Thursday, January 31, 2008

CTA, Spanish driver: guilty parties who see themselves as victims

After Robin Donlan and other teachers committed crimes against me, and California Teachers Association got my case thrown out of court, it came as a shock to me that CTA's head counsel Beverly Tucker would have the nerve to demand $6,000 in court costs from me. I couldn't understand the complete absence of remorse by Beverly Tucker and Carolyn Doggett (executive director of CTA) for having committed crimes against a teacher whom they had been paid to defend. (I'd been a dues-paying member for over 20 years.)

This story of a guilty driver suing the family of a boy he killed helped me understand that some people just don't suffer from guilt.

Spanish driver sues dead crash cyclist for damage
Fri Jan 25, 2008
Click HERE for original article.

MADRID (Reuters) - A Spanish driver who collided with a cyclist is suing the dead youth's family $29,300 for the damage the impact of his body did to his luxury car, a Spanish newspaper reported on Friday.

Businessman Tomas Delgado says 17-year-old Enaitz Iriondo caused $20,500 of damage to his Audi A8 in the fatal 2004 crash in La Rioja region, the El Pais newspaper reported...

The youth had been cycling alone at night without reflective clothing or a helmet, according to a police report cited by El Pais.

His family won 33,000 euros compensation from Delgado's insurance company after the firm acknowledged he had been driving at excessive speed and this could have contributed to the incident, El Pais reported.

"I'm also a victim in all of this, you can't fix the lad's problems, but you can fix mine," Delgado told the newspaper...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Patrick Judd of Mountain Empire (and Chula Vista) school districts retires while on mysterious leave

See all Patrick Judd posts.


March 6, 2008

Superintendent Pat Judd of Mountain Empire School District announced his retirement less than four months before the board's decision about whether or not to rehire him would go into effect.

Since Judd, the defendant in an employee's lawsuit, recently fired his lawyer and hired a new one, and at about the same time suddenly decided to go on an unexplained leave, I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the board wasn't too happy with him.

I'm guessing that the board might want to settle the lawsuit. I know for a fact that Patrick Judd believes in harrassing witnesses; Richard Werlin did it on his behalf in my case. Perhaps Judd was putting pressure on Mountain Empire employees regarding the Sherbondy case, which was ready to go to trial when Judd apparently demanded a new lawyer. Judd says that he isn't sick, so I'm wondering if he's been off work because of administrative leave.


Board members at Mountain Empire School District say that they did not discuss litigation involving Patrick Judd at their last board meeting.

Here is what today's San Diego Union Tribune says about Judd's leave:

Mountain Empire's superintendent on leave

PINE VALLEY: Patrick Judd, superintendent of the Mountain Empire Unified School District, has taken medical leave for an undisclosed condition.

Judd, reached by phone yesterday, declined to comment on his condition or his status with the rural East County district, which he has led since 2003.

The board voted Wednesday to hire Donald Haught as a consultant to fill in for Judd while he's gone. Haught's contract runs through February. Haught last year served as interim superintendent of the Grossmont Union High School District.

Judd's contract is to expire July 31. The board has not decided whether to extend it, said Ken Northcote, president of Mountain Empire's district board.

Northcote said he knew little about Judd's condition. “He asked for a leave for medical reasons. I didn't get into it with him,” he said.

The board met in closed session at the Wednesday meeting to discuss potential litigation, which Northcote said did not involve Judd.

Judd is also a longtime member of the Chula Vista Elementary School District's board of trustees.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

If you want to make enemies, try to change something. -- Woodrow Wilson

Do school boards have to allow free speech?

Posted November 20, 2006

Click HERE for original post.

Schools may boot critical speakers
By RENA HAVNER / Mobile (AL) Register Staff Reporter
November 19, 2006

The Mobile County school board is considering a new meetings policy that would expel a speaker who attacks "any citizen's good name," and possibly bar that person from addressing the board again for a year.

That would include anyone who criticized a school board member, said the policy's sponsor, Hazel Fournier.

Elected government officials who want to enact policies that prohibit criticism against them. In America. What good did it do for Gorbachev to tear down the wall? The communists are here. These board members deserve high criticism since they can't possibly have "good names."

