Brown Act Suit Against Capo Expands to Include New Allegations

Brought by San Juan Capistrano resident Jim Reardon, the lawsuit picks up a few accusations included in a recent report by the district attorney's office to the Capistrano Unified School District.

A civil suit brought against the  board of trustees over alleged backroom deals was expanded Tuesday, picking up a few accusations included in a recent report by the district attorney's office.

The lawsuit says violations of the state's open meeting laws occurred at board meetings Dec. 7, 2010; Dec. 13, 2010; and Jan. 11. To those, San Juan Capistrano resident Jim Reardon has added the Jan. 26 and March 16 meetings.

The move follows a  sent to the district making similar allegations.

"Our attorneys will review Mr. Reardon's latest allegations and respond at the appropriate time," Capistrano Unified spokesman Marcus Walton said in an e-mail. "The Trustees will review the settlement offer at the appropriate time."

Tate filed the  March 28. It alleges that the board continually violated the state’s Ralph M. Brown Act—which requires most board business to be conducted in the public eye—when it reinstated two school days to the instructional calendar and partially restored teacher salaries earlier this school year.

The two new dates added to the suit Tuesday are included in a letter from the D.A.’s office, enumerating various alleged Brown Act violations:

  • On Jan. 26 at a special meeting in closed session, the board voted to partially restore teacher salaries; no action was announced when the board re-entered open session, and the minutes made no mention of the vote.
  • At the March 16 special meeting purportedly , the board took an impromptu break, then huddled together to talk after Trustee John Alpay made what many in the audience took as a sarcastic motion to breach the teachers’ contract.

The Jan. 26 closed-session agenda “provided no clue that the topic of the restoration of teacher’s [sic] salaries was to be discussed at the meeting,” the amended lawsuit states. Meanwhile, the March 16 powwow behind the dais was “an open and obvious Brown Act violation.”

Besides incorporating those two instances included in the D.A.’s letter, Reardon alleges that the very item designed to set the record straight March 16 was itself a violation of the Brown Act. The board passed a motion reaffirming earlier votes, but the only votes discussed that evening were the original contracts with the various employee groups and the Jan. 11 adjustment to the academic calendar, which at the time, Superintendent Joseph Farley presented as a housekeeping task that followed a closed-session vote.

The wording of the motion, as recommended by the staff and moved by Trustee Anna Bryson, made it clear that the board “was trying to mislead and confuse the public and obfuscate its real plan of action,” the amended lawsuit states.

The amended lawsuit also comes after Reardon sent an offer to settle the case.

At last week’s board meeting, Trustee Ellen Addonizio said she was surprised to learn from her attorney that a settlement offer was on the table, because school officials did not notify the board about it.

“I’m almost speechless. Almost,” said Laguna Hills-based attorney Wayne Tate, who is representing Reardon in the civil suit. “It doesn’t appear that the settlement offer has been conveyed to the board.”

Addonizio said the board has yet to even consider a legal strategy to Reardon’s lawsuit or the D.A.’s letter, despite a  and .

Capo mom June 02, 2011 at 05:22 PM
There goes the union trustees' hope for the case to be dismissed.
CE June 03, 2011 at 12:20 AM
Distort, attack, repeat. That's what this "union trustees" mantra is. The FACT is that Ellen Addonizio, Larry Christiansen, and Ken Maddox were union-supported trustees long before the new members were elected, but that fact is rarely mentioned. Why? Distort, attack, repeat.
shelly June 03, 2011 at 02:11 PM
Capo Mom, Trustees Addonizio and Bryson ran together twice and were supported by the "reform" committee. Saam Alikhani who ran against Trustee Bryson in the last election did accept campaign donations from the union but Trustee Bryson won the election. Trustees Palazzo and Brick were both supported by the "reform" committee. All of these Trustees have been on the board for awhile and no one said they were union trustees before. Trustees Hatton and Pritchard did accept union campaign donations but Trustee Alpay did not. So who are the union Trustees?


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