Judge finds Capistrano Board of Education
Violated “Brown Act” Open Meeting Law
Ruling confirms CUSD Board solicited assistance from attorney with known history of open-meeting violations
CUEA News Release
ALISO VIEJO – ‘This entire school board ran on a campaign dedicated to restoring ‘honesty, integrity, and accountability’ to public education,” said Capistrano Unified Education Association President Vicki Soderberg, “but if their action in this case is their definition of these qualities, I want no part of it, and thankfully, neither do the courts.”
In a writ of mandate issued March 16, 2010 stemming from a lawsuit initiated by CUEA against the Capistrano Unified Board of Education on November 3, 2008, Orange County Superior Court Judge David T. McEachen found that the CUSD board did violate California’s Brown Act open meeting law when it met in an illegal closed session meeting on August 11, 2008. The ruling specifically states that the school board ". . . did not adequately set forth closed session topics and is in violation of the Brown Act as to the unnoticed attendance of Spencer Covert and the proposed disciplinary action against Superintendent Carter."
The ruling confirms CUEA’s suspicion that when CUSD Board President Ellen Addonizio invited school-law attorney Spencer Covert – not under contract with CUSD at the time – to advise the board as it engaged in a sensitive evaluation of then-CUSD Superintendent A. Woodrow Carter, the board violated
CUEA made three Public Meeting Requests – August 27, 2008, September 22, 2008, and October 6, 2008 – to obtain details about the illegal closed session. When the CUSD board stonewalled each time, CUEA filed suit. “If we had not taken this to a lawsuit, the board would have just brushed it under the rug,” said Soderberg, “exactly the kind of behavior for which these members had attacked the previous school board.”
Soderberg cited two more recent closed-session CUSD board meetings, hastily called and without public notice, that while technically not illegal, still stand in stark contrast to the board’s espoused climate of openness and inclusion. The first was a February 21, 2010 meeting that Terry Francke, one of the state’s top public-meeting law experts, described as unusual and almost without precedent. The second such meeting was held March 15, 2010.
“The court ruling proves that the Capistrano School Board has not kept its promise of openness and transparency when conducting business,” said Soderberg.