"When we have a public meeting, why should I allow (someone) to come up and say how worthless Hazel Fournier is?" she said last week.

This comes just weeks after a representative of the local teachers union criticized Fournier and fellow board member Judy Stout in an open meeting, prompting Fournier to walk out of the room.

School board attorney Jim Atchison said that at first glance, Fournier's proposal seems legitimate and that the new provisions would help the board maintain control at meetings.

But some others question whether the changes would stifle free speech.

"These rules, frankly, go beyond anything I have seen in my years of handling media questions," said Dennis Bailey, a Montgomery-based attorney for the Alabama Press Association.

"You can't say something critical about somebody who works for the school board? That goes against the First Amendment."

Fournier said she doesn't mind if people criticize actions of the elected board. She just doesn't want any of the five board members called out by name.

The board for decades has had a policy that prohibits anyone from discussing the "character, reputation or good name of an individual." In the past, if someone mentioned a name, sometimes even in a positive light, that person would be asked to refrain from doing so.

Adding penalties

What's new about Fournier's proposal are the possible penalties.

Fournier presented the changes at a board meeting Tuesday. The board voted to send the revised policy out for public review and will decide whether to adopt the changes at a future meeting.

"I think it's necessary to protect the board, so that we don't provide a public forum for people to attack citizens," Fournier said.

In general, public officials are less protected by law than private citizens from critical or even defamatory speech.

Fournier said she's a citizen as much as she is a public official. She said that if someone wants to criticize her or another board member, they should do it privately.

Who made that rule? People who make decisions that affect the public should be criticized in public when they err.

"I am a citizen first," Fournier said. "I was voted into this position as a citizen of a community. When I leave the board, I will be a citizen."

That's not a rationale.

At an Oct. 28 meeting, Wade Perry, a director of the Mobile County Education Association, questioned why Stout, who was running for re-election at that time, would not say how she planned to vote on Superintendent Harold Dodge's contract.

Perry then accused Fournier of trying to oust the superintendent to get back at him for the impeachment of former board member David Thomas Jr., an ally of Fournier.

Perry recently said he opposes the proposed revisions to the public participation policy and that he doubts the new penalties would hold up in court.

"If they want to be criticized less, they should make better decisions," Perry said. "As long as they're making bad decisions, people should be able to stand up and criticize them for making bad decisions."

The Mobile County Education Association sued the school board in 2004 for shutting down a meeting when a teacher stood up and criticized the board for the amount of paperwork that teachers must complete.

Felt threatened

Board members testified in court that they felt threatened when members of the audience, mostly female teachers, applauded and cheered the speaker, then-Dixon Elementary School teacher Cindy Naylor.

The board stopped the meeting and scheduled it to reconvene the next morning, when the teachers would be in class.

Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Joseph "Rusty" Johnston ruled in favor of Naylor and the association, saying that the board had no right to stop her from speaking.

In his opinion, Johnston stated that the Constitution does not require public bodies to open the floor for public comment at meetings. But once the floor is open, "then those members of the public are exercising constitutionally protected rights."

By opening the floor to discussion, a government entity has created "limited public forum," Johnston wrote, and "its ability to regulate speech within that forum is therefore circumscribed."

That's the law.

The board's current public participation policy allows people to speak to the board on a topic for up to five minutes. Speakers must sign in prior to the meeting, and they are also asked to list the topic of their discussion.

At a meeting in March, the public participation policy was used to prevent a local business owner from voicing support for Dodge.

Tony Moore, owner of the Spot of Tea restaurant, approached a podium to speak about the superintendent. Then-board President Lonnie Parsons told Moore that he was not allowed to talk about an individual.

That's a violation of constitutional rights.

Later in the same meeting, the board voted to begin searching for a new superintendent who would replace Dodge. The board rescinded that vote a few weeks later, following a public outcry.

The Dodge issue came up before the board again this past Tuesday, with the board voting again to search for a new superintendent. The board's choice would replace Dodge on Jan. 1, 2008.

On Tuesday, local activist Robert Battles addressed the board about Dodge, being careful not to mention the superintendent by name.

Battles mentioned the name of President Bush, but then came back and apologized for accidentally saying a name.

