Saturday, August 05, 2006

More Problems at Orange Co.'s Capistrano School District

Over the last few days multiple ethical violations have been revealed to exist at the San Juan Capistrano School District here in Orange County. These revelations follow the resignation of the district superindentendent after the disclosure of a district "enemies list" containing the names of parents and teachers who signed a petition for the school board's recall.

Several relatives of school board members have been revealed to work at construction and plumbing companies which do significant business with the board. A plumbing contractor employed the son of the superintendent and the wife of the district construction manager. (The superintendent's son earned $74,000 for what was described as a "summer job.") The daughter of the school board president works at an environmental planning firm which does business with the district. None of these relationships had been publicly disclosed, and while some may not have conflicted with the letter of the law, they raise ethical questions, particularly given the district's other problems. The school board president never recused herself from voting on contracts with her daughter's firm. The construction manager never disclosed his wife's job, which may have been a violation of the law.

Additionally, the outgoing superintendent, who makes more than any other district superintendent or city manager in Orange County, is alleged to have understated his income to the media. As the Orange County Register points out, this "marks the first evidence that he may have sanctioned the release of false information."

Meanwhile the Orange County Registrar, Neil Kelley, will undergo an independent investigation over allegations that he disclosed names on recall petitions to district employees and questionably assisted the district in other ways. The registrar told the district the recall election would cost $600,000, which the district used to campaign against the recall, but when the recall effort ended, the registrar reversed course and announced the county would pay the bill.

The unsavory activities at both the district and registrar's office serve as a cautionary example for all regarding what can happen when those who supposedly serve taxpayers are more interested in looking out for themselves.


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