – so be it,” Trustee Gregory Post said in defense of the $1.3 million cost of
the investigation.

Mr. Shinoff ordered that Julie Hatoff be removed from campus (see Aug. 2006 story below),
then the board took steps to fire her (see April 21, 2007 article below).

In June 2007 Richart resigned, and fifteen hours later she had a $1.6 million settlement--
without even filing a tort claim.  T
his is bizarre for many reasons.  Why did MiraCosta reach
a $1.6 settlement with Richart instead of following normal procedure clearly spelled out
by the SDCOE JPA (which insured the college)?  SDCOE has told all school districts to
deny all tort claims.  Shinoff didn't even wait for a claim to be filed to engineer the

But local attorney Leon Page sued to overturn the payoff, saying it exceeded the legal
amount.  Page won in the appellate court, and Richart had to give most of the money

Then Richart sued the college.  The college hired new lawyers for the lawsuit.  They
filed a Special Motion to Strike, or "SLAPP" suit.


website of Tom
For links to documents
and articles about the
MiraCosta fiasco , visit the
Tom Severance is
chairman of the Business
Department at MiraCosta
College, and a full-time
Click here to see SDER
blog posts: scores of
detailed stories and
"...What is even more
maddening is that
MiraCosta College in-
house attorney Dan
Shinoff is hired to
represent the college’s
board, but instead acts as
if he reports exclusively
to Munoz Richart.

This is defective
government at its best..."
Ken Leighton
MCC settles with
former administrator
[Julie Hatoff] for

North County Times
December 11, 2007

OCEANSIDE -- For the second
time in six months, MiraCosta
College trustees agreed Tuesday
to pay a high-dollar employee not
to work for them.

MiraCosta's board of trustees
approved a settlement of more
than $500,000 with Julie Hatoff,
the former vice president of
instruction who was dismissed
last spring during an
investigation into the illegal sale
of palm trees from the campus
horticulture department.

In a similar action last June, the
board unanimously voted to pay
$1.6 million to former college
president Victoria Munoz Richart
in a legal settlement. Under both
agreements, the former top-level
administrators will not work for
the college but will continue to
draw pay and benefits for 18

Under Tuesday's agreement,
Hatoff is scheduled to get salary
and benefits totaling $226,200
over the next 18 months. She will
also get a lump-sum payment of
$311,282 from the college for
"further consideration," according
to the settlement agreement...

Hatoff had sued MiraCosta,
alleging breach of contract,
negligence, extortion,
harassment and violations of
labor law. She had sought $24
million in damages.

As a condition of the settlement
agreement, neither party
admitted wrongdoing.

The deal caps months of legal
wrangling and political intrigue.

A 36-year employee of MiraCosta
College, Hatoff oversaw all
educational programs as its top
instructional administrator. She
was one of several employees
investigated by the college's
private attorney during the
palm-tree probe.

In December 2005, a
whistle-blower said officials in
the horticulture department were
raising and selling palm trees for
personal profit. The college's
ensuing 17-month probe led
authorities to charge one school
employee, Alleen Texeira, with
theft. She pleaded guilty to a
single theft, worth $305.

College officials accused Hatoff
of failing to properly supervise
employees and refusing to
cooperate in its investigation,
which concluded that Hatoff knew
of the illegal activities but did
nothing to stop them.

However, a separate
investigation by the San Diego
County district attorney's office
found no evidence of illegal
activity by Hatoff.

Hatoff was placed on leave from
her job as vice president of
instruction in August 2006. She
continued to draw her annual pay
as an administrator of $200,000
a year until her dismissal last
June. After June, she returned to
the college as an instructor on
paid leave and continued to
collect monthly pay and benefits
of $150,800. She returned briefly
to the classroom this fall.

Tuesday's settlement ends
Hatoff's active employment as of
Dec. 31. She will return to
administrative leave through
June 30, 2009.

The agreement ends all legal
actions by both parties.

Carolyn Batiste, one of two
trustees to oppose the
settlement, said the deal
"hopefully ends a historically dark
period" in MiraCosta's past.
Batiste opposed the settlement,
saying she believed that the
district would have defeated
Hatoff's suit.

Trustee Greg Post also opposed
the settlement, calling the last
few years a "tragedy." He said
Hatoff brought her problems
upon herself when she stopped
cooperating with the investigator
hired by the district.

Trustee Gloria Carranza, long a
Hatoff supporter, thanked the
administrator at Tuesday's board

"I think she should be lauded for
her stellar accomplishments at
MiraCosta College," Carranza
said. "She was dedicated to
teaching and students
throughout her 36 years."
MiraCosta College
Julie Hatoff

Dan Shinoff and MCC
President Victoria Richart
used $1.5 million in public
money to conduct an
investigation into a $305
unpaid water bill for palm
trees at MiraCosta
Community college.  It
appears that they were
desperately trying to get
someone, possibly Julie
Hatoff, charged with a crime
in order to resolve the
President's conflict with Julie
Hatoff and the faculty senate.
MiraCosta College - Trustee
Jacqueline Simon

A public California community
college serving coastal North
San Diego County.

Jacqueline Simon was elected
to the Board of Trustees of
MiraCosta College in
November 2004. She is a
resident of Carlsbad
representing Area 3, which
includes Carlsbad and

As an educator with over 17
years of teaching experience
at the community college level,
she brings a unique
perspective to the board.  Her
educational background
involves her directly with many
of the issues and challenges
facing our community colleges
today and gives her insight
into the immediate needs of
both faculty and students.  She
believes that MiraCosta’s
curriculum policy should
strongly comply with academic
goals and transfer
requirements of four-year
institutions so that students
will have the opportunity to
transfer to any college of their
choice.  She also advocates
that local funding be
apportioned to promote
expanding educational

She holds a Master of Arts
degree in Speech from
California State University East
Bay (formerly called California
State University at Hayward)
and a Bachelor of Arts degree
in Journalism from San Jose
State University.  She currently
teaches speech and
communication at community
colleges within the San Diego
and Riverside county districts
along with outreach programs
such as the Hill House,
continuing education for
recently paroled individuals
working to better themselves
and their future.