Baldwin policy

The Baldwin County school board's public participation policy allows members of the audience who sign up to speak for up to three minutes.

"Historically, the board has always asked for common courtesy regarding remarks, but there's no policy mandating how those comments be made," said Terry Wilhite, spokesman for Baldwin schools.

The Mobile City Council's public comment policy requires people to sign up prior to speaking and allows them to speak for up to five minutes. The only written stipulation is that the person must speak on something involving city government.

Atchison, who had been an attorney for the city of Mobile, said last week that he hadn't fully read Fournier's changes to the policy. He said that the purpose seemed to be to make sure that speakers do not act recklessly.

"I'd think you can be able to control the meeting and that someone would be able to give up the right to come if they break the rules," he said. "There's got to be certain control."

Atchison said that the right to speak is "not unlimited."

"If you get into individuals and start pointing and attacking how an individual handles things, I think it's out of order and not conducive to an orderly meeting," Atchison said, adding that it's the board's meeting, not the public's meeting.

It's the public's board. It's not out of order to criticize public officials. In fact, it's very much in order. The First Amendment was added to the constitution knowing that government officials would soon outlaw criticism if they got the chance.

"The public has a right to be present, and the right to address issues is provided to them. You do so within the rules of that body," Atchison said.

You do so within the constitutional rules of the body.

Bailey said a public body can set reasonable restrictions on public comments made at meetings. But, he said, "You can't open the forum up for public comment only that it's favorable to members of the body," Bailey said. "Certainly people have been asked to leave for speaking out of turn or for shouting or being violent. That's certainly happened before.

"But to tell somebody to leave because they say something critical of a government official or mention a name -- I've just never heard of that."

If the proposed policy is adopted, the school district should be immediately sued.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It's hard being a persona non grata

Alex Smith doesn't like it when someone turns his colleagues against him by spreading false stories.

Well, Alex, your mom, Chula Vista Elementary School board member Pamela Smith, spent hundreds of thousands of public dollars to protect my fellow teachers who were afraid I would expose their wrongdoing, and so they got rid of me by saying that I was going to come to school and shoot everybody. Yes, just like Columbine. And then she refused to ask for an investigation into the allegations.

What was the truth about the situation at Castle Park Elementary? Well, Pam spent hundreds of thousands of school dollars on lawyers to make sure the truth didn't come out.

Why? Apparently, she just didn't think any wrongdoing by the district should be exposed. It might hurt her chances for reelection. She spent big money to protect teacher Robin Donlan, who apparently had millions of her own from stock options fraud.

This is more serious than what Nolan did to you, don't you think? It involves more serious allegations, more public money, and complete disregard for the safety of students and employees.

Nolan never did anything that bad, did he?

49ers' Smith rips into Nolan for turning team against him
By Dennis Georgatos and Daniel Brown
Mercury News

Click HERE for original article.

Quarterback Alex Smith is going to have his right shoulder surgically repaired, but repairing his relationship with 49ers Coach Mike Nolan could be more difficult.

In his strongest act of rebellion to date, Smith on Monday said that Nolan has tried to "undermine" his reputation in the locker room. In an exclusive interview with the Mercury News, Smith said Nolan made it clear to teammates that the quarterback was using injuries as an excuse for poor performance, a charge that has left Smith's locker-room reputation in shambles.

Smith, who had long been hinting that an operation was required, said he was frustrated by Nolan's repeated public comments - "the spin," as Smith called it - that questioned the quarterback's toughness. He even suggested that his health status has been left in limbo for so long by the 49ers because "if I had surgery, it would make them look bad."

The 49ers announced late Monday that Smith will have season-ending surgery.

A month ago, after a 24-0 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the quarterback volunteered that his separated right shoulder was "killing him." Nolan had repeatedly said Smith's health was fine, setting off a brief dust-up between the coach and quarterback.

Smith said Monday that he had no problem with the public controversy, but said Nolan pushed it too far by making it an issue in the locker room.

