Lawyers discussed on this website:

Daniel Shinoff                                     Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz   See cases

#2 Beverly Tucker                                   California Teachers Association Head Counsel
Mark Bresee                                       Parham & Rajcic/Orange County/SDUSD
Diane Crosier                                     San Diego County Office of Education--Joint Powers Authority
#5 ALJ  H. James Ahler                                    Office of Administrative Hearings
Elizabeth Schulman                           Schulman & Schulman/retired
Deborah Garvin                                  McCormick and Mitchell (previously)/(currently works at P.O. box #)
Ray Artiano                                          Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz
#9 Jeffery Morris                                     Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz
Michael Hersh                                  California Teachers Association
Kelly Angell Minnehan                     Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz
Jack Sleeth                                        Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz
Bonny Garcia                                     Garcia Calderon & Ruiz; formerly Burke, Williams Sorenson  Yuri Calderon
#14 Ann M. Smith                                     Tosdal, Smith Steiner & Wax, counsel for MEA
#15 Justin Shinnefeld                             Atkinson, Andelson
Leslie Devaney                                 Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz
Art Palkowitz                                      Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz  (and Solana Beach School District  trustee)
#18 Howard Fulfrost                               (formerly worked at Lozano Smith)
Fagen Friedman Fulfrost
#19 Greg Moser                                        Best, Best & Krieger, Foley and Lardner, Procopio
Blog posts re education
San Diego Education Report
San Diego
Education Report
San Diego Education Report
San Diego
Education Report
Public entity attorneys
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
Education attorneys--and judges
San Diego Education Report Blog posts re education attorneys

Two whistle-blowers--a teacher and a business manager--settle with
Willamette ESD Education Serivce district (Oregon)
WESD finalizes $150,000 settlement with former teacher over whistleblower lawsuit
Nov. 1, 2013
Queenie Wong
Statesman Journal

A laid off Willamette Education Service District teacher and her lawyer will get $150,000 as part of a
settlement to a whistleblower lawsuit filed against the district three years ago.

Former teacher Terri Moore claimed she lost her job because she repeatedly reported safety
violations at the high school at Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility and filed a formal complaint about
harassment and bullying by Bill Conlon, the school's principal.

She filed a lawsuit in Marion County Circuit Court in 2010 asking for as much as $500,000, plus
attorney fees and reinstatement as a full-time teacher.

Under the settlement, Moore will get $86,355.75 and the law firm representing her — Lafky and Lafky
— will receive $63,644.25.

She won't be entitled to return as a full-time employee at WESD, but could still work as a substitute
teacher, according to the agreement.

WESD’s liability carrier the Special Districts Association of Oregon decided to settle the lawsuit
because of the costs of going to trial last month.

The district’s board chairman Ken Hector said in a statement Friday he understood the carrier’s
decision to settle the case.

“Choosing to move forward to defend the case at trial would burden WESD with all attorney fees and
costs, impacting our general fund,” Hector said. “The ultimate outcome of resolution for this case is
best for WESD and the districts we serve.”

Moore taught health and physical education at WESD's youth correction education programs but was
laid off in 2009 after 11 years with the district.

WESD has denied the allegations brought by Moore, noting that they have been thoroughly
investigated and found to be without merit. The district’s settlement signed by Moore is not an
admission of wrongdoing or liability.

Moore’s lawyer Kevin Lafky said it’s clear Moore was retaliated against. She wanted to get her old job
back, but since that did not happen they decided settling was the best thing for her to get some sort
of compensation for the retaliation.

“The money she’s getting paid certainty doesn’t make up for losing a full-time job with benefits,” Lafky
said. “For years, she’s been working as a substitute teacher to make ends meet since she was
terminated from WESD.”

It’s not the first time that the education service district has settled a whistleblower lawsuit filed against
a former teacher.

In 2010, the district settled a lawsuit for $45,000 with Maggie Vogenbeck in which the former teacher
claimed state and federal discrimination, whistleblower retaliation and wrongful discharge.

WESD provides education services such as special education, home school registration and
professional development to 17 school district in Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties, according to its


Oregon Whistleblower suit settled for $125,000
July 25, 2012

SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- An agency that provides centralized services to schools in the middle Willamette
Valley has quietly settled a lawsuit brought by a whistleblower.

Complaints from the former business manager of the Willamette Education Service District set off
investigations of mismanagement and resulted in the firing of the district's superintendent, Maureen

The former business manager, Kathy Campbell, will get $125,000 in the settlement -- about a third
going to her lawyer, the Salem Statesman Journal reported Monday.

The paper says the district signed the settlement June 1 but that came to light only recently, when the
paper asked the district for documents.

Campbell alleged Casey retaliated against her. She filed suit in September 2010, asking for $1.58
million in damages.

The district said it settled with Campbell under pressure from its insurance carrier. If it had continued
to litigate, the district would have borne the cost.

"The board has reluctantly agreed to settle this case," board member Larry Trott said in a statement.

Campbell declined to comment.

"Her only statement is that the matter has been resolved, and she's glad to put it behind her," said
her lawyer, Larry Linder.

The agency serves 17 school districts in Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties. It's one of 17 such
districts in the state that provide centralized services such as information technology or special

An internal investigation into Campbell's complaints confirmed management and financial

Then a state audit completed in January 2010 found questionable expenditures, improper
contracting, commingled funds and an effort to hide the district's true financial condition. The
Statesman Journal's investigation documented further problems and showed that concerns about the
problems were ignored for years.

Since then, the district has faced multiple lawsuits, shut down money-losing entrepreneurial ventures
and laid off a third of its workers. With an annual budget of $95 million, the district ended the last
school year $2.1 million in the red. Among the lawsuits is Casey's, alleging wrongful termination.

Oregon public meetings law allows public bodies to discuss lawsuits in sessions closed to the public,
but final decisions must be made in a public vote. The board's minutes don't record a vote on the

District spokesman Brian Florip said a vote was not required because the district's contract with its
carrier allows the insurance company and the district's lawyer to resolve the case without the board's


Willamette ESD mess stinks on so many levels
State officials must step in to take control of the situation
Statesman Journal
November 23, 2005

The Willamette Education Service District is a mess - a rotten, stinking mess. State and federal
investigators should be crawling all over it, rooting out evidence and filing legal and ethics charges.

Stories in Thursday's and Friday's Statesman Journal revealed a WESD management that allowed
widespread violations in the migrant-education program - and then rewarded them.

The WESD's own investigation found a roster of abuses by former migrant-education director
Nicolasa Mohs and her program: Hiring of family members. Severe problems in the food services.
Applying for outside jobs on ESD time. Outlandish requests for reimbursements, including for alcohol.
Retaliation against employees and violations of worker laws and district policies. Lack of
accountability for grant money. And on and on.

About the only people who seemed to have a handle on the situation were the leaders of area school
districts who refused to do business with Mohs.

If these allegations were true, they should have gotten Mohs fired and strung up before the state
ethics and teacher-licensing commissions. Firing was the recommendation of Assistant
Superintendent Dave Novotney, who conducted the investigation.

Instead, WESD Superintendent Maureen Casey settled with Mohs, after Mohs filed a civil-rights
complaint. The Statesman Journal's review of the documents found that Mohs was rehired as an
independent contractor at her old salary, plus additional payments, in return for dropping the

That's unconscionable, but it gets even worse. The documents show that Mohs was promised a
positive letter of reference, that the problems would not be disclosed to potential employers and that
the results of the internal investigation would not be reported to state regulatory commissions.

If that's the case, neither Mohs nor Casey deserves to work in education one more day. The WESD
board should get rid of them, along with any other staff members who allowed these problems to

The board also owes the public a prompt accounting of what happened and why.

School boards are charged with protecting the public's interests. Where was the WESD board during
all this? Either asleep, being manipulated by the district administration or both. Board member Jolene
Garland resigned last week, saying in part it was because the board lacked any real say in district

Board members said that they first learned of the civil-rights complaint during a closed-door meeting,
which was of dubious legality. Casey, they said, did not tell them about the investigation report, the
settlement agreement or the consultant contract until after the Statesman Journal started asking

These tawdry dealings should send shockwaves through the state educational establishment. They
are one more indicator that the 2007 Legislature should have the guts to either eliminate education
service districts or put them under tighter control.

This case also calls into question the role of school boards and the accuracy of job
recommendations. How many other school boards in Oregon are so trusting and unquestioning of
their administrators that they lack an accurate picture of what's going on? How many problem
educators are passed along from one district to another with glowing recommendations instead of
being barred from the profession?

Under a 2005 change in state law, WESD board members now will be chosen by school districts
instead of voters. That can't come soon enough.

Until then, state officials should exercise whatever emergency powers are available to take control of
the Willamette ESD and clean up this mess.

Posted by Maura Larkins at 5:23 PM No comments:
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Labels: corruption, education attorneys, firing people, harassment, Oregon, settlement, teacher
whistleblowers fired, WESD, whistle-blowers, Willamette Education Service District
Friday, December 06, 2013
During ethics investigation, education attorney claims he believed Oregon school board's secret
meetings were legal
UPDATE DEC. 7, 2013: School officials in Oregon (see story below) and California seem to get similar
legal advice from lawyers involved in the National Council of School Attorneys. In Southern California,
education attorneys at Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz offer to "empower" human resources
professionals "when the Brown Act invades." The following is from the Stutz law firm website:

Robert Mahlowitz Presents “Dragged Into Closed Session” Oct. 10, 2012
"...For 30 years, Stutz Artiano has served as legal counsel to community college and school districts
in California and we will share insights to empower senior HR/EEO professionals for those times when
the Brown Act invades."

Several school officials who are clients of Stutz law firm have been charged in criminal court in San

Superintendent Dave Novotney, the new superintendent for WESD.
DANIELLE PETERSON | Statesman Journal file

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) trains school attorneys around the country through
its National Council of School Attorneys.

But this training seems to be geared more toward helping school boards get away with violating the
law than helping school boards behave ethically.

The following story is a perfect example. I'm impressed that Oregon is investigating, and pointing out
the misrepresentations of Oregon School Board Association attorney Morgan Smith.

The second story below explains Willamette Education Service District Board's history leading up to
the hiring of David Novotney. Apparently the board has a history of illegal secrecy. The Council of
School Attorneys has not enhanced transparency and good government. Discussions of ethics seem
to be mere window dressing for the organization.

See all posts about education attorneys.

WESD board members in state ethics probe
WESD officials being investigated over legality of closed-door sessions
Oct. 18, 2013
Tracy Loew
Statesman Journal

See also: WESD finalizes $150,000 settlement with former teacher over whistleblower lawsuit

The Oregon Government Ethics Commission will formally investigate whether Willamette Education
Service District Board members violated public meeting laws while hiring a new superintendent.

The case began in April, when the Statesman Journal reported that the board had discussed new
Superintendent Dave Novotney’s candidacy, hiring and contract in illegal closed-door sessions over a
10-month period.

State law allows public bodies to hold such closed-door meetings, called executive sessions, but only
under certain conditions set out in the statute.

In an interview, WESD’s attorney, Paul Dakopolos, admitted that the meetings violated the statute, but
took the blame, saying he assumed the board had met those conditions when he suggested the
closed-door meetings.

The ethics commission enforces the Oregon Public Meetings law. Commission Director Ron Bersin
asked staff members to gather information about the possible violations in early May, and the
commission voted May 31 to open a preliminary review.

On Oct. 11, the commission heard the results of that review and voted unanimously to pursue a
formal investigation into possible violations by board Chairman Ken Hector; Vice Chairwoman Anne
Wylie; members Phil Frey, Larry Trott, Frank Pender, Alex Sanchez and Mark Trumbo; and former
members Dixon Bledsoe and Rick Kimball.

By statute, the investigation must be complete within 180 days. Board members could be fined as
much as $1,000 per violation, Bersin said.

WESD Board members are being represented by Morgan Smith, an attorney for the Oregon School
Boards Association.

In a letter to the commission, Smith said the allegation that there had been no public discussion of the
superintendent hiring process before a contract was offered was false.

“In fact, on May 22, 2012, the board discussed in public their options for filling the vacancy for
superintendent, including whether to engage in an active recruitment or to ask Dr. Dave Novotney to
become acting superintendent instead,” Smith wrote.

However, in their report, the ethics commission investigators responded, “A review of the audio of the
5/22/12 public WESD meeting conducted for this preliminary review reveals no such discussion.”

The preliminary review also found that WESD did not record or keep minutes of its executive
sessions, as required by state law and its own policies.

WESD officials declined to comment.

WESD secretly hires new superintendent
District violates state's public meetings laws
Tracy Loew
Statesman Journal

Apr. 11, 2013

Dave Novotney
EMPLOYMENT: Begins a three-year term as Willamette ESD superintendent on July 1. Joined WESD
in 2004, serving as deputy superintendent as well as interim superintendent in 2009-10 and 2012-13.
SALARY: $131,133 including a $12,000 per year tax-sheltered annuity for the 2013-14 school year
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree from Willamette University; master’s degrees from The College of
Idaho and Western Oregon University; doctorate from Oregon State University AGE: 48

The Willamette Education Service District Board has quietly named a new superintendent —
discussing his candidacy, hiring and contract in three illegal closed-door sessions.

It’s the third time in recent years the board has run afoul of Oregon’s public meetings law, which is
meant to ensure that the public’s business is done in public.

The board fired Superintendent Maureen Casey in 2009 in the midst of an investigation into
management and financial improprieties. Casey’s replacement, Pat Evenson-Brady, quit in 2012 with
a year left on her contract. Deputy Superintendent Dave Novotney has filled in the gaps, and last
week was awarded a three-year contract as permanent superintendent.

But the secretive hiring process violated Oregon statute, the board’s lawyer, Paul Dakopolos,
admitted Wednesday.

Reporters are allowed to attend executive sessions, but cannot report directly on what is said.
However, if an agency violates executive session laws, the matter can be reported.

The board first ran afoul of the law in June, when it met in executive session to discuss contract
specifics for Novotney to serve a one-year term as interim superintendent.

That executive session was improper because state statute allows a private meeting to discuss the
hire of an officer only when the position has been advertised, hiring procedures have been formally
adopted, and the public has had the opportunity to comment. None of those things had happened.

Novotney was unhappy with the contract he had been offered as interim superintendent, and had
asked the board to include a guarantee that if he was not named permanent superintendent at the
end of the interim year, the agency would continue to employ him for an additional year in another

As part of the discussion, board members talked about the possible future management structure of
the agency, and where Novotney might be placed if he were not superintendent.

That was another violation, said Laura Craska Cooper, a lawyer for the Oregon Newspaper
Publishers Association. The statute requires that public bodies not stray from the stated purpose of
the executive session.

“I think that’s clearly outside the scope of the executive session,” Cooper said. “That’s exactly the type
of policy discussions we want to be public.”

During the same executive session, the board also agreed that they would like to hire Novotney for
the permanent job — again straying from the topic.

“I’m going into this thing with the belief that he is going to be our guy, even though we have to go
through the process,” board chairman Ken Hector said during that meeting.

“He in my mind is the leading candidate to be the permanent,” said Phil Frey, who has been on the
board for 15 years.

“I feel there will be no other candidate that will walk the walk,” vice-chairwoman Anne Wylie said.

Over the course of the next nine months, the board held no public discussion of the vacancy or the
process for hiring a permanent superintendent, according to board agendas and minutes.

On March 5, the board voted to offer Novotney a three-year contract. The item was not on the board’
s publicized agenda, but was added during the meeting.

According to the meeting minutes, Hector “stated that the board is in agreement that they would like
to offer Dr. Novotney a permanent contract to serve as the superintendent of WESD.”

In an interview Tuesday, Hector said the board made the decision to hire Novotney as permanent
superintendent during Novotney’s performance review, also held in executive session, in November.

“At that point in time we said, based on the performance and how things were working, we didn’t feel it
was necessary to engage in a search,” Hector said. “We valued the stability having Dave there would
bring to the agency.”

Statute allows an executive session for performance evaluations of public officers. But filling the job of
permanent superintendent strayed from that topic.

Last week, the board held another executive session, to discuss Novotney’s new contract terms,
including salary and benefits. That meeting violated the statute because the board had not advertised
the position, adopted hiring procedures, or allowed public comment. The board also discussed
Novotney’s salary, which is specifically prohibited.

...WESD Board members have previously pledged to better adhere to the public meetings law.

In January 2006, the board twice voted by secret ballot, which is illegal under the law. The board was
voting on the appointment of a new board member. The superintendent and board chairman at that
time said they were unaware that secret ballots are illegal in Oregon.