Ms. Simon also has
numerous years experience in
the corporate environment as
a Senior Technical writer. In
this capacity she has authored
and produced numerous
technical and educational
publications for many of San
Diego’s top organizations. She
is a Senior Member of the
Society for Technical

Jacqueline also takes an
active interest in the arts and
culture of our community
having been an active member
of the Museum of
Photographic Arts since its
inception and has held several
memberships over the years
supporting the arts through
organizations such as the San
Diego Museum of Art, the
Museum of Contemporary Art
La Jolla, the Mingei
International Museum and
Save Our Heritage
Organization.  Being an
advocate of the arts,
Jacqueline hopes to create
new venues for North County
by involving MiraCosta as host
and sponsor for promoting
and recruiting new and
existing artistic endeavors
such as increasing the
utilization of the MiraCosta

Jacqueline welcomes this
unique opportunity to serve as
a MiraCosta trustee to ensure
that MiraCosta College
becomes the premiere
institute of learning and
educational opportunity
benefiting not only our youth
but also our community.  
MiraCosta struggled through 2007
North County Times
Jan. 2, 2008

Lawsuits and buyouts cost the college millions

OCEANSIDE -- Though MiraCosta College continued to roil in 2007 as attorneys wrangled lawsuits, an
embattled chief executive left with a big pile of cash, and trustees continued their public bickering and private
deal-making, an end to the strife may be in sight.

The political infighting cast a shadow on the breezy hilltop campus of well-maintained buildings, green trim
lawns and tall trees, shading such positives as the dedication of a $8.7 million horticulture building and the
launch of a new nursing program.

The turmoil began in late 2005 with allegations that employees in the horticulture department were selling
district-owned palm trees for personal profit.

The scandal ripped the once-placid community college into divided camps, pitting teachers against the
college president and trustee against trustee.

An ensuing investigation led to the early retirement or dismissal of several employees, multiple lawsuits, a
stunning public-session allegation of hate crimes, and the expenditure of millions in taxpayer money --
including more than $2 million to buy top-level administrators out of their contracts.

But 2008 may see the end of the controversy. Just a few lawsuits are left to settle. And in November, three of
seven trustees will face elections, which could break the 4-3 split that typifies votes on most issues involving
the palm tree scandal.

The year in review

College-watchers saw several actions last year that grew out of the scandal:

A private investigator employed by the college finished his 18-month inquiry into palm tree sales in April,
concluding that an employee sold trees for personal profit, and that several administrators knew of the
practice but took no action.

Also last spring, a deputy San Diego district attorney concluded a separate palm tree investigation, resulting
in a guilty plea by horticulture department employee Alleen Texeira for the theft of $305.

In a March vote, four out of five instructors said they had no confidence in the ability of the governing board to
effectively run the district.

In June, someone defaced the home of Trustee Charles Adams -- who is black -- with "KKK," a reference to
the hate group Ku Klux Klan. A few days later Adams accused two faculty leaders and fellow trustees with the
hate crime during a public board meeting. Adams later apologized for the accusations.

Former college President Victoria Munoz Richart negotiated a $1.6 million severance package in June,
saying trustees had improperly evaluated her performance in public.

In July, district officials tallied legal spending on the investigation at $1.2 million.

Local legal activist Leon Page filed suit against the college in the fall seeking to overturn Richart's severance
deal as an illegal gift of public funds.

The San Diego County district attorney's office launched a probe in August into the legality of the Richart deal.

A political action group representing teachers filed papers in July to recall Trustees Adams and Greg Post,
but later ended the recall effort.

During a special visit to the college in September to gauge the scandal's impact on students, an agency that
certifies colleges across the West criticized trustees for their continued failure to resolve nearly two years of
political turmoil.

Former Dean of Instruction Eileen Kraskouskas, fired as a result of the investigation, withdrew her wrongful
termination suit against the college in August after a judge dismissed a similar lawsuit against Richart.

Former Vice President of Instruction Julie Hatoff was dismissed in December, negotiating a $535,000
severance package that ended two competing legal actions.

Entrenched attitudes

That long list of contentious issues polarized trustees into two voting blocs. Trustees Adams, Post, Carolyn
Batiste and Rudy Fernandez formed a voting majority that backed Richart. They repeatedly blocked attempts
by minority Trustees Gloria Carranza, Judy Strattan and Jacqueline Simon to discuss issues regarding the
scandal, the ensuing investigation, the mounting legal costs and myriad political and moral questions that
grew out of the controversy.

Many instructors, backed by minority trustees, say Richart used the palm-tree investigation as a pretext for
eliminating administrators who challenged Richart's primacy.

Richart and the board majority said they were required by law and morality to ferret out wrongdoing. Post
was among four elected officials who stood steadfastly behind Richart. In June, Post defended spending
more than $1 million in taxpayer money to investigate and prosecute the case, saying that wrongdoing must
investigated and ended at any cost.

The campus divide was perhaps at its widest when board President Adams stood up in a summer meeting,
pointed his finger at faculty leaders Jonathan Cole and Abdy Afzali and at Trustees Carranza and Strattan,
accused them of vandalizing his home with a symbol of hate. The accusations brought audible gasps from
the audience and immediate denials from those Adams accused...

RichartOpposition to Motion
to Compel.pdf

Page is going to depose MCC
Board members and Jim
Notice of Depositions.pdf

Page's reply: Winet failed to
state a valid legal reason why
Richart shouldn't be deposed:
PageReply Declaration.pdf
Judge Anello's
tentative ruling
disqualifies MCC
attorneys from
Hatoff case

North County Times
August 23, 2007

VISTA ----
working for MiraCosta
College should be
disqualified from
defending the school
against a $24 million
lawsuit filed by former
vice president of
instruction Julie Hatoff,
according to a Superior
Court judge's tentative
ruling Thursday.

In his ruling, Judge
Michael Anello found that
attorney Daniel Shinoff
and the law firm Stutz,
Artiano, Shinoff and Holtz

failed to make clear to
Hatoff that Shinoff
represented the college
---- not her ---- when he
interviewed her during
an investigation into the
illegal sale of palm trees
from the campus'
horticulture department.