"He came out and said some things to the team," Smith said. "It was like he was telling his side of it and I didn't want to get into it. . . . That was my biggest concern when he did that: I felt it was trying to undermine me with my teammates."
Blaming poor performance on injury is a cardinal sin of the athlete's code - especially in the ferocious warrior culture of the NFL. 49ers running back Frank Gore runs weekly on a sprained ankle; offensive lineman Justin Smiley made no mention of a torn labrum last season until after the season; Nolan even refused to answer questions about the death of his father, who died a day before the Seattle game, rather than risk it being interpreted as an excuse for a lopsided loss.

Smith, 23, understands.

"I think if (my teammates) would have heard what I actually said out there that day, it wouldn't have been an issue," he said. "But all of a sudden Nolan spins it as if I was making excuses for an injury. What I really felt like was, 'Yeah, I tried to play on it. And that was my decision and obviously I wasn't playing well enough.'

"But at that point my arm wasn't getting any better. In fact, it was getting worse and I was going to go get a second opinion. (Nolan) can spin it however he wants to, but the first thing Dr. Andrews told me when he saw me was 'This is much worse than I thought.' "

Nolan acknowledged at the time that there was a miscommunication, but since said his relationship with Smith had been patched up. He has, however, grown increasingly dismissive of questions about his quarterback's health status and has made no secret of his disdain for Smith's agent, Tom Condon, who interjected himself into the controversy when he suggested the 49ers botched the handling of Smith's injury.

Last week, Nolan said he remains surprised that Smith pulled himself out of action. He has said repeatedly that the diagnosis of Smith's injury, by both an outside doctor and team medical staff, has not deviated from a Grade III separation. And he has further described Smith's separation as "not very severe" for a Grade III.

Nolan also has continued to heap praise on Trent Dilfer not only for his strong play, but also for his toughness and passion. "I believe that Trent, as far as playing quarterback, puts his heart and soul into everything he does," Nolan said after a recent game. "It's evident every time he goes on the field. I admire that, and I think that he's given us the chance to win the games that he's played in."

Smith has all but become a persona non-grata in the 49ers' locker room after his injury controversy. Winning teammates back might be the hardest part of his rehabilitation.

Last week, Nolan was approached by a reporter and asked whether the tougher battle Smith faced was restoring his teammates' trust and confidence.

"You didn't ask me that question," Nolan said. "And I'm not going to answer it. I can't answer it."

No player was willing to go on the record when asked about the quarterback's leadership status, but no player rushed to his defense, either. "I'm not touching that one," one veteran said.

Another player recently refused to discuss the extent of his injury with a reporter because, he said, "I don't want it to be like Alex's interview where I'm blaming my production on it." Another acknowledged that certain members of the team have derisively referred to Smith as "The Lion," as in the one without courage in "The Wizard of Oz."

One assistant coach said Smith "made a mistake" when he went public about his ailing shoulder and now clearly is paying a price for his honesty. Another player said that Smith had to expect that there would be "consequences" for failing to keep his injury-related struggles in house.

Told of the mounting criticism, Smith sounded only mildly surprised.

"Well, no, I haven't noticed it - especially the guys around me - but like I said, Nolan is spinning it toward his direction," he said.

Smith demonstrated more durability a year ago when he became the first quarterback in 49ers history to take every snap over the course of the season. Only four other NFL quarterbacks did that in 2006, including Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts.

Smith's struggles this season began Sept. 30 against Seattle when he suffered a separation of his throwing shoulder on an opening-drive sack. A month later, during his first game back, he clutched at his ailing shoulder so often that the game-day broadcasters repeatedly said the 49ers "had to get him out of there."

Smith finished that game - as well as the next two - and looked woeful, missing open receivers by several yards on errant throws. After his last game, Seahawks linebacker Julian Peterson said Smith was grimacing after every throw and clearly wasn't right.

Told that comment the next day, Nolan quipped, "That might mean something to me if Julian was a doctor."

Mike Nolan and Pamela Smith need to go

Tim Kawakami thinks 49ers head coach Mike Nolan should be fired for fighting with Alex Smith. So do I. I think older people who are being paid to make sure younger people become all they can be should do their job. Twenty-three is very young. Mike should have acted like an adult. I'm sure Alex's mom agrees. But wait, didn't Alex's mom behave worse than Nolan? Yes, indeed. I think Alex's mom, Pamela Smith, board member at CVESD, should resign also, and pay back to the children of Chula Vista her share of the money paid to lawyers to cover-up her own
false allegations about what happened at Castle Park Elementary.

