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Capistrano Unified accused of violating open-meeting law -- again

May 6, 2011 |  7:41 pm




An Orange County school district that for years has been embroiled in scandal and controversy is under scrutiny again, this time by county prosecutors who contend school board members illegally discussed raising teacher salaries and restoring furlough days in a closed-door meeting.

Board members in the Capistrano Unified School District also violated California’s open-meeting laws by discussing school business during a break in a public meeting, according to a notice of violation from the Orange County district attorney’s office.

The state’s open-meeting law, known as the Ralph M. Brown Act, requires public agencies to act and deliberate openly and to give the public proper notice of their meetings.

The school district, which serves 51,000 students from some of south Orange County’s wealthiest communities, has had its share of turmoil in recent years – recall elections, a superintendent accused of Nixonian behavior by keeping “an enemies list,” and board members scolded for having trouble following the Brown Act.

Former Supt. James Fleming on Friday was cleared of the last charge from his arrest for conspiracy, allegedly misappropriating public funds and using money to influence an election -- a court decision that came just as the latest controversy was unfolding. 

Prosecutors said the school district now has the choice of either accepting the open-meeting violations and agreeing to correct the issues or face legal action, said Bill Feccia, the senior assistant district attorney.

The district attorney's office said the alleged violations are troubled and cited the pattern of violations as emulating “the unlawful practices of a past Board.”

Marcus E. Walton, the district spokesman, said he could not comment on what action the district would take.

“Our attorneys have not had an opportunity to review the letter, but under the new district leadership it’s been our practice to cure and correct any alleged violations,” Walton said.


DOCUMENTS: Read the District Attorney's letter.

2007: Report says board broke meetings law

---Nicole Santa Cruz