Hatoff was cleared of
wrongdoing by the county
district attorney's office, but
her lawsuit alleges that she
was subsequently dismissed
from her $200,000-a-year
administrative job because
of statements she made to
Shinoff under the promise of
attorney-client privilege
Hatoff is still an English professor at
the school.

Anello is scheduled to issue a
final decision Friday on the
motion to disqualify the law firm,
after hearing arguments from
Hatoff attorney Tracy Warren and
from Jack Sleeth, a lawyer
representing the college. Like
Shinoff, Sleeth is employed by
Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff and Holtz.

Reached by phone Thursday,
Warren declined to comment on
the tentative ruling. Shinoff and
Sleeth could not be reached for

Shinoff led the college through
its 17-month internal
investigation into the palm tree
The scandal erupted in
December 2005 when a
whistleblower alleged that
officials in the horticulture
department were raising and
selling palm trees for personal
profit. The ensuing probe led
authorities to charge one school
employee, Alleen Texeira, with a
single count of theft. A handful of
other employees, including
Hatoff, were disciplined or

College officials accused Hatoff
of failing to properly supervise
employees and refusing to
cooperate in the investigation.
She was placed on
administrative leave as vice
president of instruction in August
2006 and dismissed from the
post in June.

Hatoff has not been charged with
any crime and was cleared of
wrongdoing after an investigation
by the county district attorney's
office, according to deputy district
attorney Mike Still.

Anello's ruling found that when
interviewing Hatoff, Shinoff
appeared to violate one of the
California Rules of Professional
Conduct, a document that guides
the behavior of attorneys in

The rule in question essentially
states that when dealing with an
organization's employees, an
attorney must explain clearly who
he is working for when it
becomes apparent that the
organization's interest may
conflict with those of the

"Instead, Shinoff promised me
and others attorney-client
privilege if we cooperated in the
investigation and maintained
confidentiality," Hatoff alleges in
her lawsuit.

Sleeth said earlier this week that
Hatoff was never Shinoff's client.
Therefore, he said, rules
regarding conduct with clients do
not apply. In his ruling, Anello
rejected that argument, stating
that the notification rule still

Hatoff sued the college in May,
alleging breach of contract,
negligence, extortion,
harassment and labor law

The lawsuit names the college,
former college President Victoria
Munoz Richart, all seven
members of MiraCosta's
governing board and former
trustee Henry Holloway.

Hatoff is seeking $14 million in
general and special damages,
as well as punitive damages of
$5 million from Richart, and $1
million each from the board
members who supported Richart
---- board president Charles
Adams and trustees Carolyn
Batiste, Rudy Fernandez, Gregory
Post and Holloway.

In Hatoff's lawsuit, there are
several other motions pending,
including one by the college to
dismiss the case and another
that seeks to shield four college
trustees from testifying in
MiraCosta president a roundtable no-show
Ken Leighton   February 09, 2007

I turned in my first appearance on KOCT’s “Journalist Roundtable” last week and it was not without
surprises. (The show replays throughout the month — see KOCT.org for times). Among the surprises, Vista
school board member Stephen Guffanti said that the Vista teachers union “supported rapists.” But more on
that next week.

The biggest bombshell came two days before the live show when MiraCosta College President Victoria
Munoz Richart said she could not participate because of “scheduling conflicts.”

MCC spokesperson Bonnie Hall said Richart would not be explaining what those “conflicts” were, but I
would imagine that the overwhelming nonsupport of her teaching staff had something to do with her
decision to not take part in the show.

For the first time in the school’s history, a MCC president has been given a vote of no confidence by the
teaching staff. Jonathan Cole, president of the MCC faculty senate, said 78 percent of the full-time faculty
showed up Nov. 30, 2006, to vote on a resolution of “no confidence.” Of those who voted, 91 percent voted
“no confidence.”

MCC instructor Tom Severance put together a Web site, www.severance.com/mccmess, that documents the
staff’s unhappiness with Richart. The site contains a collection of signed letters from these highly paid
teaching professionals which spell out specifically why they think Richart has to go.

“The staff is deeply concerned that Richart has been unable to provide more information about ongoing
events,” Cole said.

The Web site refers to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article that points out that while Richart was president of
the Cascadia district in Washington, the staff there voted to unionize.

The Web site suggests Richart may trigger an effort to unionize at MiraCosta.

What has not been said in these anti-Richart tirades, is that the MCC board is directly responsible for hiring
Richart. I think as this all plays out, we will all get to know the names of these board members and how they

That same MCC board voted to forbid any of their fellow members to speak to press on matters relating to
their college. This is, of course, a joke.

Judy Strattan was recently elected to the MCC board. Stratton unseated a longtime incumbent (she got 60
percent at the polls) and then openly violated the gag rule when she spoke to a North County Times reporter.
And guess what? The board can do nothing about it. Judy Strattan will continue to speak up and speak out
and the board majority can do nothing but complain in closed session and look like rank amateurs...

Regarding Richart’s KOCT no-show and her board’s unenforceable gag rule I say: You can run but you
cannot hide.
Trustee Gloria Carranza
Judy Strattan joined the
MiraCosta College Board of
Trustees on December 5,

Judy’s approach to working
with the community, Board
colleagues and campus
constituents is consistent,
honest, accessible and

Judy earned a doctorate in
Educational Leadership from the
University of San Diego.  She
served MiraCosta College from
1978 to 1987 as dean of students;
Columbia College, 1987-1993 as
vice-president of Student Services;
and Barstow College, 1993-1997
as president/superintendent.  
Judy spent 15 years in teaching
and administration at the
university and community college
level in Illinois.

Judy believes in giving back
time and energy to the
communities in which one
lives.  She has served as a city
council member in Elgin,
Illinois and as a member of the
County Criminal Justice
Commission. She has also
served on women’s center
advisory councils, small
business and economic
development councils, college
foundations, health alliance
committees, and homeowner’
s association boards.   