In April 2010, during a superintendent search, the agency held executive sessions on the hire without
first adopting the job description and hiring process in a public meeting, with opportunity for public

At that time, the board blamed its hired search consultant for the error.
Posted by Maura Larkins at 1:59 PM
Labels: Brown Act, Council of School Attorneys (COSA), education attorneys, NSBA, Oregon, school
board secrecy, Secrecy in court cases, secrecy in schools, Stutz Artiano Shinoff Holtz, WESD

Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Lowndes County Schools' attorneys insists Kendrick Johnson video is "a
raw feed with no edits"

Education attorneys at Lowndes County Schools insist the video they released of the day
student Kendrick Johnson died is "a raw feed with no edits."

In my experience, school attorneys try very hard to conceal events in schools from the
public, the courts and from parents of students who have been injured or killed.

"We're missing information." --Grant Fredericks, forensic video analyst

Click link to see school videos:

Kendrick Johnson footage released; expert finds it 'highly suspicious'
From Victor Blackwell
November 21, 2013

Missing video in teen gym-mat death?

(CNN) -- Kendrick Johnson's family waited months for hundreds of hours of surveillance video, hoping
it would answer their questions. It only raised others.

Rather than showing how their 17-year-old son's body ended up in a school gym mat in January, the
four cameras inside the Valdosta, Georgia, gymnasium showed only a few collective seconds of
Johnson, jogging. The camera fixed on the gym mats was blurry...

"(The surveillance video has) been altered in a number of ways, primarily in image quality and likely in
dropped information, information loss," he said. "There are also a number of files that are corrupted
because they've not been processed correctly and they're not playable. I can't say why they were
done that way, but they were not done correctly, and they were not done thoroughly. So we're missing

Two cameras in the gym are missing an hour and five minutes, their hiatus ending at 1:09, when
Johnson enters the gym. Another pair of cameras are missing two hours and 10 minutes each. They
don't begin recording again until 1:15 and 1:16, according to their time stamps.

What's certain, based on video from a camera outside the gym, is that numerous students walked into
the gym during the hour and five minutes that the cameras weren't recording, but it's not clear
whether that was sufficient to activate the cameras' motion sensors.

The time stamp on a camera outside the gym also appears to be 10 minutes behind the cameras
inside the gym.

"I can't tell you whether there was no information recorded in the digital video system or whether
somebody made an error and didn't capture it or whether somebody just didn't provide it," Fredericks

CNN has requested access to the original surveillance servers. But Fredericks cautions that the video
could be gone, as newer surveillance would replace it if it wasn't recovered promptly from the school's
digital video recorder.

The police have said they didn't receive a copy of the videos until several days after Johnson's body
was found, according to an unredacted report obtained by CNN after a legal process.

Fredericks told CNN he found it "highly suspicious" that an hour of video could be missing, especially
considering how the material was acquired by police.

"The investigator's responsibility is to acquire the entire digital video recording system and have their
staff define what they want to obtain," he said.

According to an incident report from the Sheriff's Office, however, a detective watched a portion of the
video then asked an information technology officer employed by the school board to produce a "copy
of the surveillance video for the entire wing of the school with the old gym for the last 48 hours."

Five days later, the sheriff's report says, the IT officer delivered a hard drive to the detective, who
verified it contained what he requested.

"Right now, what they've done, is they've left it up to the school district as to what it is they want to
provide to the police, and I think that probably is a mistake," Fredericks said.

"You don't want somebody who might be party to the responsibility to make the decision as to what
they provide the police."...

$10,000 Reward Offered In Death Investigation
...[previous story]by: Garin Flowers
October 18, 2013

Valdosta, GA - A new surveillance video shows Kendrick Johnson wasn't alone in the gym.

An attorney for Lowndes High School says additional surveillance video shows other students in the
gym around the time Kendrick Johnson walked in.

That video has not been released because officials don't have consent for the additional minors seen
in the video.

Attorneys for the family of Kendrick Johnson plan to have a hearing with a Lowndes County judge on
October 30.

They will seek a court order for that surveillance video inside of the gym and other areas that may
add more evidence to the case.

Attorneys Chevene King and Ben Crump represent the family.

They're hoping the U.S. Department of Justice opens a formal investigation into the case. We spoke
with the attorneys and the Johnson family on Friday.

"There were four cameras inside that gym, one of which was aimed in the direction of the corner
where Kendrick's body was found," King said.

"If you have a video surveillance that shows what happened to Kendrick Johnson, doesn't the family
at least deserve to see the truth," Crump said.

"The only time we'll be able to feel comfortable in some sort, when Kendrick get justice," said Kenneth
Johnson, father of Kendrick.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation ruled Kendrick Johnson's death a result of positional

The Johnson family conducted its own autopsy, which showed the teen died from blunt force trauma.
Posted by Maura Larkins at 3:58 PM No comments:
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Labels: . Johnson (Kendrick), coverups, death, education attorneys, obstruction of justice, secrecy in

Thursday, October 31, 2013
School attorney firm Best Best & Krieger sued for in City of Bell
corruption: is similar corruption is going on in our schools?
Isn't this just business as usual taken to an extreme? The cronyism that makes this sort of thing
possible can be found almost everywhere. My estimate is that only about 10% of public entities are
run in an honest, open manner. The US seems to be becoming more corrupt and more divided
between rich and poor. We're turning ourselves into a banana republic without the bananas.

Public entity attorneys have a tendency to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil when it comes
to the public officials who pay them.

Bell sues its former city attorney, claiming faulty legal advice
LA Times
Jeff Gottlief
July 29, 2011

The city of Bell filed a malpractice lawsuit against its former city attorney and his two law firms
Thursday, alleging that they were given faulty legal advice.

The suit contends that attorney Edward Lee provided legal advice that allowed Bell officials --
including former city Administrator Robert Rizzo and City Council members -- to receive extraordinary
salaries and benefits. The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, also alleges that Lee gave the
city poor advice regarding a variety of subjects, including business license fees and loans that Rizzo
gave to employees.

The lawsuit singles out Lee's most recent firm, Best Best & Krieger, for allegedly failing to properly
advise Bell on a $35-million bond offering in 2007.

"The city attorney was responsible for preventing the abuses of power by the prior city government
that left the city in its current difficult financial situation," Bell's attorney, William Stoner, said in a news
release. "The lawsuit seeks to place responsibility for not protecting against those abuses of power
where it belongs and obtain just compensation from those responsible."

Lee had been Bell's city attorney for 15 years, first with Oliver Sandifer & Murphy and, for the last four
years, with Best Best & Krieger. He resigned from Best Best & Krieger shortly after The Times
revealed that Rizzo's salary was nearly $800,000 a year.

Duff Murphy of Oliver Sandifer & Murphy said he didn't know about the suit.

BBK is a well-known firm with more than 200 attorneys in eight offices in California and Washington, D.
C., and serves as city attorney for many towns.

BBK's general counsel, Richard Egger, said he had not reviewed the complaint, "however, the firm
believes that it acted appropriately at all times and looks forward to vigorously defending itself."

[Maura Larkins' comment: Watch out, taxpayers. Public entity attorney are apparetnly not planning to
change their ways. We haven't heard a peep from the California Bar Association, have we?]

Lee could not be reached for comment.

Ex-Bell city attorney unsure how his signature got on contracts Edward Lee, Bell's former city
attorney, said he had no reason to suspect anything was amiss with city finances. By Jeff Gottlieb LA
Times October 28, 2013

Bell’s former city attorney testified Monday that starting in 2005, the rapidly escalating contracts of
Robert Rizzo and Angela Spaccia were never discussed nor approved by the City Council.

Edward Lee said that even though his name was on most of the contracts, he did not recall signing
them, raising the possibility that his name was forged or that the papers were slipped to him in a stack
of other documents that required his signature.

[Maura Larkins' comment: The third possibility is that he has a bad memory or a selective memory.]

Lee testified that in order for the Rizzo and Spaccia contracts to be legal, they would have to have
been placed on council agendas, discussed in public meetings and then be approved by a council

Asked if it appeared to be his signature on a July 1, 2008, addendum to Rizzo’s contract, Lee replied,
“Unfortunately, yes.”

But, he added, he had no idea how it got there.

Lee's testimony came during the second week of Spaccia’s corruption trial, in which she faces 13
felonies. Rizzo pleaded no contest to 69 corruption-related charges and is expected to be sentenced
to 10 to 12 years in prison.

Lee, who served as Bell’s contract attorney from 1996 until shortly after the corruption scandal broke,
said that after voters passed a city charter in 2005, he never saw Rizzo’s contract come before the

Asked by Spaccia’s attorney, Harland Braun, why he never brought it up, he replied, “I figured that
was between Mr. Rizzo and the City Council… Either the council is going to raise it with me or Mr.
Rizzo is going to raise it with me.”

The former city attorney said he had no indications of anything illegal going on in the city, “nothing
that rang any alarm bells that said there was a legal issue I needed to look at.”

{Maura Larkins' comment: See what I mean about see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil?]

He said independent auditors didn’t bring up problems with finances and there were no questions
from the staff.

“It all appeared from the surface the city of Bell was doing well,” he said.
Posted by Maura Larkins at 5:01 PM 2 comments:
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Labels: Bell City Hall salaries, Best Best & Krieger, corruption, cost of illegal actions by public entities,
education attorneys, public entity attorneys, self-dealing
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Lawyers against bullying: has the San Diego County Bar Association decided to clean up its act? No,
it's going after bullies who aren't members
I'm wondering, can the Constitution rein in abuse, deception and intimidation by lawyers?

It's interesting to note that Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz is still golden for the Anti-Defamation League
in San Diego, and for Cal Western law school.

SDCBA to host forum on cyber-bullying
Daily Transcript
September 20, 2013

The San Diego County Bar Association (SDCBA) and the Anti-Defamation League are hosting a
workshop to discuss cyber-bullying Sept. 24 from 5-7:15 p.m. at the SDCBA's Bar Center.

Panelists will include California Western School of Law professor Ruth Hargrove, San Diego County
Deputy District Attorney Oscar Garcia, San Diego Unified School District Police Chief Reuben
Littlejohn, and Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz partner Jeffrey Wade.

U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy will moderate the discussion, titled “Cyber-Bullying – Classroom to
Courtroom: Can the Constitution Rein in the Bullies?”

The panelists will explore legal issues and developing case law surrounding the issue of cyber-
bullying, a practice that increasingly results in intervention by the judicial system.

The event offers 1.5 CLE general credits and is free for SDCBA law student members. The cost is
$45 for SDCBA and Anti-Defamation League members and $65 for non-members.
Posted by Maura Larkins at 11:24 AM No comments:
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Labels: . Wade (Jeffrey Jr.), Anti-defamation league, bullying, Cal Western, cyberbullying, education
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Monday, September 16, 2013
S v. L Post #107: Bullying by teachers and school administrators
sometimes results in death
See older Stutz v. Larkins posts.
See recent Stutz v. Larkins posts.

My principal told me that she worried I might harm myself because of severe harassment by a group
of teachers at my school--and by my principal herself.

This was not a realistic worry, as she would have known if she'd ever consented to my requests to
speak to her (see note at bottom of post). Maybe she thought my life wasn't worth living without the
approval of the teacher clique currently in power, but I did not hold the bullies in as high esteem as
she did. I wonder if my principal sub-consciously wanted me to commit suicide. It would certainly solve
one of her problems.

The ruling clique of teachers controlled her completely; she probably felt very conflicted about
following their orders. Neither she nor anyone in the clique had a tendency to think things through, so
they would not have been thinking about the downside of my sudden disappearance.

And I did indeed disappear, just as they wished. But it wasn't because I killed myself.

I suspect that every single person involved in my disappearance wishes that things had been done
differently. As a result of the district's giving the teacher clique so much power, the school ended up
with 11 different principals in 11 years, all struggling to bring the school under some semblance of
control. Test scores went down and families voted with their feet to leave the school. It should be no
surprise that many of the best teachers were forced out when the clique was allowed to get rid of
teachers who "did things differently". By definition, in order to be a better teacher than average, one
has to do things differently from the average teacher. At the same time, the worst teachers tended to
ally themselves with the politically powerful to build up their egos and protect their jobs.

The lawyers, of course, are the exception when it comes to regret. Why would they be full of remorse?
Think of all the billable hours! The bigger the mess, the more years it will take to sort it out, keeping
the dollars flowing. The lawyers instructed the school board and district administrators not to settle,
not to investigate. Just let the evidence disappear, refuse to answer questions, and let the attorneys
sue for defamation if the victim creates a website.)

See older Stutz v. Larkins posts.
See recent Stutz v. Larkins posts.

Have I got this right, Pam Smith and Larry Cunningham? It seems that Chula Vista Elementary School
District voters keep returning Pam and Larry to the board no matter how much harm they do, or how
many dollars they waste.

It's amazing how barren of reason and careful consideration the average teachers' lounge, principal's
office, district office and board room are.

But I wonder, are school boards and district administrators doing the bullies on school staffs a favor
by encouraging and rewarding illegal behavior that harms students? In fact, these "leaders" may be
causing even more harm to the bully than the victim. Sometimes the clique will suddenly ostracize one
of its own; an aggressor can suddenly find that he or she has become a target. This reversal can be
a terrible shock to the system, worse than what I experienced.

I was struck by the similarity between the photos of two teachers, separated by thousands of miles,
who died prematurely not long ago. It occurs to me that the transition from military duty to the
classroom might be a difficult one for some people. But that is certainly not the only problem that
these two women faced.

Teri Coffey, Chula Vista and Mary Eve Thorson, Chicago

I've written about Teri Coffey, who once taught with me at Castle Park Elementary, here.

Sandra Goodwick writes about Mary Eve Thornton, "On Thanksgiving Day, 2011, a thirty-two year old
school teacher by the name of Mary Eve Thorson, stood in front of a moving-semi truck and ended
her life. She left behind a 6 page suicide letter stating that she wanted to be the first to sign the
petition, which would call attention to the teachers within her district who were being bullied and
ostracized by administrators and other educators."



If districts were to have an effective teacher evaluation system, then it would be harder for them to
keep political allies in power at schools, and harder to get rid of politically independent teachers. (This
is the same reason that the teachers unions don't want effective evaluations.)

Why didn't these women receive more help? In my opinion, it's because most school boards are
focused on politics, and they hire district administrators who will make sure that the district looks good
from the outside so the board members will get reelected. Often, these administrators aren't
interested in what lies beneath the placid surface, and some of them can be remarkably lazy.

School boards seem to approve of district administrators who think their job is just to show up at a
school when there is a problem, walk through the school to pretend they're interested in fixing things,
and then do absolutely nothing until the problem spins out of control and lawyers are hired to deal
with it.

What could they do to make things better? Create an effective evaluation system for teachers.

Teacher's suicide stuns school, spurs colleagues to speak out
School board surprised by allegations of workplace bullying and fear
January 01, 2012
By Becky Schlikerman
Chicago Tribune reporter

On Thanksgiving, a grade-school gym teacher parked on the shoulder of Interstate 80/94 in
northwest Indiana, got out of her Mercury SUV and walked in front of a moving semi truck.

The 32-year-old's suicide shocked the tiny Ford Heights school district where she worked. In the
days afterward, tension grew amid conversations by co-workers about what had happened and
questions from the Army veteran's parents. The turmoil peaked during a crowded meeting in
December, when some teachers and school board members clashed.

The suicide note that Mary Thorson left centered on frustrations at the school, and her death
spurred some of her co-workers to speak out at the public meeting.

Teachers described an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in the two-school district, where little
things snowballed over time.

"We don't feel like we can speak out because we have been intimidated," teacher Rose Jimerson
said at the meeting. "We have signs all over the building about anti-bullying. … Our staff gets bullied."

Co-workers and friends said in interviews that Thorson was deeply upset by her job and was worried
she was on the verge of being fired. She had been suspended in April after allegedly striking a
student and again a week before her death, records show. The second suspension was for allegedly
cursing at a student, a co-worker said.

Even some of those close to Thorson acknowledged that it's difficult to pinpoint why anyone commits
suicide, but her death opened wounds in the district. School district officials have vowed to work on
healing with new channels of communication.

School board members and the administration expressed sorrow over Thorson's death but also
surprise at the way some teachers described the work atmosphere.

At the meeting, board members denied the allegations and asked why no one had come forward with
such concerns.

"If you guys would have come and brought allegations and we didn't address it, then you would have
every right to say what you need to say," Board President Joe Sherman said.

Thorson, known as Coach T, left behind a handwritten, six-page note in her SUV. Other than one
paragraph in which she apologized to her parents for the hurt her death would cause, the rest of the
note was exclusively about Ford Heights School District 169.

Thorson's parents agreed to share the note with the Tribune. In it, Thorson wrote, sometimes
rambling, about the plight of children in the poor school district and the lack of resources and
discipline. She also wrote about the school's leadership and said teachers were not taken seriously.

"We must speak up about what's going on!" The note concludes: "This life has been unbelievable."

Thorson had started her teaching career after an eight-year stint in the Army Reserve, where she
attained the rank of specialist and served honorably, said Army spokesman Mark Edwards. She
joined in 1998, just out of high school, to help pay for college, said her father, John Thorson.

