The dog days of summer can be a time when the district administration proposes sensitive matters in the hope that you are paying less attention. There is some science behind this strategy because school is not in session and even the parents who care about school issues are busy managing kids or going on vacation.

We saw the administration and the board take advantage of the lull at the last board meeting with the money grab for some of the highest-paid district employees.

And it’s a hoot to see the men in the administration attending summer meetings without the business attire they usually wear when the spotlight is shining.

Contrary to popular belief, there is news – important news, in fact. Before I disclose this, it is important to note that what you are about to read has not been reported in the Daily Pilot or the OC Register, nor are you likely to read it there. The downturn in the newspaper business has created a tremendous shortage of reporting manpower, which has increased reliance on news services and forced papers to report only what they believe are the hottest stories.

The sad end result is an increasing dependence on school district press releases to act as news. In almost every case, district press releases report only good news – puff stuff that makes readers think all is well. But as you will read, all is not well.

John Caldecott, the district’s ex-Human Resources head, is pressing his case for the release of documents he claims will support financial improprieties. The latest development is a reply by Caldecott’s attorney to the district’s reponse to the demand to show cause, that is, to show why the documents should not be released.

Here are the most recent exchanges:

7-21-15 caldecott reply to return G051917-REP-Caldecott

Dist return 7-1-15 CCF07022015_0001 (1)7-21-15 caldecott reply to return G051917-REP-Caldecott

It’s a lot of legal saber rattling so if you’re not inclined to read it, here are two salient points I extracted this morning.

On page 13 of Caldecott’s statement, it reads, “Petitioner [Caldecott] is entitled to what is in effect a declaration by the court that these are public records, regardless of whether they are in his possession or not, so that appropriate public scrutiny can be shed on good faith reports of alleged malfeasance and corrupt practices by both elected and non-elected public officials.”

OK, hold that thought for a moment while you read this from page 7 of the district’s response: “An order granting the Petitioner’s request under the CPRA would be meaningless, abstract and hypothetical since Petitioner and his attorney admitted Petitioner already has all the records, some of which the Petitioner himself authored while employed as the Executive Director of Human Resources. Thus, the action is moot.”

These excerpts highlight the biggest difference in this tussle. Caldecott wants you, and law enforcement authorities, to be able to determine whether any crimes were committed. The district says they won’t release the documents because it’s a moot point.

No, it’s not a moot point. Caldecott is pushing for public disclosure of the documents by the district, not private revelations from what would be perceived as a disgruntled ex-employee. Big difference.

Besides, if the point is moot, why doesn’t the district go ahead and release the documents and save us all a lot of money? Why? Because they’re not concerned about saving your hard-earned tax dollars, that’s why. They are only concerned in this case with protection from what could be damning evidence of wrongdoing.

So, the district throws your cash at attorneys hoping to make this go away, and the legal bills mount. Think about that later this year when you pay the property taxes that go to support this nonsense.

Oh, and I know what you’re thinking because I’m thinking it, too: If the district has nothing to hide, why don’t they show us the documents? (Please don’t give me that “confidential employee” nonsense. This long ago stopped being about people.)

This is your money they’re wasting, folks. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t work hard and pay my property taxes so that someone else could spend the money defending a moot point.
Next step will likely be a date for parties to present oral argument to the three member appellate court panel. I’ll be reporting it because the newspapers can’t.
Steve Smith
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