The sworn statement filed with the Costa Mesa Police Dept. by John Caldecott is not a retaliatory measure; not a way to pay back Superintendent Frederick Navarro and the seven Trustees for not believing him when he said something was rotten in Denmark.

But that will be the district’s line. Oh, they won’t post it on their website, but privately, anyone who asks one of the Gang of Eight about the statement will dismiss it as an act of a bitter, terminated employee. That, readers, is the only argument they have left.

The reality, however, is that long before Caldecott was fired, he tried to tell the Trustees that something was amiss. From his sworn statement:

“Beginning in October [2014], after internal management options were thoroughly exhausted, Caldecott submitted reports of wrongdoing by Navarro to the Board of Education in a formal complaint (Exhibit C). Caldecott was simply fulfilling his responsibility as the Head of HR to assure compliance with laws, procedures and standard protocols.”

He filed the October complaint because he saw a wrong and tried to right it. Caldecott filed the sworn statement because although he has made tremendous progress, the case is not closed.

Reading the statement, it is clear to me that the case will not be closed for Caldecott until an independent body determines whether Superintendent Frederick Navarro of Long Beach:

  • “… influenced the Board to conclude Caldecott and other Cabinet members who complained were not Whistleblowers.”
  • “… blocked investigation and thwarted all avenues of redress.”
  • “… [used] his position as Caldecott’s supervisor and Superintendent on multiple occasions to intimidate, threaten, coerce Caldecott to retaliate against Caldecot for reports of improper governmental activity.”
  • “… tried to coerce and silence Caldecott by offering additional CalPERS retirement credit if Caldecott would 1) sign a mutual non-disparagement clause, 2) sign a mutual general release and waiver of all claims and 3) dismiss all pending litigation (refers to Writ of Mandate to compel release of Whistleblower reports) (Exhibit D, Document 11). Caldecott declined.”

This is serious stuff. And if you’re thinking that perhaps the Trustees have clean hands, think again. Again from the statement:

“On 1J20/15: Board President, Martha Fluor, declines Caldecott’s plea to have a Board member present during an Evaluation meeting with Navarro due to retaliation. No investigation. (Exhibit D, Document 6).”

The Trustees have their own shopping list of accusations in Caldecott’s sworn statement. In the statement, Caldecott claims that the Trustees:

  • “Authorized attorneys representing the District to spend District funds to attempt to conceal public access to records, the Appellate Court decision ordered the District to release records (Exhibit B and C) and pay Caldecott’s attorney’s fees and court costs.”
  • ” Failed to investigate Whistleblower reports provided directly through the Board’s complaint policies…the Board never provided Caldecott the opportunity to address the Board as provided in policy.”
  • “Denied that Caldecott was a Whistleblower in their December 10, 2014 report (Exhibit C).”
  • “Failed to investigate repeated complaints of retaliation by the Superintendent and in fact directly turned over the complaints for him to respond. Allowing the perpetrator, Navarro, to be intimately involved in every aspect of the complaints of retaliation. This detached approach by the Board creates fear among the employees who might seek to question the District’s actions.”
  • “Accepted the Superintendent’s recommendation for termination and payout of Caldecott’s contract (18 months) without an investigation into repeated reports of retaliation brought by Caldecott specifically under EC 44110-44114.”
  • “Gave the Superintendent an “Excellent’ rating on his evaluation for 2014-15 and awarded a first-ever $20,000 bonus to Navarro for performance.”

This section of the statement concludes with a clear position: “It is clear the Board of Education refused to properly supervise the Superintendent and hold him accountable for his retaliation against Whistleblowers in violation of EC 44113 and 44114. Criminal charges are needed to end intentional acts of retaliation against Whistleblower employees because of the Board’s negligent supervision.”

My first real job after college was in a wholesale hardware company. The owner took me under his wing and mentored me for the next five years. I learned more about business, operations, management, and people than I have in all the years since. One day, he said, “Each side has their story and somewhere in the middle is the truth.”

I don’t think my boss made up that statement but it was the first time I’d heard it and it has made a huge impact in my management style. I have learned that when  I am confronted with a claim, no decision is made until the other side has spoken. That’s not unique to me, that’s management 101. It’s also the right thing to do.

But doing the right thing has escaped this board for many years. There are too many Trustees who have been on the board for too long and can’t do anything except the way that they’ve always done it.

We need new people on the school board. We need to restore the integrity of the position and we need to restore trust in the district. We need to end the fearful atmosphere that has created low morale and influenced other Caldecotts to remain silent when they see something wrong.

I’ll leave you with this… It’s the exclamation point on the whole thing, the proof that John Caldecott means what he says. From Caldecott’s statement:

I swear, under penalty of perjury, that all of the foregoing information in this report of criminal conduct by Navarro in violation of 44114 (b) is true and correct to the best of my knowledge. I request an investigation and criminal prosecution under the law. A criminal investigation and prosecution are the only way to hold Navarro accountable for retaliation against employees who speak out against improper governmental acts at Newport Mesa Unified School District.” – John Caldecott.

More to come.

Steve Smith