Thorson was the first in her family to graduate from college, getting a diploma from Western Illinois
University in 2005. She worked at schools in Chicago and Bellwood before taking a job in Ford
Heights at Cottage Grove Upper Grade Center in 2008.

The students "loved her," said Walter Cunningham, who taught physical education with Thorson.
"She treated them like a daughter or son. They all gravitated toward her."

Like many of the teachers there, Thorson used her own money to buy students school supplies or
warm clothes if she saw a need, Cunningham said. More than 98 percent of the 520 students in the
district are considered low-income, according to state records.

In April, Thorson was suspended for two days after allegedly hitting a child, though Thorson said it
was a playful tap, according to personnel records provided by her family.

Thorson had complained about feeling targeted by school administrators, said her father. "She was
worried about keeping her job there," he said.

Her parents said they urged her to find a job closer to her hometown of Moline, Ill., or to go to
graduate school, but she was attached to the children of Ford Heights. In the note, she spoke of her
love for the children and her pain at their daily trials.

"They were her life," said her mother, Shari Thorson. "She did not want to leave."

A week before her death, Mary Thorson suffered what she thought was a crushing blow to her
career, Cunningham said. On Nov. 17, she was suspended with pay, records show. The suspension
was for allegedly cursing at a student, Cunningham said. She was to have a meeting Nov. 22 to
discuss the incident, according to records, but colleagues and family said Thorson skipped it.

"She was so distraught," Cunningham said. "She was convinced they were going to fire her."

Sherman said the board had no intention of firing Thorson.

NOTE: When my principal wasn't in parley with the ruling teacher clique, she was at her computer
writing a book for Superintendent Libia Gil about principal peer review. It amazes me that many
institutions paid over $200 a copy for this book for many years (now it's $23 on Amazon), while
neither woman could get a job in a real school district after 2002. Perhaps the royalties are the major
benefit garnered by the principals who worked on the book for Dr. Gil. I hope taxpayers aren't
resentful that their students were being ignored while principals worked to enhance Libby Gil's
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Labels: . A school district lawyer lawsuit (Stutz v. Larkins), . Gil (Libia Gil), bad administrators, bullying
by adults, CVESD, education attorneys, evaluating teachers, principals, school politics, suicide
Carlsbad Unifed cancels FFF contract; Is it time for the school attorneys at Fagen Friedman Fulfrost
to change the name of their firm again?
What did Fagen Friedman Fulfrost law firm do to cause the Carlsbad Unified school board to cancel
its contract? The explanation can be found right here. I am impressed with the community of Carlsbad
for drawing a line regarding the ethical behavior of school law firms. I don't feel so alone anymore in
my quest to get schools to hire lawyers who will advise them to honor policies, laws and contracts
instead of hiring lawyers who will help them get away with violations.

The question now becomes, who will end up doing the $100,000 worth of legal work that was going to
go to FFF, and will the new firm behave any differently than FFF? Or will the district simply approve a
new contract for FFF when no one is looking? After all, a law firm with two former Carlsbad Unified
officials working for it could offer some special advantages. Communication could be more easily
accomplished through back channels. I'm hoping Rachel Stine of Coast News will keep watching.

CUSD cancels contract with law firm...
By Rachel Stine
Coast News
Sep 12, 2013

“How did this get so far and missed?” Trustee Lisa Rodman, right, asked staff members... Photo by
Rachel Stine

CARLSBAD — The Carlsbad Unified School District (CUSD) Board of Trustees voted to cancel its
contract with the law firm that hired a former trustee and prioritized Prop P infrastructure projects at its
Sept. 11 meeting.

The Board was presented with the opportunity to continue, scale back, or cancel its $100,000 annual
contract with the law firm Fagen, Friedman, and Fulfrost LLP after the firm hired former trustee Kelli
Moors. Fearing conflict of interest accusations, the Board had decided to re-vote on the firm’s
contract after realizing that Moors had voted to support the contract 12 days before announcing her
resignation to accept her position with the firm.

The Board had contracted with the law firm to handle special education and personnel matters since

The four current trustees voted unanimously to cancel the contract without discussion at the meeting.

Board President Elisa Williamson had previously expressed that she intended to recommend that the
Board reduce the scale of the firm’s contract with the district to only current cases that would be too
costly to transfer to other firms.

After the meeting she explained that she had changed her mind to recommend canceling the contract
with the firm after learning from Superintendent Suzette Lovely that the firm was not working on any
cases that would be difficult to transfer to another firm, and that numerous alternative firms had been

After voting on the law firm contract, the Board considered how to prioritize its remaining $33 million in
Prop P money for building projects throughout the district’s campuses.

Projects up for consideration were split between infrastructure improvements at various CUSD
campuses and a new aquatics center or performing arts center at the new Sage Creek High School.

District staff primarily presented information regarding the cost of building and operating an aquatics
center or performing arts center, and some details about potential revenues for each facility.

They ultimately concluded that the performing arts center would be the least costly to operate and
most likely to be used by more students.

But they also mentioned that the funds could be used to update several sites throughout the district
that do not meet current building standards set by the Division of the State Architect, including safety
and handicap accessibility criteria.

William Morrison, a senior project manager for Gafcon, explained that while all buildings in CUSD
meet the standards that existed at the time of their construction, any buildings that are remodeled
would have to be improved to meet current codes. So while all buildings are compliant with state
regulations, any infrastructure improvements would be accompanied by most likely costly adjustments
to meet the newest standards.

He cited the district’s Cultural Arts Center, which was built in 1980, as one of the primary sites in need
of safety and accessibility upgrades.

“Basically when you walk into the entrance, that’s about as ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)
compliant as it is,” he said.

He explained that there is almost no way for a person in a wheelchair to get into the orchestra pit, the
counter height of the ticket booth needs to be adjusted, and the fire suppression system is in need of
some upgrades.

Board members expressed shock that these upgrades were not included in the facility’s most recent
interior remodel.

“How did this get so far and missed?” Trustee Lisa Rodman asked. “I’m surprised we’re here.”

Morrison said that those in charge of the last project maintained that compliance issues did not fall
within the spectrum of what they were upgrading.

The trustees voted to send out a request for applications from architects to address the building
safety and access issues at current facilities and asked for staff to come forward with more
information about the revenue earning potential of a new aquatics center and performing arts center
at Sage Creek High School.
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Labels: Carlsbad Unified School District, education attorneys, ethics, Fagen Friedman Fulfrost,
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Saturday, August 31, 2013
How Fagen Friedman Fulfrost managed to lose its contract with Carlsbad Unified: both Democrats
and Republicans are disgusted

On September 11, 2013 the Carlsbad Unified School District canceled its contract for legal services
from Fagen, Friendman and Fulfrost. I am amazed that there were negative repercussions for
unethical behavior by school attorneys (see original post below). I thought school attorneys could act
with impunity in every case.

Let's hope that the law firm that gets the work will understand that the Association of School Boards
and Council of School Attorneys won't always be able to protect them, and that the public is starting to
get wise to what is going on behind the scenes.

ORIGINAL POST: Whose side am I on? Fagen Friedman Fulfrost or Carlsbad Unified School District
candidate Sage Naumann? Neither!

See all posts about Kelli Moors and Fagen Friedman Fulfrost.

Sage Naumann, 18, listens to CUSD Board member Kelli Moors condemn his negative campaign
tactics at the Aug. 14 meeting. Naumann has been critical of current board members since he began
his campaign in January 2013 for election to the CUSD Board...
Photo by Rachel Stine CUSD to appoint new board member Coast News Aug 15, 2013

[Irony alert: Kelli Moors voted for a school district contract with Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost law firm,
then 12 days later went to work for the firm. She apparently wants citizens to leave the negative
tactics to the lawyers. Efforts to silence complaints by the public have also been going on at
Sweetwater Union High School District, where lawyer Dan Shinoff lectured members of the public on
civility and wrote a threatening letter to a member of the bond committee.]

Fagen Friedman Fulfrost (FFF) law firm founder Howard Fulfrost,
member of the School Attorney Advisory Board

Mr. Fulfrost, partner in Carlsbad Unified's law firm Fagen Friedman Fulfrost, is famously loyal to
school officials. So loyal, in fact, that a federal judge has accused his former firm of lying and
obstruction. This is a big deal to me (Maura Larkins), and I've provided some information about FFF
below that has not been mentioned by the media during the current brouhaha--though it should have

Nevertheless, I believe that some things are more urgent than the sisyphean task of finding an ethical
firm of school attorneys for Carlsbad Unified.

Although I am similar to Sage Naumann in that I demand accountability from school board members,
right now I'd like to set aside the issue of corruption in schools and talk about something more
important: teaching and learning!

Sage Naumann is right that school districts are corrupt.

But so is almost every other institution in the city, the state, and the world. Most human beings are
greedy and shortsighted, and they abuse power when they get it. And it is true that corruption tends
to lower the average quality of teachers and administrators since personnel decisions are so deeply
influenced by politics. But good teachers and good ideas are struggling to be heard, and we need to
listen. We can't stop everything to try to eliminate a problem that has existed as long as human
beings have existed.

Mr. Naumann is wrong on the most important current issue: implementing Common Core standards in

Once in a while people actually work for the common good, and Common Core is the product of one
such effort. The designers worked hard because they want students to understand their world and
know how to navigate it.

Our education system is a failure, and it's not just the fault of kids and families. Most teachers are
mediocre, and many are downright bad. Few of them have received adequate training, not to mention
a real education. Common Core is a system that helps teachers do a better job.

The main idea of Common Core is that instead of rapidly introducing a long series of facts, American
teachers will imitate successful schools in successful countries, and deeply explore a smaller number
of ideas. Quick learners can learn how to fully analyze information, and slower learners will have a
chance to really learn something, instead of being lost most of the time.

And big money is being offered to help teachers do this.

I oppose Sage Naumann for one reason: he opposes Common Core. But he's right about all that
other stuff.


Carlsbad Unified claims that it hired Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost immediately after the law firm was
formed (by Howard Fulfrost and other lawyers who were sanctioned by a federal judge for lying in the
Moser case when working for Lozano Smith). Soon after that ruling, Lozano Smith shut down its
special education section. Basically, FFF is Lozano Smith under a new name. And Carlsbad Unified is
using this to defend themselves? Just how smart are these people?

CUSD Board President Elisa Williamson

CUSD Board President Releases Statement on Law Firm Contract
Posted by Deanne Goodman (Editor)
August 26, 2013

The following is written by Elisa Williamson [and was also posted on the district's website]:

We are aware that concerns have been raised regarding the relationship between the school district
and the law firm of Fagen, Friedman, & Fulfrost in light of that firm's hiring of Trustee Kelli Moors.
Although the Board is not privy to the details surrounding the timing of Ms. Moors' discussions with
the firm, in an abundance of caution, the contract that was voted on at our July 24 meeting will be
brought back for a re-vote at our meeting on September 11. Re-voting on the contract renewal after
Trustee Moor's departure will obviate any questions about the validity of the Board's ultimate vote
under the law.

The school district has utilized the services of Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost since the firm was founded
in 2006. The bulk of expenditures over the past seven years have been for legal services related to
Special Education and Personnel matters. Prior to 2006, the partners in Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost
provided legal assistance to CUSD while working for another firm.

[Maura Larkins comment: The firm that Ms. Williamson is referring to without naming it--for good
reason!--is Lozano Smith. Carlsbad Unified chose to hire a law firm whose previous incarnation used
lying and obstruction to deprive a special education student of an appropriate education. See
following article.

Melanie Petersen of FFF

Ms. Williamson also says that "partners in Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost provided legal assistance to
CUSD while working for another firm." I think she may be talking about Melanie Petersen.]

Despite the district's long-standing relationship with the firm, on August 7th I informed the
Superintendent that, at the September 11, 2013 Board meeting, I will be recommending that the
District limit its use of the services of Fagen, Friedman, & Fulfrost to only those areas that staff deems
critical to the District.

Elisa Williamson, President
Board of Trustees


Attorney Elaine Yama, sanctioned along with Howard Fulfrost for lying and obstruction when they
were at Lozano Smith

Article about Moser v. Bret Harte High School District on the Parent Advocates website:

California Federal Judge Sanctions Law Firm For Lying in a Special Education Case
Fresno law firm Lozano Smith billed the school district $500,000 for a case that could have been
settled years ago for $8,000. How this makes sense is beyond us. Betsy Combier

Lying, obstruction cited in sanctions for law firm
Fresno's Lozano Smith, attorney ordered to train in ethics
By Erin Kennedy
The Fresno Bee
January 18, 2005

Fresno law firm Lozano Smith and its attorney Elaine Yama have been sanctioned by a federal judge
for lying, misrepresenting law and facts, and intentionally dragging out a case involving a school
district and a special education student.

U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Wanger fined the law firm, Yama and Bret Harte Union High School
District in Calaveras County $5,000 each. He also ordered Yama to take 20 hours of ethics courses
and Lozano Smith to conduct ethics training for all of its attorneys and shareholders...[Click HERE to
see the whole article.]


So, whom do you think the California School Boards Association (CSBA) chose for its legal team? You
guessed it--Elaine Yama.

And who trained Board President Elisa Williamson AND trustee Kelli Moors? Right again--CSBA. It
gave them each a "Masters in Governance".

So who actually runs the district--the lawyers or the officials? It's hard to unscramble the egg, isn't it?
But here's a clue: school board members come and go, but the lawyers remain the same.

The thing I can't understand is why Carlsbad Unified and Elisa Williamson thought nobody was going
to find out the backstory about FFF after the Kelli Moors story broke. But there's another backstory I'd
like to learn about. What did the board member who abstained from voting on the FFF contract know
about FFF? Very likely she knew more than I know.

Elaine Yama-Garcia joins CSBA legal team
April 30, 2012

CSBA’s new associate general counsel is Elaine Yama-Garcia, a mid-career professional with more
than 15 years experience practicing law in the areas of education, special education, and labor and
employment. Along with General Counsel Keith Bray, she will manage the Education Legal Alliance
and respond to corporate legal issues for CSBA and its affiliates.

Yama-Garcia has practiced with the Law Offices of Bennett & Sharpe in the Central Valley, where
she represented clients in the areas of labor and employment and special education law. Before that,
she worked for the law firm of Lozano Smith in Fresno, specializing in education law, and until recently
she managed her own law firm representing school districts and county offices of education.

She earned her law degree from the San Joaquin College of Law in Fresno.

Born and raised in Fresno, Yama-Garcia is married and has an adult married son, a step-son
attending college in Costa Rica, and a teenage step-daughter.

“I am thrilled to be part of CSBA’s legal team,” said Yama-Garcia. “I look forward to the many exciting
and positive changes we can make to benefit school districts and county offices of education in the

[Maura Larkins comment: I'll give credit to Ms. Yama for one thing. At least she doesn't claim to be
trying to benefit students.]

Richard Riehl

Politics Enters Carlsbad School Board Race
Richard J. Riehl
San Diego Reader
August 10, 2013

In the 2008 election I voted for 19-year-old Evan Delaney Rodgers for the Carlsbad City Council. I
was sad to see her lose because of the youthful energy and positive attitude she would have brought
to that gang of mostly good old boys.

After Kelli Moors announced her retirement from the Carlsbad School Board a few days ago, 18-year-
old Sage Naumann declared he's more than eager to take her place. But unless you favor
contentiousness and political grandstanding, Naumann has already revealed he wouldn't be the right

Unlike Rodgers' city council campaign, filled with dozens of practical suggestions for improving the
city's quality of life, Naumann has begun by smearing two highly respected school district retirees,
former Superintendent John Roach and board member Moors. Here's what he posted on his
Facebook page:

"Is it just me, or does it seem suspicious that both our Superintendent and a board member have
jumped ship to take jobs with a law firm that taxpayers are actively paying for? That’s why I am
emailing you. Should I assembly (sic) my team to begin looking deeper, or does this just seem like a
harmless coincidence? I’m eager to hear your response."

He urged his followers to reply to "Our mailing address: Sage Naumann for Carlsbad School Board
2014, 2307 Fenton Parkway, Suite 107-114, San Diego, CA 92108.

To paraphrase the young candidate, is it just me, or does it seem suspicious that a candidate for the
Carlsbad School Board has a campaign headquarters address next door to Qualcomm Stadium?
Email your response to

The law firm to which Naumann refers is Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost, which contracts with the school
district for legal advice and hired Roach and Moors as consultants after they left their positions with
the district. In the style of Congressman Darrell Issa's discredited witch hunt of the IRS, Naumann
makes no accusations, since he has nary a shred of evidence of legal or ethical misbehavior. He
simply rallies his supporters with the implication of corruption. Those of us of a certain age remember
how effectively Joe McCarthy used that technique.

Naumann's outrage that "taxpayers are actively paying for" the services of a law firm reveals both his
naiveté and misuse of an adverb for exaggeration. Would he be less offended if taxpayers paid the
law firm inactively?