Click HERE for the original article.

Alex Smith vs. Mike Nolan goes nuclear: Will there be any survivors?
By Tim Kawakami
Tuesday, December 11th, 2007 at 7:22 am in 49ers, NFL.

You’ve probably seen or heard about it already, and if you haven’t, and you’re a 49ers fan or care a tiny bit about the NFL or Alex Smith or Mike Nolan, you have got to read Smith’s jaw-dropping quotes slicing at Nolan in the Georgatos/Brown piece today.

The set-up: The 49ers last night announced what we all already knew–Smith will undergo shoulder surgery and is out for the season.

But here’s what Smith told Georgatos yesterday, before the announcement:

-Smith said he feels that Nolan has undermined him to his teammates and that Nolan has been spinning his own side of the story about Smith’s struggles to comeback from the shoulder separation.

That’s more than explosive… it’s basically setting up an either-him-or-me showdown.

I can’t see how Smith ever plays for Nolan after that. I couldn’t really see it a few days ago, but this makes it official. Done. That relationship is done.

There’s really no other option. Either Nolan or Smith… or maybe neither. Do the Yorks know this? Hello?

If the 49ers had active owners or a GM (aw heck, let’s not be naive–Nolan’s the GM and he’s the acting owner, too, as long as the Yorks are afraid to talk)… somebody would fix this.

Nobody has bothered to fix this. Nobody knows how. And Nolan Face of Franchise has agitated to make it worse, which makes him the most to blame.

Nolan has made it clear in his asides and blustering that, dating to about Sept. 30, he doesn’t like Smith any more.

Smith is now going on the record–and I give him total credit for not hiding behind double-talk, at the very least (more credit than I give Nolan)–to say that he really doesn’t like Nolan.

They used to be joined at the hip. Maybe it wasn’t the best tandem, but they were together. Now they’re separated more severely than Smith’s shoulder ever could be.

I’m going to write a column on this and have many more thoughts, but right off the bat, I’m wondering…

* Did Nolan call an NFL “code red” to blackball Smith in the 49er locker room? That’s what Smith is implying, and that’s the feeling I’ve picked up in the locker room the last few weeks.

It sure sounds like Nolan might’ve purposely tried to cut off Smith from his teammates by implicitly or explicitly saying that Smith is too soft to play through pain. Which is bad, no matter what player is in the focus.

Here’s what Smith said: “That was my biggest concern when he did that: I felt it was trying to undermine me with my teammates.”

Wow. And more from the Georgatos interview:

“I think if (my teammates) would have heard what I actually said out there that day, it wouldn’t have been an issue,” Smith said of the day a few weeks ago when he suggested that Nolan had botched the handling of Smith’s comeback.

“But all of a sudden Nolan spins it as I was making excuses for an injury. What I really felt like was, ‘Yeah, I tried to play on it. And that was my decision and obviously I wasn’t playing well enough.”

* If Nolan did that, and I believe he did, that’s not just petty, it’s self-defeating–who else is going to QB this team, Mike?

I mean, we know he loves Trent Dilfer, because Nolan loves inside LBs and, yes, Dilfer throws the football like an inside LB.

Wonderful. And all it did was set back the 49ers about three years.

* If Nolan gets his way and dumps Smith, whether it’s because of performance or personality, do you trust Nolan to pick the next QB?

Remember, he’s the one who picked Smith because Smith was so malleable… and now Nolan has grown to dislike the fact that Smith isn’t tough–well, Mike, how did you not notice that before? Or did you just have no clue what you were doing picking Smith in 2005 and investing $24M?

And Nolan picked Dilfer to be the back-up for the last two years. And Nolan didn’t like Aaron Rodgers because he wouldn’t do the silly drills that Smith all too willingly did for Nolan.

And Nolan didn’t trade for Charlie Frye when he was available. Or any number of other guys, because, a few months ago, he didn’t want anybody to compete with Smith, because Nolan has no clue about the QB position.