Judy has also shown
leadership through her
participation in the Association
of California Community
College Administrators
Association, Higher Education
Consortium of Central
California Articulation and
Transfer Council, Vocational
Guidance and Counseling
Advisory Committee for the
California Community College
Chancellor’s Office and the
Accrediting Commission for
Community and Junior
MiraCosta trustee Carolyn Batiste also currently serves on the California Community
Colleges Board of Trustees.

Perhaps that explains why CCCCO has been reluctant to seriously investigate
MiraCosta, and instead sponsors “training sessions” urging trustees “to reconcile”
instead of changing the policies that have cost the taxpayers so dearly.
Community College: same law
similar problems:
The MiraCosta Mess
MiraCosta minority
trustees letter to Diane
Crosier, executive director
Richart deposition
day 1;
day 2
Calendar dates for
MiraCosta court cases
Google Search

Note: David Hatoff, husband of
Julie Hatoff, the administrator
who was fired, and who is
suing the school, was the
largest donor. ...

MiraCosta College trustees at
odds; legal representation
complex ...Known as a "joint
powers authority," the
organization recently granted
the minority trustees an
attorney -- David Monks -- to
represent them in the Hatoff ...
Trustee Judy
Stratton--resigned March
31, 2009 perhaps
because MiraCosta
College is under control of
powers beyond the board
The MiraCosta
Minority Trustees
County investigators are probing the circumstances surrounding former President Victoria
Munoz Richart's $1.5 million buyout deal with trustees, inked in a controversial all-night board
meeting on June 20.

The spending disclosure came Tuesday night as trustees ratified a contract with the law firm
for an estimated $75,000. The fee could be more or less, depending on the how far the district
attorney probe goes, Austin said.
George McNeil
Jacqueline Simon
Gloria Carranza  

(Voters got rid  of Daniel Shinoff's rubber stamp: Carolyn Batiste loses election.)
2008 Election results
The three individuals listed below were all winners, and it seemed they would change
MiraCosta.  Eventually all trustees except Gloria Carranza rubber-stamped Dan Shinoff's
efforts to preserve the Richart settlement until the Califonria Supreme Court finally
rejected them.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis drops criminal probe of
MiraCosta deal
Investigator Robert Price
Compare: CCDC
investigation was
1/100th the cost

Probe into ex-CCDC
executive costly one
$33,000-plus spent
to get $3,300 fine vs.
By Jeanette Steele
San Diego Union-Tribune
May 9, 2009

San Diego spent more than
$33,000 to investigate
conflict-of-interest charges
against former downtown
redevelopment executive
Nancy Graham, all for a no-
contest misdemeanor
conviction that yielded a
$3,300 fine.

That kind of outlay – mostly
under former City Attorney
Michael Aguirre – is
uncommon for the City
Attorney's Office.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith,
who unseated Aguirre in
November's election, said
the expenses were justified
because the case was
complicated, with research
required on New York-based
real estate giant Related Cos.

The developer's California
operation was granted a
project by the nonprofit
Centre City Development
Corp., which guides
downtown revitalization for
the city. Graham, who was
the agency's president, didn't
disclose her financial ties to
a Florida arm of the

The City Attorney's Office
spent $16,000 on forensic
accounting experts from a
national consulting firm,
about $10,000 of which was
booked under Aguirre, who
declined to comment Friday.

Other big-ticket items: $8,661
to prepare documents for
trial; $2,754 for rushed, out-of-
state corporation records;
and $1,533 for transcripts of
audio recordings of public
meetings. It cost $1,042 for
copies of Florida court cases,
one of which provided the
pivotal proof that Graham had
received money she hadn't

Goldsmith said he approved
the single-count plea deal
because a trial would have
pushed the city's outside bills
up by $75,000. He said they
couldn't make Graham pay
the city's costs, despite the
conviction, because the law
doesn't allow it on this kind of

“We saw the amount of
expense, we paused and we
negotiated with the defense
lawyer, and we were actually
very pleased that we actually
got a conviction to what we
believe we could have proven
had we gone to trial,”
Goldsmith said in an
interview this week.

Graham's attorney, former
District Attorney Paul Pfingst,
said, “To their credit, they cut
their losses; they stopped the

The May 1 entering of the
plea may not be the end of
the public's costs. Pfingst
said the city's Ethics
Commission is still
investigating Graham. Also,
the FBI's public-integrity unit
in January subpoenaed
records related to Graham's
ties to downtown developers.

Pfingst said he doesn't think
the U.S. attorney will take any
“Even if there was a technical
violation of a city reporting
statute, it does not rise to the
level of federal interest,” he said.

The charge to which Graham
pleaded no contest was failing to
disclose financial interests on a
form that city officials fill out

Graham once had a real estate
development deal with the
Florida arm of Related, which
won a $409 million urban-
renewal project from the San
Diego agency in 2007.

Graham's former development
company got about $7 million
from the Florida venture, and
$125,000 of that came to her
after Related Cos. had been
awarded the San Diego project.

Graham never reported income
from the Florida venture on her
economic-interest forms.

Aguirre filed five misdemeanor
conflict-of-interest charges
against Graham, but
Goldsmith's office reduced those
to one. Goldsmith said the city
would have gone to trial and
shouldered the expense if
Graham hadn't taken the deal.

Since this was Graham's first
offense, and it was a
misdemeanor, it's unlikely that
she would have served any of
the six months of jail time that
conviction on the charge could
bring, Goldsmith said.

Pfingst wouldn't say where
Graham, 62, is now or what
she's doing. Calls to her cell
phone for comment weren't
returned. Graham was living in
Tennessee with her extended
family after she left San Diego
last summer.
Judge Anello ruling re Dan
Shinoff conduct (also see
article below)
Here's a comment from San Diego News Network:

Comment by: Observer Posted: May 5, 2010, 5:47 pm

Amazing – you must be the only person who has ever used the words “highly
regarded” and “Daniel Shinoff” in the same sentence. Suggest you look at
recent case at Miracosta College where citizen attorney Leon Page ran intellectual
circles around the “highly regarded” Shinoff. The Appellate court and Supreme
Court agreed with Mr. Page. A careful read of the
Appellate Court’s findings
suggest they saw right through the highly questionable behavior of Shinoff.
Link: Appellate Court’s findings
MiraCosta College, Oceanside, CA
OCEANSIDE: Richart files claim against MiraCosta
North County Times
July 1, 2010

Former MiraCosta College President and Superintendent Victoria Munoz Richart has filed a
claim against the college alleging potential damages worth more than $2 million.