[Maura Larkins' comment: Defenders of CUSD might want to be careful when criticizing the critical-
thinking and writing skills of a recent graduate of Carlsbad High School. It's sort of a two-edged sword.
And the phrase "actively paying" sounds perfectly fine to me. It conjures an image of money flowing. I
call that good writing.]

The word "irresponsible" comes to mind when characterizing Naumann's character attacks on Roach
and Moors. The words "empty promises" best describes his "Back to Basics" campaign theme. In a
breathtaking leap of logic, he promises in one paragraph to "do everything I can to question
purchases, staff and faculty additions, and other funding that seems unnecessary," to stop the
"reckless spending," and to "be a taxpayer's "watchdog." In the next he promises to "keep class sizes
small, " "materials available" and "teachers stress-free and able to concentrate on their students, "
while "no longer will we look to slashing department budgets to fill shortfalls."

Naumann ignores the district's most pressing challenge: putting in place a plan to implement the
Common Core of expected learning outcomes. But we have a glimpse of what he feels about it.

In a Guest Commentary in the conservative blog San Diego Rostra, "Putting the Carlsbad School
District Back on Track," Naumann assures a reader: "I have already pledged my support against
CCSS, and I will continue my advocacy against it throughout my campaign and if I am elected."

At its July 24 meeting the school board learned CUSD will received approximately $2.1 million in state
funds to implement the Common Core during 2013-2015. Judging from his vow to be the taxpayer's
watchdog, it sounds as if Naumann will do what he can to turn down the funding. So much for his
promise to "Keep cuts away from the classroom."

Naumann's platform calls for making connections with the community. A look at a list of his supporters
tells us much about the connections he's already made and what Carlsbadians can look forward to
from the influence of his network of colleagues.

Topping the list is Carl DeMaio, former member of the San Diego City Council. He's followed by city
council members from Vista, Encinitas and Imperial Beach (none from Carlsbad thus far), School
Board members from La Mesa/Spring Valley, Encinitas and Dehesa (none from Carlsbad).

The Vice Chair of the California Republican Party heads a list of 10 San Diego GOP Central
Committee members, including Sherry Hodges, whose campaign Naumann staffed.

The list of those with titles ended with the president of the Oceanside Rotary Club and the former
president of the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce. Curiously missing from the entire list were
Carlsbad officials.

See a pattern here? If you liked the vicious tactics of the failed Sherry Hodges campaign and don't
mind having a political operative with an agenda joining a non-partisan school board with a history of
civility, than Naumann's your guy.

And that would be a sad day for Carlsbad schools.

Richard J. Riehl writes from La Costa.

Kelli Moors, who started the current scandal
when she voted on a contract for FFF,
then 12 days later left CUSD to work for FFF


Friday, November 30 [2012]- CSBA [California School Boards Association] Annual Education
Exhibitor Table Talks
Boards, the Brown Act and Cyberspace

As education leaders turn to social media for timely communication, well-intentioned board members
can find themselves in violation of the Brown Act when cyber communication conveys information
coming up for vote. If used improperly, social media starts the slippery slope into online serial
meetings, resulting in costly, embarrassing legal consequences, and can be subject to public records
requests. Attend this workshop to learn how to avoid social media pitfalls in your governance capacity.

--Kelli Moors, Board Member, Carlsbad USD; Christopher Keeler and Namita Brown, Partners, Fagen
Friedman & Fulfrost, LLP

See all posts about Kelli Moors and Fagen Friedman Fulfrost.

Here are some links to FFF cases:

Palo Alto, FFF and the Office of Civil Rights regarding bullying

FFF loses against teacher Pamela Lukkarila in Jurupa School District:

FFF loses against teacher Ermine Nelson in Jurupa School District

FFF wins against student and parent in Carlsbad School District:

School investigation in Claremont USD a waste of taxpayer money?

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Labels: . Moors (Kelli), . Naumann (Sage), Carlsbad Unified School District, common core, CSBA,
education attorneys, Fagen Friedman Fulfrost, school board tactics
Friday, August 23, 2013
Fagen Friedman Fullfrost hires school board member 12 days after she votes to renew their contract
For more recent updates, click HERE.

UPDATE: AUG. 25, 2013

So now that Superintendent Suzette Lovely and the entire Carlsbad Unified board know that Fagen
Friedman & Fulfrost was secretly talking to at least one board member, will they change their minds
about renewing FFF's contract? I doubt it--most school officials like this type of law firm. Also, what
other type of education law firm is there? They all belong to the National Council of School Attorneys,
which seems to guarantee that they're all on the same page.

Carlsbad to redo law-firm vote
By Aaron Burgin
Aug. 23, 2013

The Carlsbad school board on Friday announced that it will redo a vote to renew a $100,000 law-firm
contract, one day after U-T Watchdog reported that one board member was in negotiations for a job
with the firm at the time...


Carlsbad Unified Board Member Kelli Moors

See update on this story HERE.

Compare this story to the hiring of school board member Art Palkowitz by his district's law firm, Stutz
Artiano Shinoff & Holtz.

I checked the California Bar Association website, and found that Ms. Moors is not a lawyer. So it's a
bit counterintuitive that she'd be hired by a law firm. Ms. Moors has worked in business development
in the past, so I imagine that that's what she'll do for Fagen Friedman Fulfrost. But I wonder, did FFF
have a job opening, or did they create a position for her?

And how can FFF advise the district on adhering to legal and ethical practices when it seems to be
manipulating the board for its own benefit?

Hiring by law firm came 12 days after contract renewal
By Aaron Burgin
Aug. 23, 2013 updated

Regulations of the Fair Political Practices Commission, 18747(a):

“No public official shall ‘make,’ ‘participate in making,’ or ‘use his or her official position to influence’
any governmental decision ... if the decision directly relates to a prospective employer.”

18747(c): “A person is a ‘prospective employer’ of a public official if the official, either personally or
through an agent, is ‘negotiating’ or has an ‘arrangement’ concerning prospective employment with
that person.”


November 2012: Voters re-elect Moors to a four-year term that expires in 2016.

March 2013: Moors is laid off from her position at the Tri-City Healthcare District.

Summer 2013: Moors contacts Fagen, Friedman and Fulfrost.

July 24, 2013: Moors participates in vote to renew district’s contract with law firm for an amount not to
exceed $100,000.

Aug. 2, 2013: Moors notifies Carlsbad Superintendent Suzette Lovely, that she is accepting a position
with the law firm and resigning from the board. Moors said this was the first she time she told anyone
with the district of her contact with the law firm.

Aug. 5, 2013: Moors submits resignation to the Carlsbad Unified School District and the San Diego
County Office of Education.

Former Carlsbad school board member Kelli Moors was hired by a law firm 12 days after she voted to
renew the firm’s $100,000 contract with the district.

Moors announced Aug. 5 that she was resigning from the Carlsbad Unified School District board to
take a job with Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost LLP, a statewide law firm that specializes in education and
has contracts with multiple local school districts, including Carlsbad.

On July 24, the Carlsbad board had voted 4-0, with trustee Ann Tanner abstaining, to renew 23
contracts with various vendors. The Fagen contract was the largest of the group.

State law prohibits elected officials from participating in or influencing any decision that would
financially benefit a prospective employer if the elected official is already in employment negotiations
with the employer.

Moors told U-T Watchdog that she had been in talks with the law firm before the July 24 meeting
about accepting a position there. She said she did not exert influence or persuade her fellow board
members to approve the contract, which was approved without discussion.

“I never discussed my potential employment with Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost with my fellow board
members, district staff or the superintendent because I didn’t want there to be any hint of a conflict of
interest,” said Moors, who was elected to the board in 2000.

Gary Winuk, enforcement chief for the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission, said an elected
official’s own vote can present a conflict involving prospective employment. This, he said, includes
consent agenda votes, which typically come with no discussion.

“The general rule is that once you begin employment negotiations with an outside entity, you may not
make, participate in or influence a decision regarding that entity,” Winuk said.

Moors was employed at Tri-City Medical Center before her position was eliminated in March. She said
she began searching for new employment several months later. She would not give a specific date
when she first contacted the law firm, but said it was earlier in the summer...
Posted by Maura Larkins at 9:35 AM No comments:
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Labels: . Moors (Kelli), Carlsbad Unified School District, conflicts of interest, education attorneys,
Fagen Friedman Fulfrost, Fair Political Practices Commission, school board secrecy
Friday, March 29, 2013
School districts can no longer conceal what they pay their attorneys to fight lawsuits
Kyla Doyle sent me the following article. She notes:

"What caught my attention was that it includes "ongoing litigation" so the school districts can no
longer deny records act requests just because the case hasn't yet resolved. Ours is still out there--
after the denial by the US Supreme Court they are fighting over fees owed to our attorney....while
racking up more fees for themselves..."

Here is a snippet of oral arguments in Kyla's case between one of the Ninth Circuit Justices and Stutz
Artiano Shinoff & Holtz attorney Jack Sleeth.

Kudos to writer Rex Dalton and Voice of Orange County for covering this story.

When I first glanced at the article below, I was surprised and delighted. I was going to applaud Will
Carless of Voice of San Diego for finally writing about secrecy among school attorneys and their allies
at San Diego County Office of Education. Then I saw that the story is from Voice of OC, not Voice of
San Diego. VOSD continues to protect school attorneys since Emily Alpert left.

Supreme Court Rules Special Ed Litigation Costs Are Public
Voice of OC
March 11, 2013

Related: A 'Brotherhood' Fights Families Wanting Special Ed
Related: Questions Surround Attorneys' Actions in Speical Ed Case

The California Supreme Court has cleared the way for public disclosure of governmental legal costs
in ongoing lawsuits where school districts, cities or other public agencies refuse to reveal the bills
before litigation is complete.

In Orange County and other jurisdictions, governmental agencies have frequently declined to disclose
the costs of ongoing litigation, contending such legal bills are exempt under the California Public
Records Act.

But in its Feb. 20 ruling on a Los Angeles lawsuit, the court affirmed a published appellate decision in
which judges decided that legal fees can be disclosed when a public records request is made during
active litigation.

Terry Franke, an attorney for Californians Aware, an open-access organization in Sacramento, said,
“This case properly ends an abuse too often employed to conceal from the public just how much of its
money is being spent by lawyers.”

The court decision removes a ploy used by the Orange County Department of Education and a
number of the county's 28 school districts to deny disclosure of litigation costs when fighting cases
against families seeking special education for youths with disabilities under federal and state laws.

Last year, Voice of OC ran a series of articles showing how school districts were spending hundreds
of thousands of dollars to fight families over services that sometimes cost only a few thousand dollars.
Such legal battles also created enormous hardships for families and limited options for children with
autism and other serious developmental disabilities.

For instance, the Orange Unified School District, working with county education department attorneys,
refused last year to release the district’s legal costs after the district sued a family in federal court to
prevent paying about $3,400 a year for a preschool for the family's autistic child. The youngster is
known only as C.K. in court records.

Recently released Orange Unified records show the district’s legal costs to fight the family totaled at
least $236,000. These costs were for an administrative hearing, where the family won service funding,
and to sue the family in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana.

Orange Unified paid a Costa Mesa law firm headed by S. Daniel Harbottle about $83,000 of that total,
according to invoices provided by the school district. And because the family of the child defeted the
school district’s lawsuit, the federal judge ordered the district to pay their Long Beach attorney, Bruce
Bothwell, his court-approved attorney fees of $153,000.

In another case involving an 18-year-old autistic youth in the Garden Grove Unified School District,
the school district and county’s attorneys have refused to release the district’s costs in a contentious
legal battle that has gone on since 2008.

The youth's guardian aunt has fought for services in five administrative hearings and filed several
federal lawsuits against the district for declining to pay for or provide special education services. The
family’s litigation costs are in excess of $350,000, they say.

The Garden Grove district's aggressive legal stance was designed to drive the boy out of the school
district, alleged the aunt, Alexis Baquerizo. The school district has denied the charge in court.

A spokesman for the Garden Grove district declined comment on the legal ruling. He referred the
inquiry to the county education department.

Lysa M. Saltzman, a county education department counsel, declined to address specific questions
about the disclosure ruling, writing in an email that any new requests under the California Public
Records Act for legal costs in the case will be evaluated based on the recent Supreme Court decision.

School district and county attorneys have argued that cost disclosures could compromise the school
district’s legal position and should be treated like legal strategies, which remain exempt from
disclosure during continuing litigation.

But last Nov. 16, the California Court of Appeal for the 2nd District ruled that legal fees in continuing
cases were disclosable. It was this decision that the Supreme Court let stand while also affirming that
the ruling should remain published, thereby serving as a statewide precedent.

“Government officials are not paying for litigation or other legal services out of their own pockets, so
there’s no independent check on their spending, which can grow very large very quickly if taxpayers
have no way of learning how the bills are piling up,” said CalAware’s Franke.

The decision arose from a civil lawsuit filed by a Bellflower couple in 1999 after they allegedly were
improperly held and harassed by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies during a 1998 auto theft

In a recent interview, Donald W. Cook of Los Angeles, attorney for the couple, said the case easily
could have been settled more than a decade ago but the Los Angeles county counsel’s office
engages private law firms to litigate seemingly forever as a tactic to discourage plaintiffs.

The couple’s original claim for damages has bounced up and down the court system during the 13
years. Furious over delays, Cook engaged an attorney to sue Los Angeles County for legal costs,
which he estimated at about $1 million.

Cook said that certain governmental agencies like Los Angeles County “don’t want the taxpayer to
know they are wasting money. The strategy here is to hire a private firm, which milks the case for all
it's worth and then bills the taxpayer.”

A spokesman for the Los Angeles County counsel’s office declined comment.

In Orange County, families, child advocates and family attorneys have contended that school district
have employed similar tactics for years to avoid providing services required by the federal Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act.

A handful of law firms represents the county’s school districts, who look to them as buffers against
substantial costs that some special education cases can require. District superintendents claim they
must take a hard line to control costs.

The stakes are so high over the issue that Cook suspects governmental agencies may seek
legislation in Sacramento in an attempt to amend the state Public Records Act to again block legal fee

Expressing concern about the impact of the appellate decision, the League of California Cities filed a
letter Jan. 24 urging the state Supreme Court to accept and hear arguments on Cook's case. The
league, a Sacramento-based organization of 469 municipalities, fears being swamped by requests for

A league attorney, Koreen Kelleher, said she was unaware of any such legislation effort.

Rex Dalton is a San Diego-based journalist who has worked for the San Diego Union-Tribune and the
journal Nature. You can reach him directly at
Posted by Maura Larkins at 1:08 PM No comments:
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Labels: . Carless (Will), . Dalton (Rex), . Doyle (Kyla), education attorneys, public records, Solana
Beach School District, Voice of OC (Orange County), Voice of San Diego
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Sweetwater Union High School District reveals that some witnesses called to testify were given paid
legal “support”
Taxpayers didn't just pay for the grand jury proceeding. They also paid for private law firms to advise
the district and prepare employees for grand jury testimony.

Susan Luzzaro reports that in the year 2012-2013, Sweetwater Union High School District paid these
amounts to its lawyers:

Winet, Patrick & Weaver $ 16,357
Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz $ 148,966
and Bradley Patton $ 1,575

Before the DA's investigation of Sweetwater school district...
Lawyers paid for with school funds
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
March 20, 2013

In November 2012, the San Diego Grand Jury began investigating corruption allegations that
encompassed three South Bay school districts: Southwestern College, the San Ysidro School District,
and the Sweetwater Union High School District.

The investigation resulted in 232 criminal charges for elected officials and/or contractors in all three
districts. The investigation supported the district attorney’s investigation into alleged pay-to-play

A recent public-records request to the Sweetwater Union High School District reveals that some
witnesses called to testify were given paid legal “support.”

A letter included in the records request from the law corporation of Winet, Patrick & Weaver states,
“When the District Attorney convened a Grand Jury, subpoenas were issued to a number of
employees at the District who had no experience with the District Attorney’s office or Grand Jury
proceedings. As is customary, these employees were informed that the Grand Jury proceedings were
entirely confidential, employees could not discuss their prospective testimony with other individuals,
and that the Grand Jury proceedings were private.”

A separate public-records request shared with the Reader reports that “The law firms that provided
advice to District employees who requested legal advice regarding the grand jury proceedings
included my firm [Winet, Patrick & Weaver], the firm of Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff and Holtz, and attorney
Bradley Patton.”

Winet, Patrick & Weaver is the firm that provided $6336 to John McCann in his failed attempt at a
permanent restraining order against Stewart Payne, a Sweetwater parent and one of the people who
brought allegations of Sweetwater corruption to the district attorney.

[Maura Larkins' comment: Interestingly, the judge who granted a temporary restraining order that
turned out at trial to be based on bad information was Francis Devaney, husband of Stutz Artiano
Shinoff & Holtz partner Leslie Devaney. Judge Ana Espana eventually determined that McCann's
request lacked merit.]