* Given his druthers for QBs in 2008, will Nolan go with Dilfer, Dilfer II and Dilfer Jr.?

Yes, Nolan doesn’t understand QBs, shouldn’t be allowed to choose them, and probably should get fired over this.

Not because Smith is a great QB prospect ruined by Nolan. Not because Smith is a towering leader of men.

No and no.

Nolan is at fault because he’s the one who selected Smith over better talents, he’s the one who propped him up and went great lengths to coddle him, and he’s the one who unfathomably decided that Smith’s Grade III shoulder separation was no big deal.

Nolan was also the one who refused to acknowledge that Smith’s play was being affected and Nolan, apparently, is the one who failed to be the bigger man–as a coach must be–in a standoff with his best-paid player.

Unbelievable. Ridiculous. Petty.

* Smith hasn’t covered himself with laurels during this whole thing, but he’s still young. He will be getting paid by the 49ers if they play him or not. He tried his best. His coaching staff failed him, however.

Now Smith is looking out for himself and his own reputation and trying to wound Nolan. I can’t blame Smith for that.

* As I’ve typed for weeks now, if anything was going to get the Yorks stirring and off of their scaredy-frozen-in-place-scaredyness… it’s Nolan messing up the QB.

That’s a huge investment they’ve got in Smith. Nolan is the one who made it for them.

Now Nolan has blown up Smith as much as you can blow up a young QB–with Smith’s help, I concede–and maybe that’s what gets the Yorks thinking… hmm, maybe Nolan isn’t a god among NFL coaches.

* The dumbest, dumbest thing I must keep repeating is the thought that Nolan only needs a strong GM to turn the ship right back to imminent greatness.

Folks, Nolan is proving again that coaching is what he does worst. A coach is supposed to handle his QB, especially if his best QB is fragile.

Nolan has no idea. You can blame Smith for this, and I’d guess that’s where 80% of 49ers fans will fall–he isn’t too tough, he isn’t much of a leader, he hasn’t been much of a QB.

But this is Nolan’s fault, in the big picture. The coach is supposed to stop things like this from happening.

And it should get him fired.

Higher pay for teachers at low-performing schools

I think ALL the teachers at low-performing schools should get higher pay, not just reading and math teachers.

We need to attract experienced, able teachers to every classroom.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Three school boards stilled the public's voice

San Diego Union Tribune SOUTH EDITION
January 19, 2008

Three school boards stilled the public's voice
[Chula Vista Elementary, Sweetwater Union High, San Diego County Office of Education]
Click HERE to see original editorial.

It is quite disappointing when citizens are thwarted from participating in the democratic process.

That was the case when the county Board of Education, in a 3-2 vote, blocked the public's voice from being heard. The entrenched bureaucracies and officeholders of the Sweetwater Union High and Chula Vista Elementary school districts were guilty as well. They threatened legal action to block citizens from having a say.

At issue was a proposal to change the way school board elections are held in the two districts. Currently, candidates must run for a specific seat number, which has no relationship to anything.

Under the proposed change, candidates would run for a seat representing a specific neighborhood, a portion of the district, but would be voted upon districtwide.

The change was proposed to encourage geographic diversity. Each neighborhood would be guaranteed a representative on the board. Chula Vista Elementary is the largest elementary district in the state yet all five trustees live in the same Bonita neighborhood. Sweetwater's situation is similar.

Change proponents presented petitions asking the county board to put the issue on the November ballot. There are three ways to qualify such measures for the ballot, and this proposal met all conditions for doing so at the discretion of the county board.

Instead, school district attorneys Bonifacio Garcia and Jack Parham, who don't even live in the San Diego region, threatened legal action against the county. Even if Garcia and Parham acted pro bono, the implication was clear: Taxpayer resources could be used to keep taxpayers from having a voice.

County trustee Susan Hartley voted against the proposal, finding fault with neighborhood maps attached to the petitions (a non-issue since the county would be tasked with drawing the actual maps). The number of petitions submitted met the standard for this option, yet board President Robert Watkins voted against, saying he preferred signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters. (What, to make the process even more costly?)