[Maura Larkins comment: Now that she has filed a claim, SDCOE-Joint Powers Authority
can pay her off without running afoul of the law. The previous deal was illegal because
it was a severance deal that went over the legal limit. But paying off a claim for damages
would not have such a limit.

My guess is that Diane Crosier at SDCOE-JPA will be only too happy to approve a payoff.
Crosier is very close to Dan Shinoff, and he certainly isn't going to want to see Victoria
Richart on the witness stand at a trial talking about how he advised her to conduct the
Palmgate investigation.]
MiraCosta's accreditation status in danger
Staff Writer North County Times - Californian
February 9, 2008
[See also
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges has
disgraced itself again]

The organization that vets community colleges across the West warned beleaguered MiraCosta
College this week that it must correct problems in leadership, education and communication within two
years or lose its accreditation.

The news is another setback for the college, which has suffered through nearly two years of turmoil
marked by an investigation into the illegal sales of palm trees from its horticulture department, as well
as acrimony among board members over the leadership of the school's former president, Victoria
Munoz Richart.

The official warning from the
Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, made
public by the college Thursday, recommends that college officials make the following changes:

* create a plan to help the governing board work cooperatively;

* accelerate plans to measure student success;

* create a plan for clear and open communication between the board and various college groups.

College officials reacted to the news Friday with disappointment and resolve.

"We take (the commission's) concerns very seriously," the college's interim president, John
Hendrickson, said Friday. "In my opinion, maintaining accreditation is more important than having
money in the bank. It's that important."

The college will remain an accredited institution throughout the two-year warning period, commission
President Barbara Beno said in the report. However, should the college fail to address the
commission's concerns, the organization will end the school's accreditation.

The loss of accreditation would prevent the college from offering classes for college credit.

Hendrickson said college officials have been helping trustees get along better since a team of
educators visited the college in September to investigate claims by faculty that the governing board
could no longer function effectively.

In a statement then, the team criticized the board's infighting and commended faculty for maintaining
educational standards amid the political turmoil.

The commission's public sanction this week comes as part of a final report from that team.

According to that report, the college must provide reports to the commission in April and in March 2009,
documenting progress toward meeting the recommendations. The commission will send teams to the
college after each report to confirm the reports' claims.

Included in the commission report are details of the turmoil that began in 2005 with allegations of
illegal activity in the college horticulture department and a controversial 17-month investigation. In the
end, four employees left the college, one employee pleaded guilty to fraud and the college has
defended multiple lawsuits that grew out of the scandal.

The board split, with four trustees siding with Richart and the other three with various faculty groups, to
vote no confidence in Richart's leadership. Richart later negotiated a $1.6 million buyout settlement,
arguing that minority trustees damaged her reputation.

Hendrickson said two recent workshop meetings have targeted the issue of board cooperation: a
January retreat that focused on state open meeting laws, and a meeting last Tuesday to help board
members understand the college's cycle of planning and budgeting. However, during both meetings,
trustees blamed one another for the last two years of turmoil, underscoring the continuing deep divide.

Board President Carolyn Batiste acknowledged the problem but said the board needs to keep moving

"I thought (the commission report was) right to the point and reminded us once again that we must put
away the things that have mired us down," Batiste said.

She said that she and Hendrickson will meet with the leaders of key campus groups to hear their

However, Batiste said she would resist efforts by minority board members and employees to "dig up
the past," referring to the turmoil of the last two years.

"Discussing actions that have already taken place (does) not allow the momentum to get us where we
need to be," Batiste said. "There is no going back."
North County
12/14/07 01:30PM N-27    
Stern, Jacqueline M.           
Demurrer / Moti
01/25/08 01:30PM N-30   
Nugent, Thomas P.
Community College    
04/25/08 01:30PM N-27    
Stern, Jacqueline M.      
Case Number:   GIN058018
North County       
Filed:  12/28/2006  
Category:  CU-WT  Wrongful
AUSTIN     KAREN     P    
HATOFF     JULIE     P    
RIGGS     TERRY     P    
06/06/08 11:00AM N-27    
Stern, Jacqueline M.           
Daniel R. Shinoff        
San Diego Education
Report Blog
Why This Website

Stutz Artiano Shinoff
& Holtz v. Maura
Larkins defamation



Castle Park
Elementary School

Law Enforcement



Stutz Artiano Shinoff
& Holtz

Silence is Golden

Schools and Violence

Office Admin Hearings

Larkins OAH Hearing
MiraCosta College apparently never cared about the palm trees; it spent $3 million on power
struggles.  It was obvious to anyone who paid attention that the MiraCosta palm tree
investigation that netted a lot of money for Stutz law firm and its investigators was never about
protecting public assets.  It was about personal power struggles. Shame on the board
majority for using public resources to fight for personal power.
Bleak picture of college's palm trees emerges
By Bruce Lieberman
June 18, 2008

There is yet another accounting of what is now the ill-fated donation of more than 2,300 palm
trees a decade ago to the Oceanside-based community college. Accountants say most of the
trees have died, are ailing or are too ragged to sell.

A little more than two years ago, the college had 2,328 palm trees valued at $222,370. An
audit in March counted 1,377 valued at $49,000...

And now the forest of free palms, once worth nearly a quarter-million dollars, looks bleak.

Of the 1,377 trees left, a college consultant has recommended throwing out 295, selling 791
wholesale and 196 retail, and keeping 95.

At yesterday's meeting, board President Carolyn Batiste said Carranza's outrage did not
reflect the board's sentiments. “The board has not taken any position that there has been a
dereliction of duty,” she said.

Batiste said the March 2006 audit, which counted 2,328 trees valued at $222,370, was not
conducted by a horticulturist, who would have been most qualified to estimate the trees'
From: Leon Page
Sent: Wed, April 27, 2011
Subject: Richart v. MiraCosta; the college's anti-SLAPP motion

As you may know, Victoria Richart has sued MiraCosta College and three individual
trustees -- the former "dissidents" on the Board.