Bradley Patton is a criminal-law attorney. Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz provide a variety of legal
services to the district.

In the year 2012-2013, Sweetwater paid Winet, Patrick & Weaver $16,357, Stutz Artiano Shinoff &
Holtz $148,966, and Bradley Patton $1575.

The district declined to say which employees requested legal assistance because “disclosure of these
documents or records would not only usurp the privacy required by Grand Jury proceedings, but also
may constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy of the individual employee.”

However, the 61 names of witnesses called by the grand jury was filed with the superior court on
December 21 and is part of the public record. Superintendent Ed Brand and trustee John McCann
were among those called from the Sweetwater district.
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Labels: . Shinoff (Daniel Shinoff), Attorney Randall Winet, education attorneys, legal fees, public
records, Stutz Artiano Shinoff Holtz, SUHSD, Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD)
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Huge amount of tax dollars spent unnecesarily for school attorneys
The case of Mike Harris v. Roseville Joint Union High School District (even the name of the school
district is redundant!) should be shocking. Sadly, this behavior tends to be the norm for school

"“During the lawsuit, I asked to see the district’s attorney bills so I could keep track of how much the
district was spending,” Harris says. “I estimate the district paid around $300,000 total to their lawyers
and my attorney to keep me from seeing my son’s records.”

“This is not just a question of them trying to violate my rights,” Harris adds. “This is a question of how
much money was wasted in the attempt. $300,000 is a huge amount of money, especially now in hard
economic times when so many teachers are losing their jobs and so many school programs are being
cut. The $300,000 should have been used to pay for teachers, books, or other costs related to
educating our students, not a misguided and irresponsible attempt to deny me my rights as a parent.

“It makes absolutely no sense to spend so much money that way. It would never happen if they had to
spend their own money—but apparently they operate using different standards when they spend the
taxpayers’ money.”

See remarks of Justice for Ninth Circuit in Ka. D. v. Solana Beach School District.

Parent: Trustees' Fight to Keep Records Secret Cost $300K
by Terry Francke, General Counsel
Californians Aware
December 5, 2011

A Northern California school district’s commitment to unlawful secrecy cost it an estimated $300,000 in
attorney’s fees—most of it paid to two different law firms to unsuccessfully defend against a parent’s
lawsuit to obtain access to his son’s pupil records, the parent says.

Almost two years ago, Mike Harris asked the Roseville Joint Union High School District to show him
records in connection with his son’s expulsion from the basketball team for having created a satirical
video—off campus and on his own time—about adolescent drug use in the affluent Granite Bay
community, and posting it on Youtube. The district showed him some, but not all the requested

“They gave me what they said were my son’s complete official record but what they gave me was
nowhere near the complete record. They claimed the electronic records and emails that they maintain
and use on a daily basis were not official records and that they did not have to give them to me. They
were wrong,” Harris says.

When Harris’ efforts to persuade the school to let him see more of his son’s pupil records failed, he
hired Paul Nicholas Boylan, an attorney specializing in records access law, to file a lawsuit to help him
gain access to the withheld information.

Last January Boylan commenced the court action arguing that the California Constitution, Education
Code and Public Records Act gave Harris the right to view his son’s records and that the school
district violated Harris’ rights as a parent when they decided to them secret.

The district hired Trujillo & Vinson, a San Francisco Bay Area law firm, to defend against Harris’

[Maura Larkins comment: Why didn't Trujillo & Vinson tell the school that it must release the records?
Because they wanted to keep taxpayer money flowing to their firm.]

“The District’s defense was vigorous,” Boylan says. “They did everything they could to prevent Mike
from seeing records that any parent should be allowed to see. But in the end the court decided to
defend not just Mike’s rights, but all parents’ rights to see their children’s school records.”

On May 20, Placer County Superior Court Commissioner Margret Wells entered judgment holding that
the district violated Harris’ rights and ordered the district to provide Harris with access to a complete
copy of his son’s records, including emails and other electronic records.

“It was a huge victory,” Harris says.

But the dispute wasn’t over. As the winning party, Harris asked the court to order the district to pay his
attorney’s fees and court costs.

“That’s when things got really nasty,” Boylan says. “As hard as the district fought to avoid letting Mike
see his son’s records, they fought even harder to avoid reimbursing Mike for what it cost him to
enforce his rights.”

When Harris filed his request for reimbursement, the district hired a second law firm, Meyers & Nave,
a large law firm with offices in six cities, to work with Trujillo & Vinson to oppose the claim. However,
right before the hearing on Harris’ motion, the case settled when the district agreed to pay Harris’
attorney’s fees and court costs.

“During the lawsuit, I asked to see the district’s attorney bills so I could keep track of how much the
district was spending,” Harris says. “I estimate the district paid around $300,000 total to their lawyers
and my attorney to keep me from seeing my son’s records.”

“This is not just a question of them trying to violate my rights,” Harris adds. “This is a question of how
much money was wasted in the attempt. $300,000 is a huge amount of money, especially now in hard
economic times when so many teachers are losing their jobs and so many school programs are being
cut. The $300,000 should have been used to pay for teachers, books, or other costs related to
educating our students, not a misguided and irresponsible attempt to deny me my rights as a parent.

“It makes absolutely no sense to spend so much money that way. It would never happen if they had to
spend their own money—but apparently th

ey operate using different standards when they spend the taxpayers’ money.” As part of the
settlement, the district has agreed to let Harris meet with the district board of trustees.

“Over the past two years I have often wondered who was in charge and if they would be held
responsible for wasting our taxpayer dollars,” Harris said. “I am certain the Board of Trustees does
not know the real story of what happened in my case. They should know so that this does not happen
to anyone else. We can’t afford it.”
Posted by Maura Larkins at 3:11 PM

San Diego Education Report Blog

Let's fix our schools! A site about education and politics
Showing posts with label education attorneys. Show all posts
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Solana Beach School District loses after using more tax money for yet another appeal in the Ka. D. v.
Solana Beach case
See all Solana Beach School District posts.
See all Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz posts.

Irony alert: One of the partners of the Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz law firm, Leslie Devaney, has been
a board member of CALA, Californians Against Lawsuit Abuse, an organization that criticizes
unnecessary litigation!

The only good thing that Solana Beach School District did for the taxpayers with its excessive
spending on the Ka. D. v. Solana Beach case was to cause trustee Art Palkowitz to decide not to run
for reelection. The District didn't intend to do this, of course. It probably thought no one would notice
what it was up to.

After a justice on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal expressed astonishment that Solana Beach had
already wasted so much taxpayer money on the case so that Stutz law firm could collect more legal
fees, Solana Beach School District paid even more public money to the firm (where Art Palkowitz
works) to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here's what the justice said on Feb. 17, 2012 in Pasadena:

"I am curious.

"This whole dispute is about counsel [attorney] fees, I assume.

"Nobody in their right economic mind would be carrying this case to the Ninth Circuit that seems to me
to involve something like $67,000 [in attorney fees]....

"What's really at stake here in terms of the lawsuit itself is whether you should reimburse somewhere
between 6 and 7 thousand dollars [to the parents].

"For this amount of money you've gone through a hearing before a hearing officer, a proceeding in
the District Court, and now you're appealing to the Ninth Circuit.

"It seems to me, and I don't blame you necessarily, I just want to be clear. This whole dispute is about
counsel fees, isn't it?"

On Nov. 26, 2012 the Supreme Court denied the appeal.
Posted by Maura Larkins at 1:29 PM No comments:
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Labels: CALA, education attorneys, Frivolous lawsuits, Lawsuit, school district lawsuits, Solana Beach
School District, Special Education, Supreme Court, tax dollars for school attorneys
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Meet the Players Who Shaped Poway Schools' Bond Deals
I'm also curious about the identities of the lucky dogs who BOUGHT these bonds, and whether they
have links to the people in this article. Heaven forbid that they might BE some of the same people in
this article.

Meet the Players Who Shaped Poway Schools' Bond Deals
In August, dozens of residents showed up to a Poway Unified school board meeting to voice their
concern over the district’s controversial bond program.
Oct 9, 2012
Voice of San Diego

Over the last few weeks, we’ve learned a lot about the Poway Unified School District’s controversial
bond deals. We’ve learned they will saddle future residents with more than $1 billion worth of debt.
We know the district squeezed $21 million in extra up-front cash to pay attorney’s fees and other
costs associated with the bonds. But what we haven’t focused on, until now, are the people behind
these extraordinary deals.

We decided to put together a quick guide to Poway’s players, so we could share what we know about
the individuals responsible for putting together Poway’s bonds. Here’s more information about the
players in our suburban saga.

John Collins, superintendent

• Collins began his career in education at the San Diego Unified School District in 1976. In 1989, he
was hired by Poway as an assistant principal and worked in school administration at three different
schools during the next seven years. For nine years he was the deputy superintendent in charge of
business and learning support services and he became Poway’s superintendent in July 2010,
following the retirement of Don Phillips.

• Late last year, local media reported that Collins’s home was in foreclosure after a public notice
stated an auction would be held to settle $1.1 million in unpaid obligations.

• In his own words: “We want to be open, transparent and forthright in our responsibility to the district.
If only one member of the community comes forward with questions and concerns, it’s one too many.”
Yet, Collins has so far refused to provide even basic information about a proposed review of the
district’s bond deals. He won’t say who’s doing the review, how much it costs or why the individual or
company conducting it was chosen.

Linda Vanderveen, board president

• Vanderveen has served three consecutive four-year terms on Poway Unified’s board and is up for
re-election this year.

• In her own words: “Our newly renovated schools are testimony to the community's commitment to
our Building for Success program. People move to [Poway] for the schools. Clearly, we are doing
something right.”

• My colleague Will Carless has called and emailed Vanderveen several times seeking comment or an
interview. Vanderveen has ignored all of his requests.

Andy Patapow, board vice president

• Patapow has served four consecutive terms on Poway’s board and is up for re-election this year. He
was the principal of Poway’s continuation school for 28 years.

• U-T San Diego reported that he accepted more than $300 in meals from Stone & Youngberg, the
underwriter of last year’s controversial bond deal.

• Patapow has also ignored repeated calls and emails from Carless requesting comment.

Marc Davis, board clerk

• Davis is the newbie of the group. This is Davis’s first term as a board member; in 2014 he will be up
for re-election.

• Davis promoted himself as a businessman and financial adviser during his campaign in 2010. He is
the president and founder of Davis & Seiley Wealth Management.

• In his own words: “I am running to share my financial and business expertise to help address the
monumental budget problems that we have now and will have in the future. I understand financial
markets, contracts, employment rules, pension plans … and tax issues.”

• Davis is one of three board members who has responded to interview requests. In an Aug. 8 e-mail
to Carless regarding the extra money Poway squeezed out of its bond deals, he wrote: “[Poway
Unified] did not circumvent the will of the people in doing this but followed long standing legal
precedent in doing so and the advice of our bond counsel.” Three attorneys not affiliated with the
district who were contacted by Carless said Poway’s deals were, in fact, extraordinary, since they
pushed the boundaries of state law. The district’s 2011 deal was also deemed illegal by the state
Attorney General’s Office.

Todd Gutschow, board member

• Gutschow is in the middle of his second term as a board member; he’ll be up for re-election in 2014.
He was appointed to the Citizens’ Oversight Committee for Proposition U.

• In his own words: He told Voice of San Diego in an Aug. 14 interview: “I think most people who take a
moment to think about things before they vote would have said, ‘Well, gee. We’re going to be paying
more money for a longer period of time. And that’s probably going to mean that’s going to be more
expensive.’ I think that general idea is something most people could have and should have
recognized. Would they be able to estimate how much? Would they have been able to have that kind
of level of detail? No.”

• Of the five board members, Gutschow has been the most willing to communicate with us on this
story. He, Collins and Board Member Penny Rantfle met for an interview last month, and Gutschow is
the only board member to respond to Carless’s calls. He has, however, ceased communicating with us
as of late.

Penny Ranftle, board member

• Ranftle has been on the board the longest; she’s in the middle of her fifth consecutive term,
meaning she has spent the past two decades in her position.

• She has virulently defended Poway from criticism over its bond deals. During the Aug. 14 interview,
she said the board had acted in good faith and had delivered what voters wanted: more money to
construct schools, without raising taxes.

• Rantfle has spoken out against scrutiny of Poway’s bond deals at school board meetings, including
one held on Sept. 10, when she said: “It saddens me to see a couple of members of the media that
have turned their scrutiny of this district into some sort of a sport. They have taken a single aspect of
this massive rebuilding and modernization program and wrapped it into innuendo and inaccurate
reporting, without regard to the damage or expense it is causing the district.”

The Consultants: The Dolinka Group: Benjamin Dolinka

• Poway used this group of financial consultants, which specializes in advising school districts about
general obligation bonds, for Proposition C.

• According to its LinkedIn profile, the privately held company employs fewer than 50 employees.

• For the past 20 years, Benjamin Dolinka, the group’s president, has served as a financial adviser to
Poway. On March 22 last year, a few weeks after receiving the warning letter from the state Attorney
General’s Office, Collins submitted a letter of recommendation for the Dolinka Group praising Dolinka:

“[W]orking with Benjamin Dolinka and the finance team, we have been able to minimize our risks while
maximizing the benefits,” he wrote.

• According to the group’s website, Dolinka “focuses on creating new financial and demographic
services, identifying potential public-public and private-public partnerships.”

The Consultants: California Financial Services: Michael Ogburn

• This small financial planning firm has advised school districts and local governments for 26 years,
according to its website.

• Its founder Michael Ogburn specializes in school district finance in Southern California, and has
worked with at least two local districts: Escondido Union and Poway.

The Lawyers: Bowie, Arneson, Wiles & Giannone

• Poway used this Newport Beach law firm for advice on its bond deals.

• According to its website, the firm employs 10 attorneys and has been around for about 40 years and
provides public agencies, like school districts, with legal services involving planning, financing and
construction of school facilities.

• The firm was the recipient of a letter from state Attorney General Kamala D. Harris’s office last year
warning that the deal it was helping Poway Unified put together was illegal.

ClarieceT posted at 3:16 pm on Tue, Oct 9, 2012.

...[Board member] Jeff Mangum was part of the 2009 Series A which had excessive premiums and he
was one the one who moved and Vanderveen seconded the resolution approving the Series B bond
which had a premium of $21 million dollars...
Posted by Maura Larkins at 12:23 PM 1 comment:
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Labels: . Dolinka (Bejamin), bonds issued by schools, Bowie Arneson Wiles Giannone, capital
appreciation bonds, depraved in Poway, education attorneys, Poway Unified School District, school
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Who is exposing the underbellies of school systems, U-T San Diego or Voice of San Diego?
My challenge to Will Carless at VOSD and Jeff McDonald at U-T San Diego: Why don't you find out
the truth about what's going on at SDCOE?

Now that Will Carless has replaced Emily Alpert at VOSD, why doesn't he conduct a "Crosier Watch"
similar to the "Petty Watch" he conducted in 2008?

Over the past few years, only a few limited stories about the tactics of education attorneys have crept
into the press. Reporters have to beg and plead and practically stand on their heads to get their
stories published. Voice of San Diego dropped its coverage of SDCOE attorney shenanigans, and
laid-off its stellar education reporter Emily Alpert. CEO Scott Lewis claimed that he didn't have enough
money to pay her.

But that explanation doesn't hold water.

Voice of San Diego benefactors Buzz Woolley and Irwin Jacobs, who claim to care about education,
could have easily paid Emily's salary with their pocket change if they'd wanted her to stay. And I
suspect she would have wanted to stay if her job description had been made more appealing, which
would have included being allowed to publish her stories freely. At one time she must have hoped that
all her work would result in some changes for children in schools.

It seems Buzz Woolley, Irwin Jacobs and Emily Alpert weren't on the same page.

I recently discovered (in a story by Jeff McDonald at the U-T) that SDCOE executive Dan Puplava,
whom Emily had started investigating, was fined $7000 and had his brokers license suspended while
AIG Financial, which was paying Puplava big bucks for moonlighting with them, was fined $300,000 for
not properly overseeing him. Still, Puplava retains his job as head of the SDCOE Fringe Benefits

Voice of San Diego never even placed a link in its Morning Report to the U-T San Diego story.

To its credit, VOSD's Will Carless is doing a great job investigating a school bond scam in Poway
pulled off by board members and their lawyers.

But if VOSD had been willing to aggressively investigate education attorneys, the Poway Capital
Appreciation Bonds scandal might have been prevented. Of course, the downside of that for VOSD
would be that it wouldn't have an exciting school bond story to write about.

It seems that journalists are a bit like Plaintiff lawyers: they actually benefit from corruption and
wrongdoing because investigation it gets them money and fame.