There are a number of ways to conduct school board elections. Most common is the open election, with say the top two vote-getters of seven candidates elected. This can pit incumbent against incumbent, something that never happens in the imaginary seat-number system used by Sweetwater and Chula Vista. San Diego Unified has a primary to select the top two vote-getters in a neighborhood. They run system-wide in the general.

County trustee Nick Aguilar, who voted for the proposed change, said there was no compelling reason not to put it on the November ballot. He called the rejection “abhorrent” and “undemocratic.”

Fitting adjectives, those. And why are two school districts so afraid of allowing the public to speak?

We hope the proponents don't give up. If they recirculate new petitions without maps, trustee Hartley, if she is a person of her word, would be honor bound to vote for the proposal. Obtain signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters and forget about trustee Watkins – he will simply be an irrelevant obstacle to the democratic process.

This issue is really about community empowerment. Sadly, neither South Bay jurisdiction has it.

Would it be acceptable for all five county supervisors to reside in Rancho Santa Fe? Or for eight La Jolla residents to comprise the San Diego City Council? Hardly. Neither should geographic isolation be acceptable in the Sweetwater and Chula Vista districts.

Cox Communications in San Diego says if I have a problem with my bill, I'm welcome to go to the FCC

Cox Communications has apparently trained their billing department to tell people to go to the FCC if they don't like their bills.

At least, that's what "Raven" told me just now about a $294 phone bill for three phone calls in December.

I had joined the "Simply Worldwide International Calling Plan" several months earlier. At that time I was told I'd be paying 19 cents a minute for calls to Central America. (Instead, I was charged $2.40 per minute.)

I asked Raven if she could see the call I made a few months ago on her computer screen.

"You make an entry for each call, right?" I asked.

"No. That's just for training purposes. Sometimes we do, and sometimes we don't." Raven said.

Sounds like a smart business practice. Sometimes they make a note that a customer called, and sometimes they don't?!?

I think Raven could see my call on her screen, but someone messed up somewhere, and she didn't want to admit the truth.

If Cox Communications is so greedy that they aren't happy with the huge profits they make legally, and they feel the need to cheat in order to make even more profits, maybe I should contact the FCC. I'm guessing I'm not the only one this has happened to.

UPDATE: I called back before I filed the FCC complaint, but Raven's supervisor, Michelle, wouldn't talk to me.

I asked to speak to Michelle's supervisor.

“Ma’am (contemptuous voice, long pause), we don’t escalate that high. This is not the way to take care of it.”

Then she hung up.

I guess calling the FCC is the only way to get someone to take a second look at Miss Raven's decision.

So I sent an FCC complaint. It's remarkably easy. Just go to this webpage and fill out a simple form online!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Californians Aware, the center for public forum rights

Take a poll about open meetings and public records HERE.

Terry Grier and Jim Groth: will they become fast friends?

CTA's San Diego director Jim Groth has made friends with superintendents in Chula Vista Elementary School District by helping them get away with illegal actions.

But somehow I don't think Jim is going to get along quite as well with San Diego Unified School District's new superintendent, Terry Grier.

Why? Because it sounds to me like Terry Grier cares about kids, and believes in rewarding good teachers. That's not an agenda that will please the California Teachers Assocation.

Perhaps Mr. Grier could break the ice by asking Jim about his days at CVESD. And by passing on a great big hello from me.

Terry Grier is a good choice for San Diego Unified School District

I'm impressed with the San Diego Unified school board for selecting Terry Grier as its new superintendent.

For years I have advocated paying teachers more at the worst schools in order to attract the best teachers.

Grier instituted this precise system in North Carolina.

I wrote to Superintendent Lowell Billings of Chula Vista Elementary School District with this suggestion, but I never got a response. Last month I finally had a chance to ask him what happened to my emails. "You just forward them all to your lawyers?" I asked. "Yes, well, actually I forward them to Tom Cruz (Assistant Superintendent for human resources), and he forwards them to the lawyers."

I guess Stutz law firm didn't like my idea, either. Or perhaps it would be more correct to say that they didn't care. Stutz seems to prefer litigating against kids to working for kids.

Dan Shinoff once said, when he served on the board of his kids' private school, that he did it because he wanted to "give back." Nice spin, Dan. Wasn't it about your kids, Mr. Shinoff, rather than other people's children? Wasn't it more about exerting control than practicing altruism?