Her lawsuit is the result of the trial court
judge's order invalidating the original
settlement and the judgment requiring that she return to the college all
consideration -- about $1.4 million
-- she recieved under the illegal settlement agreement
before it was nullified.

In response to Richart's new lawsuit, the college's lawyers have now, appropriately, filed a
legal motion called a "
special motion to strike" --  also known as an "anti-SLAPP"
motion -
- to have the new lawsuit dismissed.

memorandum of points & authorities in support of the college's special motion to strike is
attached.  The document is, in a word, awesome.  I do recommend that you take a few minutes
to look at the legal arguments the college is now making.

Note how the college is now advancing, as its own, all of the arguments we raised
over the years in support of our position that the Richart settlement was a fraud, and
that Richart never had any valid claim of any kind against the college or its trustees.
That's because the Board, as this brief explains so well, never took any kind of "adverse
action" against Richart.

As you might imagine, it is especially gratifying to now see the lawyers for the
college now actually defending the college -- and the taxpayers -- instead throwing
dissident trustees "under the bus" to cover up their own gross negligence.  What a
difference two elections can make.

Anyway, do take a look at the attached memorandum.  It is college attorney Michael Gibb's
magnum opus, and an altogether beautiful piece of legal writing.

Memorandum of points & authorities in support of the college's special motion to strike
by Gibbs law firm, which has replaced Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz
MiraCosta's odd sense of fiduciary duty
Logan Jenkins
April 26, 2007

It's been circling for a year, but MiraCosta College has landed in the cuckoo's nest.

Consider a certifiable quotation from Tuesday's board of trustees meeting.

First on the agenda was a review of the outsourced investigation of Palmgate, the
scandal that has put the college into a tweed straitjacket.

As trustee Gloria Carranza was pressing for the overall price tag of the Palmgate probe,
trustee Gregory Post challenged the implication that the college's response
was disproportional to the financial injury.

Getting to the bottom of blown whistles, Post said, is the board's fiduciary duty. Trustees
have a solemn obligation to root out, and correct, the reckless or criminal misuse of
taxpayer funds.

To nail down his point, Post offered a civics lesson:

“If a dollar is misappropriated – and it costs $100,000 to investigate it – so be
it,” he said.


By Post's logic, if 1 cent is mishandled, a probe costing as much as $1,000 is
warranted. Or if the damage is $100, $10 million.

To Post, a member of MiraCosta's embattled board majority, the principle is absolute. So
be it.

I don't know about you, but
this doesn't sound like the fiduciary I want looking
after my tax dollars.

There's no way to readily determine if Carranza, one of three pro-faculty board dissidents, is out in left
field, but she estimates that Palmgate has cost taxpayers a cool million bucks.

This much we do know: The scandal has spawned a laundry list of lawsuits, all of which burn up
billable hours.

In addition, the audience gasped Tuesday when Robert Price, the private investigator hired to dig up
the dirty roots of Palmgate, stated that he had collected $100,000 for a yearlong investigation that failed
to answer the burning question: How much did the palm tree caper cost us, the taxpayers?

“We will never know,” affirmed Dan Shinoff, the college's
urbane attorney.

Now doesn't that beat all?

All this sound and fury signifies something (but we don't know how much money).

Why, it's possible that Palmgate, which had the whistle blown on it several times from 1995 onward,
resulted in a net benefit to the college.

What might Post have said then?

“If $10 is misappropriated in the college's favor – and it costs $1 million to investigate it – so be it.”

Look, for the past 10 years at least, MiraCosta's horticulture department appears to have been run by
the Katzenjammer Kids.

Time and again someone raised a red flag about the hundreds of dicey palm trees – in 1999, for
example, during a dispute over a worker's comp claim – but college officials, lots of them, never
showed any curiosity.

Not good, but it is what it was for a decade.

A relevant question, it seems to me, is whether the college's president, Victoria Muñoz Richart, and the
board, relying on the billable direction of Shinoff, ordered a blitzkrieg when a discreet (and cheap)
human resources-style probe could have sufficed.

That sort of fiduciary restraint was ruled out. Shinoff called in the P.I. and the board called a May news
conference, ultimately banishing three popular administrators – Aileen Texeira, horticulture department
head; Eileen Kraskoukas, dean of career and technical education; and Julie Hatoff, vice president for

The harsh suspicion among faculty and others is that this crackdown was selective punishment within
a permissive culture of entrepreneurial enterprise. In other words, Richart and the board singled out
targets – and fired.

Faculty members insist they have myriad reasons to distrust Richart – last fall, the faculty passed an
overwhelming vote of no confidence in her leadership – but Hatoff, who is looking at her dismissal as
an administrator and tenured teacher, remains the chivalric symbol. As long as Hatoff is framed as a
victim, Richart and majority board members will be red-hot lightning rods.

Meanwhile, the District Attorney's Office reportedly has been sifting through the Palmgate evidence. It's
anyone's guess when – or if – this funky can of worms will be kicked down the road. In this drama, the
DA is playing the role of Godot, the guy who never shows up.

“Every penny that has been spent on this issue is a result of mismanagement that has occurred on this
campus,” Richart said Tuesday.

That's no doubt true. But at MiraCosta, the mismanagement of Palmgate did not end when the last
whistle was blown. It's ongoing.

A postscript: In a prolix (and, one assumes, hastily composed) Wednesday e-mail to the Academic
Senate and classified managers, Richart defended her professional integrity.

Toward the end, she wrote: “In spite of an onslught (sic) of insults, innuendo and untruths, I am proud
today in the knowledge that I have upheld our democratic principles, and that each and every one of my
actions have (sic) been ethical. . . . ”

In an earlier paragraph, Richart defined a common word: “Transparency, as used in the humanities,
implies openness, communication, and accountability.”

A Richart watchdog e-mailed me, almost howling with incredulity. Richart's unquoted definition
appears to be a direct quote from the first sentence of the Wikipedia entry under “Transparency.”