All along, of course, the school attorneys are making work for themselves by advising school boards
to ignore the law.

But the public doesn't hear much about this.

In fact, even private bloggers like me and Scott Dauenhaur get sued by SDCOE lawyer Dan Shinoff
for defamation on behalf of himself and his pals at SDCOE. SDCOE should stop tax dollars to stop
public discussion of school attorney tactics, but it won't.

Shockingly, it seems that U-T San Diego's Jeff McDonald is more willing to expose SDCOE than Voice
of San Diego is. As a member of Voice of San Diego, I never thought I'd be forced to confess that we
need the U-T in order to get balanced news reporting in San Diego. I never thought Doug
Manchester's rag would sometimes do a better job on education than Buzz Woolley and Irwin Jacobs.

The U-T freely admits that it is using the paper to influence voters and officials. You know you're
reading a biased paper when you read the U-T. The Union-Tribune has been killing important stories
for years.

The problem with VOSD is that the bias is in the censorship--you don't know which stories they killed
because donors didn't like them. Except, of course, in cases where VOSD started a story--and then
killed it.

See similar problem in Maryland.
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Labels: . Alpert (education reporter Emily Alpert), . McDonald (Jeff), education attorneys, Poway
Unified School District, San Diego Union-Tribune, SDCOE Fringe Benefits Consortium, U-T San
Diego, Voice of San Diego
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Florida university slammed for defense in hazing death case
Florida university slammed for defense in hazing death case
By Barbara Liston
Sep 11, 2012

(Reuters) - The family of a Florida A&M University drum major killed in a brutal hazing ritual is
"appalled" by the university's claim that the student was responsible for his own death, their lawyer
said on Tuesday.

"We are appalled at the audacity of this institution to blame this murder on the victim," said
Christopher Chestnut, lawyer for the parents of drum major Robert Champion Jr.

He spoke in reaction to the motion lawyers for Florida A&M filed in Orange County Circuit Court on
Monday, when they called for dismissal of the Champion family's wrongful death lawsuit.

The motion said the 26-year-old Champion volunteered to be hazed, in a bid to gain respect from
fellow band members, and thus was responsible for his own death.

"Robert Champion, Jr. expressly assumed the risk of the hazing injuries that caused his death," wrote
FAMU lawyer Richard Mitchell, in the bluntly worded court filing on Monday.

FAMU also argues that Champion, by submitting to hazing, was an active participant in a forcible
felony which makes his family ineligible to win a lawsuit against the university.

"No Florida public university or college has a legal duty to protect an adult student from the result of
their own decision to participate in a dangerous crime while off-campus and after retiring from
university-sponsored events, as Robert Champion, Jr. did here," Mitchell said.

Chestnut, however, said the issue was not Champion's age but peer group pressure and the
university's internal culture.

"There are cultural pressures within the college that is allowed here that basically facilitate this
culture. For you to succeed and thrive, part of being in college and in the band is being accepted,"
Chestnut said.

The university has acknowledged that hazing was a longstanding problem in the band, but Chestnut
said it was important to note that Champion was the first band member killed by the ritual.

"Anyone in a hazing has the expectation that I may get hurt but no one expects to be killed...
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Labels: blaming the victim, bullying, bullying by adults, bullying tolerated by schools, education
attorneys, Florida, Hazing, Lawsuit
Monday, May 07, 2012
Lawyers donate to school board members, who then channel tax dollars back to them, says lawsuit
against Garcia Calderon Ruiz
“Lawsuits are generally filed by people that are upset and angry,” according to Sergio Feria. I say
give that man a genius award. Here's a quote from someone else: "Disgruntled ex-employees (or ex-
founding partners) are usually the only ones who will tell the truth about an organization." I notice that
Mr. Ruiz didn't file his suit until after he left the law firm.

Bonny Garcia has donated to the election campaigns of trustees Jim Cartmill, Arlie Ricasa and
Sandoval. Campaign finance records show donations of $1,000 to Ricasa in 2001-02, $1,000 to
Sandoval in 2002 and $975 to Cartmill in 2002.

Complaints preceded raids on South County school officials
Parents, retired teachers urged prosecutors to investigate Sweetwater board members
By Jeff McDonald, Ashly McGlone
December 21, 2011

...Another lawsuit filed this summer raises questions about the relationship between vendors for the
district and the elected officials who award public contracts.

Rogelio Ruiz, a founding partner for GCR LLP, the longtime Sweetwater legal counsel formerly known
as Garcia Calderon Ruiz, is suing his former partners, claiming they used company profits to make
political donations to help secure work.

In his suit, Ruiz said partners Bonifacio Garcia and Yuri Calderon used $15,000 in law-firm proceeds
to fund Citizens for Good Government in the South Bay, a political action committee that supported
Sweetwater board members and others.

The committee “could funnel thousands of dollars in political contributions to Calderon’s and Garcia’s
friends without attracting unwanted media attention and to avoid allegations of conflict of interest and
pay-to-play schemes,” the suit states.

Ruiz also accuses his former partners of donating thousands of dollars to political candidates and
groups around the state “in an effort to impress and curry favor with certain elected officials,” the suit

Attorney Mark Isola, who is representing Ruiz, said Garcia and Calderon “took those funds and used
the monies to get business.”

Sergio Feria, the San Diego attorney representing Calderon and Garcia, denied allegations in the suit
and called it an accounting dispute between former partners.

“Lawsuits are generally filed by people that are upset and angry,” he said...
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Labels: . Cartmill (Jim Cartmill), . Garcia (Bonny), . Ruiz(Rogelio), Campaign finance, corruption,
education attorneys, Garcia Calderon Ruiz, school board tactics, Sweetwater Union High School
District (SUHSD)
Monday, January 16, 2012
Stutz Artiano Adds New Associates to San Diego Office
Stutz Artiano Adds New Associates to San Diego Office
A Press Release distribution service of EIN News

New Associates Alex Tramontano, Kathryn Boyd and William Shinoff have joined the San Diego law
firm of Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz. All three are graduates of California Western School of Law,
which, for three consecutive years, has had the highest pass rate in San Diego for those taking the
California Bar Exam. [Maura Larkins comment: Good work, Cal Western! You've come a long way. I'm
sure this isn't a case of teaching to the test.]

While attending law school, Mr. Tramontano received Public Service Honors in 2010 and 2011 and
received an Academic Achievement Award in Medical Malpractice Litigation. Most recently, Mr.
Tramontano served as a Certified Legal Intern with the San Diego County District Attorney's Office.
He will focus his practice on litigation, insurance and public entity law.

Ms. Boyd graduated from California Western School of Law, earning a concentration in Labor and
Employment Law with honors. While in law school, she received an Academic Achievement Award in
Legal Drafting and was actively involved in the Labor and Employment Law Society, for which she
served as Public Relations Officer. Ms. Boyd's practice will focus on employment, education and
public entity law.

Mr. Shinoff graduated cum laude from California Western and served as an associate editor for
California Western Law Review. He received an Academic Achievement Award in Evidence and was a
member of the California Western Jewish Student Union from 2009 through 2011. Mr. Shinoff will
focus on employment, education and public entity law.

Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz was founded in 1982. The firm currently has 40 attorneys and five offices
in San Diego, Temecula, Santa Ana, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Nevada that serve clients
throughout Southern California.

Here's a story from last year about academic achievement at Cal Western:

Cal Western students receive awards, scholarships
March 29, 2011

Last week, California Western School of Law honored 40 students with nearly 50 awards and
scholarships for academic achievements, community service and campus involvement.
Third-year student Porsha Venable was among the award winners. The Brooklyn native worked for
the public defender's office in New Jersey prior to attending California Western. She received the Alec
L. Cory Award for Outstanding Pro Bono Service.

The Alec L. Cory Award is named for one of the founding partners of Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves &
Savitch. It honors a student who "best represents the spirit of pro bono service."

Students were recognized for academic achievement and participation in student organizations,
clinical programs and the law school's law journals.
Jihan Younis received the Diane Ethics Award. It honors the graduating student demonstrating the
best understanding of the scrupulous ethics and high ideals of the legal profession in academic,
professional and extracurricular activities.
Devin Sreecharana received the American Board of Trial Advocates/Schoville Excellence in Civil
Litigation Award. The award recognizes a third-year student with the greatest aptitude and desire to
pursue a career with a commitment to excellence and civility in civil litigation.
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Labels: . Shinoff (William Shinoff), education attorneys, Stutz Artiano Shinoff Holtz, Stutz law firm
Saturday, December 10, 2011
General counsel at UCSD gets $15K raise
General counsel at UCSD gets $15K raise
His is smallest of dozen UC pay hikes approved this week
Ashly McGlone
Nov. 30, 2011

The general counsel for the University of California San Diego will see a $15,000 boost in pay thanks
to a 6.5 percent raise approved by the UC Board of Regents this week.

Daniel Park, chief campus counsel and associate general counsel for UCSD, received the smallest
pay raise among the 12 raises approved by the board Monday, including increases for six lead
attorneys, four vice chancellors, a dean, and a chief operating officer.

Park, whose annual salary will rise to $250,000, did not respond to requests for comment via phone
and email Wednesday.

The highest raise totaled $103,500 — a 23 percent increase — for the chief operating officer of the
UC Davis Health System.

Raises among attorneys reached as high as 21.9 percent.

The raises follow recent budget cuts and tuition increases.

Dianne Klein, spokeswoman for the UC system, said the raises, many postponed for years, are
necessary to maintain skilled employees.

“Financially, it’s a bad time. We recognize that,” Klein said. “We believe that granting these petitions
could not be put off any more without sacrificing the quality of the university as a whole.”
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Labels: education attorneys, pay raises, UCSD
Tuesday, October 04, 2011
Solana Beach school board member working for Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz education law firm
Solana Beach school board member working for education law firm
By Marsha Sutton
Del Mar Times

Solana Beach School District board member and attorney Art Palkowitz is providing general legal
advice to school districts as Senior Counsel at Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz, a San Diego County law
firm specializing in education law.

Formerly Assistant General Counsel at San Diego Unified School District where he worked for nine
years, Palkowitz joined Stutz Artiano in March 2010.

Palkowitz, whose second four-year term on the SBSD school board expires in November 2012, has
been a practicing attorney for over 28 years, with background in public education and civil litigation.

Since Palkowitz joined Stutz Artiano, the Solana Beach School District has continued to have the law
firm represent the district on two cases. SBSD superintendent Leslie Fausset said there is no conflict
of interest.

“Art has nothing to do with any of the cases that the firm represents,” she said.

Also, she said he recuses himself from voting on all decisions involving Stutz Artiano cases that
involve expenses with the firm.

“We’ve taken probably a more cautious approach, but that’s how we’ve handled it,” Fausset said.

She said Palkowitz shared with her his intent to join the law firm in advance, and she said she had “no
misgivings at all.”

“We took all of the appropriate precautions,” she said, adding that “it’s very beneficial to a district” to
have attorneys on school boards who understand education issues.

Palkowitz’s professional experience, according to his profile on the Stutz Artiano Web site, includes an
understanding of the California Education Code, certificated and classified employee suspension and
termination proceedings, strategy and compliance in collective bargaining, employment-related
litigation, wrongful termination, the Brown Act, Public Records Act, California Tort Claims Act,
preparation and review of district policies and administrative procedures, and charter school petitions,
operations, renewals and appeals.

One of the two cases Stutz Artiano has handled for the SBSD since Palkowitz was hired began in
September 2010 and was concluded earlier this year. The district paid about $6,300 to the law firm
for the case.

The other case, concerning a preschool special education student, is continuing through the court
system and is on appeal at the Ninth Circuit, Fausset said. To date, the district has paid Stutz Artiano
about $11,600, and the Special Education Legal Alliance has paid the firm about $40,000 on this

With miscellaneous fees of $823 for opinions on Public Records Act requests and student fees, the
total paid to Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz by the district from 2010 to the present is about $18,745.
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Labels: . Palkowitz (Art), appearance of conflict of interest, conflicts of interest, education attorneys,
Solana Beach School District, Stutz Artiano Shinoff Holtz
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Are schools better than the CIA at keeping secrets?
I was struck by how much the following article reminded me of the manner in which school districts and
their attorneys conceal problems in schools.

"...[R]edacted passages revealed the agency's incompetence, rather than sensitive information."

Aug 30, 2011 20:31 ET
Censored by the CIA
A 23-year veteran of the agency reveals how the vetting process is used to stifle critics of the war on
By Laura Miller

News that the CIA has demanded "extensive cuts" from a forthcoming book by former FBI agent Ali
Soufan made the front page of the New York Times last week. But Soufan's isn't the only recent
memoir to earn the intelligence agency's wrath by, in part, criticizing its use of brutal interrogation
techniques in the decade since 9/11. There's also "The Interrogator," by Glenn Carle, a 23-year CIA
veteran who was given the task of questioning a purported al-Qaida kingpin in 2002. Carle's book
was published earlier this summer with many passages -- and occasionally entire pages -- blocked
out with black bars to show where the agency had insisted on redactions.

Soufan has called many of the CIA's excisions from his own book "ridiculous," pointing out that some
of the "classified" information is a matter of public record and appears in the 9/11 report and even in
a memoir by former CIA director George Tenet. Carle had a similar experience; "The Interrogator" is
laced with caustic footnotes explaining that redacted passages revealed the agency's incompetence,
rather than sensitive information.

When I reviewed Carle's book in July, I made a few guesses about facts the author was obliged to
leave out of "The Interrogator." Less than a day had passed before I learned that most of my guesses
were wrong. Readers sent me helpful emails with links to articles supplying all the missing details,
including the identity of the detainee Carle interrogated, a man he eventually came to believe was

If the CIA is trying to prevent information in Soufan's and Carle's manuscripts from reaching the
public, they've obviously already failed. If anything, the agency's efforts to censor these and other
books only seem likely to inflame interest in the forbidden material, which will surface anyway. Does
the CIA's power to vet the writings of former government employees have any teeth in the Internet
age? I decided to call up Carle to ask about his experience with the agency's censors...
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Labels: education attorneys, incompetence, Secrecy in government, secrecy in schools
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Ed Brand says he's going to review legal fees in Sweetwater

Channel 6 reports: "Over the next 30 to 60 days, Dr. Brand said he will conduct a review of all recent
administrative appointments and district legal fees to address board and community concerns."

Brand used to be on the committee that oversaw lawyers at SDCOE. He didn't worry much about
ethics then. And the Sweetwater Union High School District board has stuck with lawyer Bonifacio
Garcia despite widespread criticism over the years. BUt if they see it's in their interest, I'm sure both
Brand and the board will be willing to pull the plug on their old pal.

Sweetwater District Board of Trustees Appoints Dr. Ed Brand as Acting Superintendent
Channel 6 San Diego

The Sweetwater Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to appoint Dr. Ed Brand the acting
district superintendent.

Dr. Ed Brand spent most of his education career in the Sweetwater District before serving as
superintendent from 1995 until 2005. He will fill the post for one year or until a permanent
replacement is found for Dr. Jesus Gandara, who was separated from the District on Tuesday...

With Gandara gone, attorney could be next
By Jeff McDonald and Ashly McGlone
June 29, 2011

The Sweetwater school board terminated its superintendent last week over a number of ethical
concerns, and some community members are now pushing for removal of the district’s lawyer.

The attorney, Bonifacio Garcia, signed off on some of the matters that shook community confidence
in the ousted superintendent, Jesus Gandara.

For instance, public-relations bills whose veracity is under criminal investigation were signed off by
Garcia and submitted to the district for payment. Some participants listed on the bills told The
Watchdog meetings didn’t happen or did not pertain to district business.

Garcia’s district contract calls for his firm to be paid a monthly retainer of $83,000 and allows him to
bill for outside consultants on his own or at the direction of the superintendent, with no board

Ed Brand, the former Sweetwater Union High School District superintendent who came out of
retirement to serve in the interim, hired Garcia in the mid-1990s during his previous stint.

Brand said on Wednesday that he has asked for an outside review of Sweetwater’s legal costs,
conducted by the county Office of Education, to see if they are in line with comparable districts.

According to an analysis presented to the school board last week, Sweetwater pays a lower
proportion of legal fees than other large California districts.

For example, San Francisco Unified paid almost $3 million in legal fees in 2009-10 — 0.58 percent of
its $510 million budget. Sacramento City schools spent $1.8 million or 0.45 percent of its $397 million
budget that year and Sweetwater spent $1.25 million, or 0.38 percent of its $332 million budget in
2009-10, according to the analysis.

Brand said that analysis may have been skewed by the districts selected, and he has asked county
education officials to do an independent review.

“The answer may be that we are getting a great value for the amount of work being done, or that we
have the opportunity to improve not only the quality but the price,” Brand said. “We are going to let
the chips fall where they may.”

Garcia, a 1981 graduate of Harvard Law School, declined to be interviewed.

