Capistrano Unified School District's superintendent is asking for time to present "background explanations" to prosecutors, who have accused the school board of violating California's open-meeting laws when it restored and .
Superintendent Joseph Farley met Tuesday with Deputy District Attorney Ray Armstrong to discuss the alleged violations and, according to those familiar with the case, sent a "notebook" of documents as evidence that the school board conducted its meetings in accordance with the Ralph M. Brown Act.
Earlier this month, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas threatened the district with criminal charges if it did not take corrective action.
“Some or all of the information referenced [in the notebook] require background explanations to fully appreciate their impact on the investigative findings,” Farley wrote in the notebook's cover letter, which was addressed to Rackauckas.
The D.A.'s office has detailed three meetings in which the Board of Trustees the Brown Act. The act requires most of the business of public agencies' to be conducted before the public.
Farley's letter to Rackauckas notes that Armstrong is scheduled to return to the school district May 30 and June 2 to “do additional interviews and to review data … including interviews with staff and trustees."
School district spokesman Marcus Walton did not reply to a reporter's questions in time for this report.
District Attorney spokeswoman Farrah Emami declined to comment. “As this matter is pending, we are unable to discuss it,” she said.
But Wayne Tate, a Laguna Hills attorney who he filed on behalf of San Juan Capistrano resident Jim Reardon, said, “Why didn’t they give this information to Ray Armstrong while he was conducting the investigation?”
In a May 6 letter to the school district, Armstrong and Senior Assistant District Attorney William Feccia said that although the recent allegations do not rise to the level of criminal activity, similar problems in the past “constitute a pattern of conduct” that could be established in a criminal trial. In 2007, the district attorney’s office wrote a 60-page report about the then-school board, alleging similar violations.
The most recent allegations involve:
- The Dec. 13, 2010 closed session, during which board members discussed ; a performance evaluation of the superintendent was the only item scheduled for that meeting
- The Jan. 26 closed session, during which board members discussed and may have voted to ; neither the agenda, the minutes nor the public reporting of action taken in closed session references the discussion
- The March 16 special meeting held in response to Reardon’s allegations that was supposed to cure and correct any Brown Act violations. During the meeting, Trustee John Alpay made a less-than-serious motion to breach the contract with the teachers union. When President Jack Brick seconded the motion, the board members recessed without a vote, then conferred with each other at the dais. Brick withdrew his second after the break.
Armstrong and Feccia urged the district to accept the D.A.’s findings and take corrective action.
Alleging similar violations, Tate filed a lawsuit in March. . A hearing was scheduled June 6, but Tate said it has been pushed to July because he offered a settlement proposal last week. So far, the district has not responded, he added.
He declined to say what the settlement offer entails.