You could look it up, as Casey Stengel used to say.

There's been a lot of nutty stuff to cover at MiraCosta, but for some deep-seated reason, this apparent
rhetorical burglary strikes me as too depressing for words.

I'm ready for my lobotomy, Nurse Ratched.
San Diego Education Report
San Diego
Education Report
Judge says former MiraCosta president must repay $1.3 million
By Pat Flynn
August 13, 2010

A judge has ordered the former president of MiraCosta College to repay about $1.3 million in
compensation she has received from the college district under a 2007 settlement in which she
agreed to step down and waive her right to sue over employment issues.

Victoria Muñoz Richart and the district agreed to a $1.6 million settlement after the faculty cast
a no-confidence vote against her over her investigation into the illegal sale of palm trees that
belonged to the college.

Leon Page, an attorney who lives in Carlsbad, quickly sued, contending that state law
prohibits public agencies from granting more than 18 months’ worth of salary and benefits in
terminating contracts.
Shake-up frustrates faculty at MiraCosta
By Lola Sherman
September 1, 2006

For the second time in less than a week, the MiraCosta College Academic Senate, which
represents the school's faculty, anguished yesterday over the fate of a popular top
administrator who was abruptly placed on paid leave.

Julie Hatoff, vice president for instructional services since 1984,
was told to clear out her desk by 5 p.m. Aug. 25,
Senate members
said. The members were unsure who ordered the move – the college's president or the
college's attorneys...

Although no official reason has been given for
Hatoff's ouster, many faculty and nonteaching staff
members said it was the latest in an administrative
housecleaning after a campus scandal last spring
involving the unauthorized sale of thousands of
palm trees on the Oceanside campus.

Severance noted that Alleen Texeira, head of the
horticulture department, also has been placed on
leave, and Eileen Kraskouskas, the dean of
vocational education and Texeira's boss, was
asked to retire...

Others said there may come a time for a vote of no-
confidence in the college's president, Victoria
Muñoz Richart...

The college issued no immediate announcement
last week of Hatoff's leave. Upon request, public-
relations director Bonnie Hall supplied a two-
sentence statement:

“Dr. Richart was informed this morning by college attorney,
Daniel Shinoff, that the vice president of instructional services
will be on leave until further notice.

“Dr. Richart appointed Dick Robertson, vice
president of student services, to also serve as
interim vice president of instructional services.”

Hall said yesterday that the letter from Shinoff did
not give a reason for his announcement that Hatoff
would be on leave.

Neither Shinoff nor Richart returned calls for comment
Hatoff is key figure in palm-tree scandal
By Lola Sherman
April 21, 2007

The MiraCosta College board of trustees
started the process to fire Julie Hatoff, both as a top
administrator and as a tenured teacher, as a result of a palm-
tree scandal that has rocked the campus for the past year.
College officials confirmed yesterday that Hatoff was the
unidentified employee that trustees meant when they voted 4-
3 on Thursday to approve a “statement of charges and notice
of dismissal.”

Hatoff has been with MiraCosta since 1971,
starting as an English instructor, and has been vice president
for instruction since 1983. On Aug. 25, she was put on paid
administrative leave.

Since then, turmoil on campus has resulted in no-confidence
votes from faculty groups against the college president and
its board of trustees.

The campus uproar began in May, when college President
Victoria Muñoz Richart announced that a college employee
and a private businessperson had for eight years operated
an enterprise to sell thousands of palm trees
nurtured and
stored on the campus. The trees were later determined to
belong to MiraCosta.

A private investigator, Robert Price, was hired in February
2006 to probe the palm tree case. On Wednesday, his long-
awaited report was released.

Among its findings, it said a “senior administrator” had known
about the palm-tree deal for several years and had done
nothing about it.

Although the public version of the report used no names, the
“senior administrator” in the report apparently was Hatoff,
based on the description of the individual.

The report referred to the alleged operators of the enterprise
as “the facilitator” and “the private party,” apparently
Horticulture Department head Aileen Texeira and her former
fiance, Jack Wackerman. Price said Hatoff had tried to protect
the “facilitator” from discovery.

In an unrelated issue, the Price report said the senior
administrator had ultimate responsibility to make sure student
fees for materials in horticulture classes were collected
properly. That was not done, he said.

“Julie denies everything in the Price report,” her attorney,
Tracy Warren of San Diego, said yesterday.

College trustees began a similar dismissal procedure against
Texeira, without identifying her, on Sept. 22. On Thursday,
they voted unanimously to approve her early retirement.

At a board of trustees retreat yesterday, President Charles
Adams said the dismissal process for a tenured teacher can
take up to two years. Hatoff has tenure as a teacher, while
her contract as an administrator expires June 30.

Richart said yesterday she will advertise for an interim vice
president on Monday to replace Hatoff, but whoever is hired
will start July 1.

Warren, Hatoff's attorney, said her client will sue the college
and Richart.

Yesterday's six-hour board retreat was aimed at healing some
of the wounds created by its 4-3 split over the Hatoff dismissal
and related issues.

Trustee Gloria Carranza said she had not known beforehand
that it was to be a session with professional mediators – Lisa
Maxwell and John Edwards of the National Resolution Conflict
Center in San Diego.

Carranza, Jacqueline Simon and Judy Strattan make up a
board minority that wants to discuss the no-confidence votes.
They said they feel a lack of respect by the board majority.
A Palm Tree Scandal and Then a Resignation
Voice Staff Writer
Thursday June 21, 2007

With a spring in her step and an air of perpetual hurriedness about her, Victoria
Munoz Richart was all smiles Tuesday morning as she prepared for the 3 p.m.
regular board meeting between administration and faculty at MiraCosta
Community College. Since Richart came to MiraCosta in 2004 a
s president,
tensions between faculty and administration have risen steadily, stemming largely from
the felony investigation of faculty members in a palm tree scandal
and the subsequent creation of a political action committee to get the president removed.

The president of MiraCosta Community College resigned
Wednesday after a drawn out battle with the school's workers.

Fifteen hours later, after a tense overnight meeting in closed
session that ended in the wee hours of Wednesday morning,
Richart resigned, collected a $650,000 severance package and a
guarantee that she can continue to fight a
war that has raged for three years.