Yuri Calderon, managing partner of Garcia Calderon Ruiz, issued a statement saying, “Our attorneys
are from the top law schools in the country and provide the highest quality legal service to our public
clients, including the Sweetwater district. GCR, LLP and its attorneys maintain the highest ethical
standards in the legal representation of clients.”

Community pressure to terminate the contract with the Los Angeles-based law firm has surfaced
before. At his final meeting as a Sweetwater schools trustee, Greg Sandoval moved to terminate the

“I felt frustrated with their performance and with their fees, the amount they were charging and I no
longer had confidence in their ability to protect the district’s interests,” Sandoval said.

His motion in November got support from one other trustee, Bertha Lopez, who says her top priority at
the district is now removal of Garcia.

Alex Anguiano, high school science teacher and Sweetwater Education Association president, said, “It’
s time to look at our district, how we function with human resources and that includes our relationship
with our attorneys. Perhaps we need to do a little more house cleaning than just our superintendent.”

Amid community concern last week, trustees unanimously tabled an item which would have authorized
Garcia to obtain outside legal and investigative services for the coming school year.

Garcia’s firm also has worked for San Ysidro schools, Southwestern College, Otay Water District and
a number of agencies outside San Diego County. The firm dropped the Otay district this year in a
dispute over conflicting loyalties with Sweetwater.

“They did a great job in the one matter they handled for us,” said Tim Nader, the Southwestern
College board president. “The investigation they handled very competently, very thoroughly and it
was helpful to the district in guarding against future misuse of taxpayer funds.”

Manuel Paul, the San Ysidro superintendent, said GCR attorney Marie Mendoza has done a terrific
job and was a product of the schools he now runs.

“She is a very good attorney and we are very satisfied with her services,” he said.

At Sweetwater, GCR prevailed in a lawsuit filed by former district administrator Karen Janney over
vacation time after her demotion and resignation. The firm also helped the district win $13,913 in
attorney fees from Janney earlier this month.

Garcia has not always been on the side of open meetings and open records, a favorite cause of The

Gandara expanded a district contract for a company offering online courses in March, seeking board
approval by email rather than at a public meeting — an action Garcia signed off on.

Also, when The Watchdog sought records of the P.R. billings by former Councilman Scott Alevy, the
law firm declined, even though taxpayers were footing the bill.

Garcia’s contract “basically gives him carte blanche to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants and
there are no checks and balances,” said Kathleen Cheers, whose grandchildren are Sweetwater
students. “I don’t think anyone should have this kind of power. It’s wrong.”

Garcia’s firm has been the subject of billing questions by other public agencies.

In the city of Rosemead, GCR billed $276,000 in 2008 for nine months work. The City Council had
budgeted $162,000 for the year.

“It is just too high, and there is no excuse for it as far as I’m concerned,” then-Councilman Gary Taylor
told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

Garcia resigned as Rosemead city attorney in 2009.

In 2007, the grand jury in Kern County cited Garcia for billing the tiny city of Wasco about $83,000 for
four months of legal work. The jury recommended training for council members “as soon as possible”
on the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state open-meeting law, because officials under Garcia’s advice
limited public input and did business behind closed doors.

Garcia also is active politically. He helped organize the Citizens for Good Government in South Bay
political action committee that last year donated $5,000 to school board member Jim Cartmill.

Garcia’s wife, Laura Martinez, gave $5,000 to Cartmill and $5,000 to trustee Arlie Ricasa last year,
records show. She gave Lopez $1,000 in 2009 and $900 to board president John McCann this year.

In an interview last week, McCann said the district should give the acting superintendent time to
assess the situation.

“What we want to do is allow Dr. Brand to do his analysis and we want him to come in and give an
independent perspective on it,” McCann said. “I think we want to give the superintendent the
opportunity to look at this.”
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Labels: Attorney Bonifacio "Bonny" Garcia, education attorneys, Sweetwater Union High School
District (SUHSD)
Saturday, June 11, 2011
I'm shocked! Did attorney Mark Bresee give bad legal advice to the Rio School District board? The
District Attorney seems to suspect so
DA says Rio board may have broken open-meetings law
By Cheri Carlson
June 10, 2011

The Rio School District board appears to have broken state law that prohibits trustees from
discussing or taking action on issues outside of a meeting, the District Attorney's Office said this week.

Special Assistant District Attorney Michael Schwartz said his office received a complaint that the board
held a serial meeting to hire its legal counsel. Such an action would violate the state's open-meetings
law — called the Brown Act.

But in another letter this week, the DA's Office dismissed a list of other allegations against the Rio
board. The allegations, which included charges of bribery and conflict of interest, were brought by two
board members against the three-member board majority.

The violation appears to have taken place before the Rio board's Feb. 10 closed-session meeting,
according to a letter Schwartz sent to trustees this week.

Attorney Mark Bresee appeared to have acted as an intermediary by getting a consensus from three
trustees that he advise them about Superintendent Sherianne Cotterell's termination, the letter states.
Bresee has since been hired as the board's general counsel.

"The District Attorney has the authority to bring a civil lawsuit to stop or prevent threatened violations
of the Brown Act," Schwartz wrote. He asked the district to respond to the concerns, so the DA's
Office can determine if it needs to bring such an action.

Board President Eleanor Torres said Friday that Bresee is expected to provide additional information
to the DA's Office soon. She expects that information will clear up any concerns.

However, if it is determined that a violation occurred, the board will make sure the issue is properly
addressed and remedied, Torres said.

Bresee declined to comment while the matter is still under review.

Under the Brown Act, a majority of a board members cannot discuss or take action on board business
outside of a meeting. That's the case if trustees speak directly to each other or through an
intermediary, the DA's Office said.

In this case, Torres had contacted Bresee to discuss issues regarding Cotterell and asked him to
come to the Feb. 10 meeting, which he did. Bresee was not the board's attorney at the time, but
another lawyer at his firm worked for the district on other issues and referred Torres to him.

Bresee appears to have then confirmed with Trustees Henrietta Macias and Ramon Rodriguez that
they also wanted him at the Feb. 10 meeting to discuss the superintendent's contract, officials said.

The Rio board did not take action at a public meeting to hire Bresee as its general counsel until the
end of March.

At a March 2 special meeting, Macias, Torres and Rodriguez voted to terminate Cotterell's contract
without cause.

Trustee Tim Blaylock voted against the move. And Trustee Mike Barber, who also supported
Cotterell, was unable to attend the meeting because of a prior commitment.

Blaylock and Barber brought their concerns to the DA's Office.

In the separate letter to trustees this week, Schwartz addressed eight other allegations the two
trustees had brought forward, saying that "no violations have been established that would warrant
action by the District Attorney's Office."

On Friday, Torres said that none of the allegations were warranted. "They (Blaylock and Barber) are
wasting so much time and effort on a whole lot of different agencies' parts," she said.

Blaylock, who said he wants to make sure the board governs properly, said he appreciated that the
DA's Office looked into the concerns. "I think he (Schwartz) took his time. He investigated, and he did
a thorough job," Blaylock said.

Blaylock, however, said he continues to have concerns. Other cases could be reopened should more
information become available, he said.

Torres said she hopes the board will be able to move forward and work together. "It just comes to a
point when it has to stop," she said. "Let's go forward."

"It's quite clear that there are differing opinions of members of the board," Schwartz said Friday.

The DA's Office isn't taking any position on issues such as what trustees should vote for or vote
against, who they should hire or fire, he said. "Our concern is that the process be done correctly, and
the right for the public to participate be honored."

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Labels: . Bresee (Mark Bresee school attorney), Attorney Mark Bresee, Brown Act, education
Saturday, June 04, 2011
Tri-City Hospital and Bonnie Dumanis fail in felony attempt against Kathleen Sterling
This case is interesting because it involves several of the same lawyers and law firms that misuse the
courts for political or financial gain in San Diego County schools. Greg Moser is one such attorney.

See all posts on Tri-City Healthcare.
VISTA: Judge dismisses felony charge against Tri-City director Sterling
North County Times--Californian
June 1, 2011

After a two-day preliminary hearing, a Vista Superior Court judge on dismissed a felony vote-trading
charge against Tri-City Healthcare District Director Kathleen Sterling.

The ruling by Judge K. Michael Kirkman frees Sterling from the most serious charge she faced ---- a
felony count of bribe solicitation.

However, Kirkman let stand a misdemeanor count of wrongful influence against Sterling that is now
set to move forward. If Sterling is convicted on that charge, she would be bounced from Tri-City's
board under state elections law.

Standing in the hallway after the felony charge was dismissed, Sterling read from a prepared
statement. "I will continue to perform my duties in a quality manner," she said, listing those duties as
oversight of hospital management, ensuring fiscal solvency and assuring "optimum quality care for all
of the residents of Tri-City."

Assistant District Attorney Leon Schorr said outside the courtroom that he wasn't disappointed in
Kirkman's ruling.

"We respect his decision," Schorr said. "We had to put on the witnesses, have them testify, and let a
judge decide. That's part of the process."

The felony charge stemmed from a May 26, 2010, dinner meeting at a Carlsbad steakhouse attended
by hospital Directors Sterling, George Coulter, and RoseMarie Reno, as well as Tri-City Chief
Operating Officer Casey Fatch.

The meeting, which participants testified was an attempt to "mend fences and build bridges" among
board members who had not been getting along, resulted in Coulter and Reno accusing Sterling of
offering a bribe.

The two testified that, during the meeting, Sterling offered future votes on unspecified board business
if her fellow board members would make her vice chair of the hospital board, make her chair of a
hospital subcommittee and rescind two censures against her passed in 2000 and 2001.

Though she did not testify on her own behalf at the hearing, Sterling said during a previous hospital
board meeting that all of the accusations were fabricated.

During the hearing, Sterling's attorney, public defender Sherry Stone, successfully argued that
nothing of value ever changed hands. She noted that no additional money or benefits were attached
to leadership positions on the hospital board and also that no deal ever went beyond a few heated
words at a restaurant.

Schorr tried to convince the judge that a felony solicitation charge was warranted because the law
does not require that a bribe be consummated, or that it have a monetary value, in order for it to be
illegal. He said it was solicitation of a bribe "as long as she (Sterling) finds that there is value in the
things that she is asking for and as long as she has a belief that it has some value to her."

But Kirkman said that the value question was not his central concern. The judge noted that it was not
Sterling who set up the dinner meeting and said that he did not believe she offered the exchange with
any "corrupt intent" to exchange her votes for specific concessions.

"These were emotional comments made off the cuff in response to what was being said by others,"
Kirkman said.

He likened the dinner meeting comment to an exchange between Sterling and Reno at a April 28,
2010, hospital board meeting. At that meeting, Reno told Sterling: "It's unfortunate that you may have
paid Judge Mills off beforehand."

The comment referred to Judge Richard E. Mills' decision to deny six restraining orders that hospital
board members and Tri-City employees requested against Sterling.

"I don't believe that she (Sterling) had that intent (to trade votes) any more than I believe that Mrs.
Reno truly meant what she said about Judge Mills," Kirkman said...

Legal tab against Tri-City trustee tops $100,000
District’s effort against board member is many-pronged
By Aaron Burgin
June 3, 2011

Oceanside — The Tri-City Healthcare District since March has spent more than $105,000 and
employed nearly a dozen attorneys from three law firms in legal actions against one of its elected
board members.

A judge in April denied the district’s request for a restraining order against the board member,
Kathleen Sterling, who they say assaulted several hospital security guards at a Feb. 24 board
meeting. The district is appealing.

Officials are suing Sterling for $100,000, alleging that her disruptive behavior has damaged the
district’s reputation and embarrassed employees.

Sterling has filed counter actions, including a claim that the district is suing to silence her, and a suit
to recoup her legal fees.

Legal and political experts said that while numbers are not out of the ordinary for the number and
complexity of the litigation, the fact that a public district has taken these measures against an elected
board member is extremely rare.

“In my 40 years in observing government, I haven’t seen anything like this,” said Bob Stern, the
president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies and a longtime political
observer. “Then again, the behavior that is alleged is unprecedented for an elected official.”

Sterling, a three-term board member who was re-elected in 2008, has frequently clashed with fellow
board members, hospital administrators and staff. The district has censured her eight times for what
officials call a pattern of disruptive behavior, including calling fellow board members “Nazis” and
attempting to tape record closed-session meetings.

As part of her censures, Sterling has forfeited her $100 meeting stipend and must attend board
meetings from a separate conference room via teleconference.

By seeking a restraining order, the hospital hopes to make Sterling stay at least 100 yards away from
her colleagues and be banned from hospital property except in a medical emergency. She would
have to attend meetings from another building, not just another room.

District officials said they have had to hire outside legal firms because of the number of issues they
face with Sterling. They said they expect the tab to rise, but said it’s worth it to restore order to the
board and keep the public safe.

“You can’t put a price on the public’s safety,” said board member Charlene Anderson, who compared
Sterling to Jared Loughner, who seriously injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a Jan. 8 mass
shooting in Arizona. “Those people (in Arizona) would’ve gladly given $70,000 to stop him. I am that
afraid something like that could come up with Sterling.”

Sterling said such allegations are ridiculous, part of ongoing district efforts to ostracize her for not
being a rubber-stamp vote for CEO Larry Anderson.

“I feel I’ve been targeted because I ask questions and request supporting documents before I make
an informed voting decision,” Sterling said. “But they are taking the district’s limited resources and
shifting it into the lawyers to use the legal system as a bully pulpit and doing it taxpayers expense.”

Sterling’s attorney, Scott McMillan, called the district’s spending on the actions frivolous.

“What an abysmal use of taxpayer money,” McMillan said. “And for what? How much money are they
going to spend before someone says enough is enough?”

McMillan said the spending is questionable because district voters have a mechanism to oust Sterling
— a recall election — which no one has attempted. A recall election would cost the district $270,000
for a mail-in ballot or $860,000 for a precinct election. The district could not sponsor such an election,
but district voters could.

“If they have a problem with Kathleen Sterling, they need to bring it to voters, not bring it to a judge,”
McMillan said.

According to invoices provided from Procopio, the district’s contract legal firm, the firm billed the
district $68,445 between March 1 and April 30, including more than $54,000 in attorneys fees for 166
hours of work and $14,000 in legal-related expenses. This does not include costs incurred during
May, when the district filed its appeal. Five attorneys, who bill at $335 an hour, a clerk and a
paralegal have worked on the restraining order for the firm.

The district hired Michael Curran of Encinitas-based Curran & Curran for the lawsuit. Curran billed the
district $3,060 for work from Feb. 28 to March 3, but the district is expecting another bill in coming
days. Curran bills at $360 an hour.

Sterling has filed a countermotion against the district that claims that the district legal actions are a
“strategic lawsuit against public participation.”

Tri-City on April 21 hired a third firm to assist Curran on Sterling’s claim and other aspects of the
dispute. Encino-based Horvitz and Levy has billed the district $33,559 for work performed from April
21 to May 30, Tri-City legal counsel Allison Borkheim said. Four attorneys have worked on the
Sterling case, who bill the district from $290 to $460 an hour...
Posted by Maura Larkins at 2:28 PM No comments:
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Labels: . Dumanis (Bonnie Dumanis), . Moser (Greg Moser), . Sterling (Kathleen Sterling), Attorney
Greg Moser, education attorneys, Tri-City Healthcare
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Sweetwater UHSD has given almost $2 million to lawyers to fight athletic fields for girls
See more articles about this case and the lawyers involved.

No wonder teachers are getting pink slips. The tax dollars are going to lawyers instead of teachers.

Gender-equality lawsuit costly for Sweetwater
By Ashly McGlone
February 23, 2011

Sweetwater Union High School District has boosted its legal services budget by $800,000.

Superintendent Jesus Gandara asked trustees last week to approve an $800,000 increase to the
legal services budget from the district’s reserve as the South County school system is looking to close
a $24 million shortfall in next year’s budget.

The rationale for the increase was tied to gender-equality litigation the district is working to resolve.

The district’s insurance policy on the case covered up to $850,000 in attorneys fees, a limit which
already has been exceeded by $300,000. A measure asking for the increase stated the money would
have gone into the legal services fund to “replenish the legal services account and accommodate
future invoices.”

That wasn’t specific enough for trustees, who called for an amendment to the item specifying that the
money be expended solely on the Title IX case. No part of the money may be used toward other legal
fees or firms.
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Labels: . Shinoff (Daniel Shinoff), education attorneys, Role model lawyers and judges, Stutz Artiano
Shinoff Holtz, Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD)
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
Judge Judith Hayes gives a win to SDSU education attorneys in Lance Louis case
Former Aztecs reach settlement over attack
Lance Louis, now with the Chicago Bears, allegedly snuck up on teammate in '08
By Brent Schrotenboer
January 31, 2011

Chicago Bears offensive lineman Lance Louis has reached a settlement agreement to end the civil
suit filed against him by Nick Sandford, his former teammate at San Diego State.

