On Monday, the Superior Court of Orange County granted a petition by ex-N-MUSD HR guru John Caldecott to grant publishing status to the recent opinion that forced the N-MUSD to release documents under Caldecott’s request through the California Public Rights Act.

In recent history, only about 9 percent of opinions are published.

This is an important distinction for the case, with the court stating that, “It appears that our opinion meets the standards set forth in California Rules of Court, rule 8.1105(c).”

When a case is published, it becomes citable as case law in similar cases, which affords more protection and support for future whistleblowers in similar circumstances. Without this distinction, according to a document from the San Diego Law Library, “…’an opinion of a California Court of Appeal or superior court appellate division that is not certified for publication or ordered published must not be cited or relied on by a court or a party in any other action,’ with certain limited exceptions…”

If you favor transparency in government operations, this is very good news. For the N-MUSD, it is another crushing blow in the mismanagement style of Superintendent Frederick Navarro.

Had Superintendent Frederick Navarro and the trustees handled this case properly from the outset, the district would have been spared the embarrassment of losing what is now a milestone case, and taxpayers would have been spared hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses – money that may have been used to help improve academic performance in Costa Mesa’s schools.

But Superintendent Frederick Navarro chose to recommend Caldecott’s termination, which was finalized via an e-mail to Caldecott, and the school board unanimously agreed, going so far as to declining to hear his side of the story.

The bright side is that even though the district bungled this case from day one, the enormous tax dollars spent circling their wagons have now been used for a worthy cause as the Caldecott case has become an historical legal precedent.

Switching gears a bit, something has been nagging me… Soon, Caldecott’s requested documents will be released and we’ll finally get to read the details of his accusations of financial shenanigans by Superintendent Frederick Navarro. What I want to know is this: Who else knew of Caldecott’s accusations? And if anyone else did know, why did this person or these people not speak up? In other words, to cite questions from the  Watergate hearings, “What did they know and when did they know it?”

I’m having difficulty believing that if Superintendent Frederick Navarro did anything wrong that he acted entirely on his own, but then, I am not entirely familiar with how these things work. Let’s hope he acted on his own and that none of his subordinates were involved.

And when Superintendent Frederick Navarro’s actions are revealed, are there potential criminal charges that should be investigated by the district attorney? I guess we’ll find out.

Either way, this does not bode well for the trustees. Either they knew the details of Caldecott’s charges and failed to act, or they failed to ask Superintendent Frederick Navarro about the particulars of the charges when  Superintendent Frederick Navarro recommended Caldecott’s termination.

But, we have a lightweight school board and that is the type of rubber stamping, head-in-the-sand behavior that taxpayers have come to expect.

Except that this time, their mismanagement has led to a legal precedent for which we all will benefit.

Steve Smith