Horticultural Department Investigative Report (pdf)
Richart Settlement (pdf)

Much of the aggravation between Richart and the faculty can be traced to a
common sight around the campus -- palm trees.

In December 2005, a whistleblower complaint from a classified employee
surfaced in the human resources department. By May 2006, an investigation by
the private investigations firm ESI International Inc. into the fraudulent diversion
of public funds at the college’s horticultural department was well under way, and
two employees were put on leave indefinitely. The investigative report was
released in April and detailed the illegal sale of palm trees on the school’s
Oceanside campus.

According to the report, Alleen Texiera and an unnamed former boyfriend
started a palm-growing and selling business on the Oceanside campus in 1996
using roughly 1,000 palm trees that had been donated to MiraCosta.

During this time, the horticulture department was found to have improperly
diverted funds from the sale of plants into tin cans and soda boxes. The report
also stated that the department had been running an "underground economy"
to pay illegal workers for their landscaping work. In total, the misplaced funds
totaled $305.38.

Shortly after the report was released, former horticultural department head
Texiera pled guilty to a single count of grand theft, paid a $2,500 penalty, and
retired. Later that month, former Vice President of Instructional Services Julie
Hatoff, who had been on paid leave for six months, did not get her contract
renewed because of her involvement in the scandal.

Silly String and Green Bracelets
"I’m going to need you to come to the meeting tonight," Richart said to the head
security guard on campus Tuesday morning. "And I’m going to need you to stay
the whole time."

Security at board meetings has become a common sight over the last few
months after Richart received an anonymous death threat in May and board
president Charles Adams, who is black, discovered the letters "KKK" written on
his home in silly string June 1.

At the June 5 board meeting, Adams angrily accused Cole and classified
senate President Abdy Afzali of writing the letters. There have been no arrests
made in the incident, which the Oceanside Police Department later
characterized as a hate crime.

Standing up at the podium meant for public speakers, Adams also singled out
members of the faculty who had recently began wearing green bracelets that
said "Restore MiraCosta," a reference to the political action committee, claiming
they were sending out "hate-filled propaganda" around the campus and the

Adams later sent out a letter apologizing to all faculty and staff for his actions,
but for many, the damage had already been done.

"The June 5 board meeting was the lowest point I have experienced in the
history of this institution," Cole said.

Tensions over Adams’ comments were still high at the June 19 meeting, even
hours before the academic faculty knew Richart was resigning.

"The accusations you made at the last meeting are inconceivable and are
shameful and embarrassing to all the faculty and staff at this college," said
retired professor Katherine Herd to Adams and Richart. "As much as you try to
destroy the collegiality, it will never be destroyed here at MiraCosta."

It’s Not About the Palm Trees

While Richart prepared for the June 19 regular meeting, Restore MiraCosta
continued to prepare for what its supporters thought would be a much longer
battle. The political action committee formed in early April and is comprised of
academic faculty, classified staff, retirees and members of the community.

On Dec. 1, 2006, members of the faculty held a "vote of no confidence" ballot,
in which 106 out of 148 staff members said that they had no confidence in
Richart or the board of trustees and called for her to step down.

Four days later, Richart and the board dismissed the vote, calling it unofficial.

"I will not resign," Richart said at the Dec. 5 meeting.

On Wednesday, even Herrmann expressed surprise at Richart’s resignation...

Restore MiraCosta member Beatriz McWilliams said the group acknowledges
that the fraudulent activity that took place in the horticulture department
needed to be stopped and addressed, but its members do not think a full-scale
felony investigation was needed.

"It’s not about the palm trees," McWilliams said. "It’s about how the investigation
went forward and the way this president fits within the system of collegial
governance that we have within this college."

In an interview a week before her resignation, Richart had a different take on
the investigation. Richart said that because it was a whistleblower complaint,
she was required by law to investigate.

"For over 10 years, there were things going on in that department and money
being mishandled," Richart said.

Richart also said the investigation discovered more than just the $300.

According to the report, Texiera was preparing to remove 2,000 trees from the
MiraCosta property to give back to her then ex-boyfriend.

"Ms. Texiera was going to do much more than steal $305," Richart said.
"Through our investigation we saved $300,000 worth of palm trees."

Agreeing to Disagree
Both Texiera and Hatoff are suing MiraCosta for sexual discrimination and
retaliation. Richart said she is looking forward to her day in court.

"I am very happy that both of the employees have filed against the school,"
Richart said. "Now we can take things out from the public press and into a court
of law. I am looking forward to the truth coming out."

Despite Richart’s departure, she will still most likely get her day in court. In the
agreement reached early Wednesday morning between Richart and the
governing board, she will be made available in all current and future litigation
that relates to her employment with the college. Richart’s departure is expected
to take place around June 30, and a replacement for her has not yet to be
Some parts of former President Victoria Richart's lawsuit
survive MiraCosta College's Special Motion to Strike, or
"SLAPP" suit

April 22, 2013 decision
Leon Page joined the
MiraCosta College Board of Trustees
in December 2012
(Term ends 2016)
He replaced Gloria Carranza, who didn't
seek reelection.

In 2003 Mr. Page went to work for the County of Orange,
where he continues to serve today as a
Deputy County
.  On behalf of the Orange County Board of
Supervisors and County departments, such as the
Orange County Sheriff and the District Attorney,
Leon practices public agency labor and employment law.

In early 2011, and after an almost four-year legal battle–and prior to his service on the
Board of Trustees–Leon concluded a public interest/taxpayer lawsuit involving the
MiraCosta Community College District in which
Leon successfully challenged
the cash settlement given to the District's former
president/superintendent [Victoria Richart]
.. Leon's lawsuit led to a
precedent-setting appellate court decision, Page v. MiraCosta Comm. College District, 180
Cal.App.4th 471 (2009) that
clarifies the legal limits on cash settlements available to
local administrators at all local agencies in California.
Blog posts re MiraCosta
from Rating the Media in
San Diego
Former president
Victoria Richart
News, information and ideas about our
education system
by Maura Larkins