There is a strong case to be made that I am guilty of aiding and abetting the school district in the tussle with ex-Human Resources guru John Caldecott.
In my blog post of February 20, I wrote that the district was making a big mistake in treating Caldecott as though he were a custodian who was caught drinking on the job or a bus driver who was texting behind the wheel. The difference with Caldecott, I wrote, is that he “knows where all the bodies are buried.” I also wrote that in cases such as this, it is good to understand the motivation of one’s opponent. The district, it seems to me, has clearly underestimated the perseverance of John Caldecott.
Caldecott’s case for disclosure of requested records is set to be heard on April 13.
In a filed court document dated Feb. 23 and titled “Newport-Mesa Unified School District’s Answer to Verified Petition of Write of Mandate and Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief,” the district’s legal counsel wrote that, “… Respondent further alleges that petitioner is already in possession of the records sought in this action…”
The “Respondent” is the school district and the “Petitioner” is John Caldecott. I’m not an attorney but if I’m reading this correctly, the district is claiming that the guy who wants certain records released already has them.
If I am indeed reading that correctly and if the claim is correct, it does not bode well for the district. But it is good news for those taxpayers who believe that governmental transparency and accountability trump everything.
Turns out, there is a precedent of sorts for Caldecott’s case right here in Newport-Mesa.
Steven Wagner was the district’s ex-CFO. He was convicted of embezzling more than $3 million from the district from 1986 to 1992. Tom Godley was the district’s Superintendent for Business Affairs and suspected that something was amiss. In a Daily Pilot article of Jan. 4, 2013 announcing Godley’s death, former N-MUSD Trustee Jim de Boom is quoted as writing in an e-mail response, “Tom Godley was a godsend when the district was going [through] the embezzlement. Before Steve Wagner’s embezzlement was discovered, Wagner was trying to get Godley fired. It turned out Godley was asking questions.”
John Caldecott was asking questions, too. He even tried to warn the school board about them what he believed was unethical behavior by out-of-town Supt. Fred Navarro – sort of like John Dean warning Richard Nixon about a “cancer on the presidency.” But instead of investigating Caldecott’s charges, they took Navarro’s recommendation and voted 7-0 to terminate him. The board allowed the accused to fire the accuser via e-mail.
So, why would the board listen to Godley, but not Navarro? Hard to know for certain, but it seems to me that they have failed to learn a valuable history lesson.
I tried to warn the district – that’s the aiding and abetting part. In the blog last month, I wrote that John Caldecott is not going to give up. And now it seems that he is not only holding all the cards, he’s pressing his bet, too. The best thing would have been for the school board to come clean, but that’s not standard operating procedure for controversy. As with the CdM High cheating scandal, or any of the other controversies that have plagued the district over the years, the M.O. is for everyone on Bear St. to shut up and ride out the storm. It’s “What, me worry?” leadership.
Next school board meeting: March 24, 6 p.m. 2985 Bear St., Costa Mesa.