Terms of the settlement were confidential. Louis’ attorney and Sanford’s father each declined

Sandford had filed suit in 2009 alleging that Louis “snuck up” and attacked him in a team meeting
room, causing a concussion, ruptured eardrum and facial injuries in early November 2008.

Sanford also sued former SDSU head coach Chuck Long, alleging that he covered up the incident.
While Sandford missed the final three games of the 2008 because of his injuries, Long allowed Louis
to play because it gave the team a better chance of success, according to the suit. The incident also
was not reported to police until 15 day after it happened, according to police records.

Sandford’s suit sought to recover unspecified damages from defendants Louis, Long and the
California State University, which oversees SDSU. But earlier this month, San Diego Superior Court
Judge Judith Hayes dropped Long from the case.

“Long cannot be vicariously liable for the alleged battery against plaintiff,” Hayes wrote in her decision
to drop Long from Sandford’s suit.

As a result of that ruling, the case ended for SDSU without any settlement cost to the university,
according to a school official. The CSU system also had been dropped from the case in a ruling by
Hayes last year.

Louis previously had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery stemming from the same incident and
was sentenced to three years of probation, 40 hours of community service and 12 hours in anger
management classes.

In 2009, SDSU reached an agreement with Long to pay for his legal representation in the event he
was sued by Sandford. Long was fired after the 2008 season and now is the offensive coordinator at
Posted by Maura Larkins at 1:15 PM No comments:
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Labels: . Hayes (Judge Judith Hayes), education attorneys, Lawsuit, school violence
Thursday, November 18, 2010
An email to the lawyers who are suing me for defamation
From Maura Larkins
to [WXYZ law firm]
date Thu, Nov 18, 2010 at 1:06 PM
subject Are the clever folks at [WXYZ] trying to get Google to censor my blog?

When I got your email [yesterday] asking for extra time to respond to my opening brief, I knew that
you wouldn't stop playing tricks just because I did you a favor. So I wasn't surprised to get some
information today leading me to believe that you're using the extra time I gave you to complain to
Google about my blog, rather than working on your opposition. You haven't got a leg to stand on
constitutionally, so you figure you'll have to resort to other methods of shutting me up.

Here's the thing...When an injunction is appealed, it's mandatory aspect is stayed. So I don't have to
go through my site erasing stuff. You might want to mention this to Google, unless your goal is to trick

Here's the hit from Google headquarters that made me suspect there was a complaint:

Domain Name ? (Commercial)
IP Address ? (Google)
ISP Google
State California
City Mountain View
Time of Visit Nov 18 2010 9:34:39 am
Visit Length 5 minutes 7 seconds
(1) 307

Here's the email I got yesterday from this law firm:

to Maura Larkins
from [WXYZ law firm]
date Wed, Nov 17, 2010 at 11:21 AM
subject Stipulation for extension of time

Good morning Ms. Larkins,
We have received your appellate opening brief and your appendix. However, due to the upcoming
holiday and because of other timing issues, we respectfully request that you stipulate to a 30 day
extension to file our responsive brief, pursuant to California Rules of Court Rule 8.212. Should you
agree to such a stipulation, we would stipulate to grant you additional time to file your reply brief, if
needed. Your cooperation is appreciated.
Thank you.
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Labels: censorship, Defamation, education attorneys, Frivolous lawsuits, Lawsuit
Monday, June 14, 2010
Why doesn't SDUSD want the public to see the legal advice it pays for?
"The school district has argued that its decision is legal because it is using stimulus money, not its
own ordinary funding, to pay for counselors and graduation coaches at other schools. They believe
that the stimulus money does not fall under the same rules that the critics have cited. But while the
school district has said the move is legal, it hasn't let us take a look at its legal advice. San Diego
Unified attorney Mark Bresee said under California public records law, the school district doesn't have
to disclose its attorneys' legal advice. That's true, but the school board could waive that privilege and
give it to us anyway. "

See all posts about school attorney Mark Bresee.

Wondering How San Diego Unified Justifies a Controversial Budget Fix?
Emily Alpert
Voice of San Diego
June 14, 2010

San Diego Unified says it has the legal backing to use federal money for disadvantaged students to
pay for counselors and graduation coaches at schools with poorer students. But so far, the school
district hasn't let the rest of us see the legal advice they're relying on.

The school district paid an outside law firm $5,000 to evaluate whether the controversial idea, which
we explored in a recent article, is legal.

Critics and a state official say it appears to be illegal because schools are supposed to provide equal
services to all schools with their basic funding. The special federal money is supposed to pay for the
extra needs of poor children, not pay for things the district would anyway.

The school district has argued that its decision is legal because it is using stimulus money, not its own
ordinary funding, to pay for counselors and graduation coaches at other schools. They believe that
the stimulus money does not fall under the same rules that the critics have cited...
Posted by Maura Larkins at 4:41 PM No comments:
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Labels: Attorney Mark Bresee, education attorneys, San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD)
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Are some angry parents-- and teachers--actually motivated by other problems?
What's up with the nasty anti-Obama emails I've been receiving? I think sometimes people are
actually angry about something different from what they're talking about, whether it's health care or
the local elementary school.


A lot of kids have been given less-than-stellar educations by our local school districts, and many of
their parents are angry. I agree entirely with these parents' demands for better treatment for students.
I also agree that many parents who complain have been bullied shamefully by school lawyers. Some
of these lawyers have violated professional codes of conduct and state law to the extent that they
deserve severe reprimands, even disbarment or jail time. Of course, these lawyers are unlikely to be
called to account for their unethical and illegal actions.

But some of these parents are too angry, in my opinion.

I suspect that some parents are angry about situations that have nothing to do with schools, but they
unleash this anger on a handy, accessible target: their kids' school. Sometimes it's really hard to keep
track of exactly what these people are furious about.

Recently one of these parents sent me, for no apparent reason, an email claiming that President
Obama was "first born"* in Kenya. Apparently the theory is that he was first born in Kenya, then born
for a second time in Honolulu. (Sometimes it's hard to figure out exactly what these "Birthers" are
trying to say.) The email I received included a photo of Obama's elementary school application to an
Indonesian Catholic school. Very clearly on the application, right after his name, Obama's place of
birth was listed as Honolulu. The person who filled out the form, Obama's Indonesian stepfather, was
in no way trying to make his stepson sound more American. Obama's birthplace was a matter of
record, and no one had yet cooked up a plan to pretend otherwise. Yet this email was sent to me, as
the sender indicated in the subject line, "to fuel the debate over Obama's qualifications." How does
the human brain malfunction so spectacularly?

If anything, this San Diego parent should be angry at her own teachers for not training her adequately
as a critical thinker.

But I must say that many teachers and administrators were not taught how to be critical thinkers,
either. During my years of teaching I saw plenty of teachers and adminstrators spewing anger (at
kids, parents and each other). Many of them made no more sense than the confused parent who
emailed me. To top it off, I heard teachers make disparaging remarks about high intelligence itself.
Smart people were not considered cool by the most popular and powerful teachers at my schools.

My suggestion? Critical thinking classes for school professionals.

Everyone involved would benefit from better decision-making by school personnel, and students
would benefit from the improved thinking skills of their teachers.

* Full quote from email:
"This document provides the smoking gun that many of Obama's detractors have been seeking - that
he is NOT a natural-born citizen of the United States - necessary to be President of these United
States . Along with the evidence that he was first born in Kenya , here we see that there is no record
of him ever applying for US citizenship...Gary Kreep of the United States Justice Foundation has
released the results of their investigation..."

It's disturbing that there are so many people who have so little respect for democracy that they
believe they have the right to use any means, including dishonesty or violence, to bring down the
elected leader of the United States, just because they're feeling angry. See Tea Party and Christian
Militia posts.

Next installment: Muslims versus Mormons: whom do Americans trust less?


Here's another story about a nasty email. The woman who first sent this racially offensive email was
angry that a recipient forwarded it to the NAACP, and caused that recipient to be fired. This is just the
sort of thing that happens in schools, in my experience. School officials want bad behavior covered
up, and they take action NOT against the bad actors, but against those they fear might reveal the
truth about the bad actions to the public. That's what Chula Vista Elementary School District and its
lawyers did to cover up the crimes of Robin Donlan and Linda Watson. In the end, the district
committed felonies like perjury and alteration of documents to cover misdemeanors. Things really get
out of control once the cover-up starts. What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to

The angriest administrator? The Jenny Mo case at WCCSD.

NAACP: SunTrust Mortgage worker fired over e-mail
March 18, 2010

The NAACP says a 14-year employee was fired from SunTrust Mortgage Inc. in Richmond after she
was accused of sending a chain e-mail she received at work that ultimately was forwarded to the

The fired African-American employee said she found the e-mail offensive.

The e-mail contains pictures of 40 bumper stickers such as, "Clinton ruined a dress, Obama ruined a
nation," "So I guess we're even on that slavery thing eh?" and, "Diversity -- It killed 13 at Fort Hood."...

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People released a copy of what it said was
the e-mail sent by a SunTrust official to 13 office employees and one outside recipient under the
subject line "FW: Bumper Stickers that Make Sense."...

Russ, an accountant, said SunTrust conducted an internal investigation and then brought her into a
meeting. There, she was told she was being terminated because her supervisor had "trust issues"
with her and because of the e-mail, she said in a telephone interview.

She said SunTrust accused her of trying to go public with the e-mail by forwarding it to someone who
would give it to the NAACP.

The official who sent the e-mail collected Russ' belongings and escorted Russ out of the building
immediately after the Feb. 18 meeting, Russ said. She said she was paid through March 4...
Posted by Maura Larkins at 4:39 PM No comments:
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Labels: Birthers, Coffee Party and Tea Party, Critical thinking, education attorneys, pathological
anger, People: Mo (Jenny Mo), Tea Party
Saturday, January 09, 2010
Bonnie Dumanis' strange relationship with school districts: Coach’s arraignment is canceled

Does Bonnie Dumanis jump the gun when one of her pals at local schools asks her to charge an
employee, parent, or student? This is reminiscent of many cases, particularly the Josh Stepner case. I
wondered about Dumanis and SDCOE lawyers in this post.

Coach’s arraignment is canceled
Sex-crime charges are under review
By Kristina Davis
Dana Littlefield
San Diego Union Tribune
January 9, 2010

SAN DIEGO COURTS — The arraignment of a 35-year-old soccer coach on sex-crime charges was
canceled yesterday while the District Attorney’s Office reviews the case further, authorities said.

Robin Michael Alarcon had been scheduled to appear in San Diego Superior Court after he was
accused of sending inappropriate text messages to a female student, but a spokesman with the
District Attorney’s Office said prosecutors had not made a final decision as to what charges, if any,
would be filed.

The spokesman, Steve Walker, said he expected Alarcon to be released from the County Jail

Alarcon, who coached the girls freshman soccer team at Del Norte High School in 4S Ranch, was
arrested Wednesday by San Diego police officers on suspicion of luring a minor for a sexual offense
and sending harmful material to a minor with intent to seduce.

San Diego sex-crimes unit Lt. Rick O’Hanlon said Alarcon was accused of sending “very
inappropriate” messages to the student Tuesday night. The coach was fired from his job after reports
of the alleged behavior came to light.

The girl’s mother said she was disappointed that the arraignment was called off and hopes the delay
will not affect her daughter’s credibility.

“To know he’s out with nothing holding him is kind of unsettling to her,” she said. “I’m certainly putting
my faith in (the district attorney’s) capabilities, and they seem to be on it and anxious to deal with it. It’
s a matter of making sure they do as thorough a job as they can, and I understand that.”

It is the policy of The San Diego Union-Tribune not to identify alleged victims of sexual abuse.
Posted by Maura Larkins at 3:11 PM No comments:
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Labels: . Dumanis (Bonnie Dumanis), arresting students/teachers/parents, education attorneys, sex
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Chino Valley Unified School District contracts for legal services
See John Pruitt on Chino Valley Unified problems.

Chino Valley Unified School District
Regular Meeting of the Board of Education
October 16, 2008
Approved payment for legal services to the law offices of Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost, LLP and a law
firm that prefers to be anonymous in these pages.
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Labels: Chino Valley Unified School District (CVUSD), education attorneys
Monday, November 30, 2009
Lemon Grove School District cross-examines teacher on her views of the Trinity for court case
It's ridiculous to complain about the word "Christ" in a song played at school unless the teacher is
actually focusing on one religion as a subject, which was not the situation in the case below.

Note to Lemon Grove School District: Although "Christ" was added to the name of Jesus by believers
after his death, and wasn't actually part of Jesus' name during his life, a lot of people have heard the
words "Jesus Christ" so often that they think Jesus had two names. They are not saying "Jesus is the
Messiah" when they say, or play a song tape that says, "Christ." Really, they aren't. You shouldn't
have made such a big deal out of this word. It was unfair.

It's good to teach about religion in the classroom as long as more than one religion is covered. The
California framework asks that teachers cover three or more faiths if they talk about religion.

Dance teacher fired for using religious music
Pacific Justice Institute
September 8, 2009

A dance teacher who was terminated from her job after a complaint was made that she used religious
music in her instruction, is in trial this week. The single complaint which cost the teacher her job came
from a school staff member rather than a parent or student. In addition to secular music on the day in
question, the instructor, Kathy Villalobos, used a rendition of Dona Nobis Pachem, Canon in D and O
Si Funi Mungu. Dona Nobis Pachem is a baroque piece by J.S. Bach and is sung in Latin. O Si Funi
Mungu, which is translated as “Praise God,” is sung in Swahili, though the song has some English
interspersed. Though the 15 stanza song is predominantly in Swahili, one stanza mentions Father,
Son and Holy Spirit.

An attorney for the Lemon Grove School District, Dan Shinoff, cross-examined the teacher on her
views of the Trinity. The jury sat attentive as the songs were played in court last week. Villalobos then
testified as to the educational purpose for the selections.

Despite emails and testimony to the contrary, the District is claiming that Villalobos was not fired
because of the religious music but for reasons such as pupil attendance class scheduling. Yet, the
school is inconsistently claiming that it was justified in firing Villalobos to prevent a violation of the
separation of church and state. “It is clearly constitutional and legal for a teacher to use both religious
and secular music as a part of instruction,” commented Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice

Villalobos’ lead attorney in the case is Karen Milam, PJI Senior Counsel who directs the southern
California office. Assisting her in the trial is PJI attorney Matthew McReynolds. The trial, now in its
second week, will likely go to the jury on Thursday. California law which allows instructors to use non-
proselytizing references to religion while teaching, specifically identifies dance instruction as an
acceptable subject for use of such references. (9/1/09, Pacific Justice Institute)

No God Music
San Diego Reader
By Jay Allen Sanford
Oct. 14, 2009

“I played a song in my after-school dance class, a job that I had for five years [and] this song
mentioned the name ‘Christ,’ ” says former Lemon Grove arts teacher Kathy Villalobos. “This
name…seemed to bother an administrator, a clerk, and an after-school coordinator; subsequently, I
lost my job a few days later.”

“Religious art and music should not be banished from our schools,” says attorney Karen Milam of the
Pacific Justice Institute, which is appealing a recent San Diego County Superior Court decision
dismissing Villalobos’s claim of wrongful discrimination because “[Villalobos] had not suffered as much
as the Jews in Nazi Germany.”

The song in contention, “O Sifuni Mungu,” is mostly sung in Swahili. Villalobos claims the song —
chosen for its danceable African rhythm — was the cause of her termination. The Lemon Grove
School District maintains she was fired mainly due to missing a number of classes and district

“They are also on record as saying this is about insubordination,” says Villalobos. “I have never, ever
in all the five years had one complaint or warning laid against me until someone heard the name of
Christ in one of my songs.… They have offered me a ‘settlement,’ what I call ‘hush money,’ and they
absolutely refuse to publicly admit what they did.”
Posted by Maura Larkins at 1:30 PM 1 comment:
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Labels: Christianity, education attorneys, Lemon Grove School District, religion
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Blog Archive

2014 (8)

2013 (246)

2012 (229)
    December (12)
    November (13)
        High-tech companies that find certain autistic emp...
        Huge amount of tax dollars spent unnecesarily for ...
        Solana Beach School District loses after using mor...
        Cheating scandal: Feds say teachers hired stand-in...
        Elementary teacher was abusive, parents say
        How Free Speech Died on Campus
        Family Claims Football Coach Injured Boy
        Was the first warning that something was wrong in ...
        In Poway, as in most school districts, the pendulu...
        Lise Meitner, physicist who worked on radioactivit...
        Feeding homeless teenagers in Vista Unified
        Secrecy about mailer from Del Mar Union School Dis...
        San Diego Taxpayers Association statement on Propo...
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    August (31)
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    March (20)
    February (16)
    January (5)

2011 (238)

2010 (514)

2009 (362)

2008 (286)

2007 (344)

2006 (44)

2005 (1)

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