Martin Luther King, Jr.

When I visited the Washing-ton Monument in 2006, this is the scene I conjured in my memory. To what better purpose was this spot ever dedicated? But I wonder, has my generation lived up to its promise?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Terry Grier is the new leader of San Diego Unified

"He also introduced higher pay for teachers working in struggling schools, which typically experience high turnover -- a provision that the San Diego Unified teachers union has vowed to fight, if he replicates the policy here..."

Voice of San Diego
January 19, 2008

It's official: Terry Grier is the new leader of San Diego Unified, California's second-largest school district...He has worked in Guilford County (North Carolina) for nearly eight years, where he focused heavily on cutting down on school dropouts.

His efforts to integrate his district's economically and racially divided schools via magnet programs spurred both praise and controversy.

He also introduced higher pay for teachers working in struggling schools, which typically experience high turnover -- a provision that the San Diego Unified teachers union has vowed to fight, if he replicates the policy here...

San Diego Unified is nearly twice the size of Guilford County Schools, with a different ethnic makeup. But board members were excited by Grier's professional achievements, aggressive stance on school reform, and apparent rapport with the school board...

It is unclear when Grier will start. His contract, which pays $269,000 annually, begins July 1, but Nakamura said the board hoped to see him start sooner, depending on his obligations to Guilford County...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Whistleblowers treated the same at Chula Vista Elementary School District and City of San Diego

The following story from Voice of San Diego sounds familiar to me. I reported Rick Werlin's wrongdoing to the board and to the superintendent. They put Rick Werlin in charge of the "investigation" which never took place.

Whistleblower Demands
See original article HERE.

Last month, we reported this:

Employees at the city of San Diego still do not have an outlet for anonymously reporting financial misconduct to the City Council's Audit Committee, even though a rule requiring the panel to field the concerns of whistleblowers was put in place seven months ago.

Instead, officials for Mayor Jerry Sanders are still in charge of the hotline. It keeps in place an arrangement in which City Hall's boss oversees the very forum where potentially embarrassing complaints about his administration are registered, while also having the power to fire the thousands of city employees prone to use the hotline.

The idea behind the rule is that the management structure that could be the subject of complaints the hotline collects shouldn't be the one overseeing it.

To that end, Council members Donna Frye (left) and Tony Young authored a memo this week requesting an analysis from the Independent Budget Analyst of two options:

Increase staff positions in the Office of the Independent Budget Analyst, Internal Auditor, or other city department independent from management to administer the whistleblower hotline. This could be a cost neutral action as current hotline staffing could simply be shifted to another department in the city, or:

Creation of an independent entity within the city whose sole responsibilities are to administer the whistleblower hotline, investigate complains and address confirmed violations and unethical behavior.

They've requested an answer within 30 days.

Wednesday, January 16 2008

Closure of Vista courthouse parking lot today

Deputies wrapped yellow tape across the front entrance of the Vista branch of San Diego Superior Court today, stretching the tape across the parking lot, and forcing visitors to park at a distance. Only the civil entrance was taped, not the criminal entrance. Roughly forty deputies stood guard.


One deputy rolled his eyes and said, "Apparently there's some sort of mysterious object."

News reports spoke of a briefcase. But was there ever a mysterious briefcase? I doubt it.

At 1:30 p.m., one deputy said, "He's coming."

Another said, "He's going up the stairs."

Who? The suitcase?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Poway learned its lesson in this case

In this case, Daniel Shinoff advised the district to appeal the jury's decision. Shame on Poway Unified School District for doing what Shinoff wanted. Attorney Jeffery Morris filed the appeal, which seems not to have been ruled on. Apparently, the district settled the case.

June 8, 2005
Jury awards gay, ex-Poway High students $300K

By: SCOTT MARSHALL - Staff Writer
Click HERE to see the original article.

SAN DIEGO ---- A Superior Court jury Wednesday awarded two former Poway High School students a combined total of $300,000 after determining that school officials failed to stop ongoing harassment they suffered because of their sexual orientation.

The students, both of whom are gay, alleged they were verbally threatened at school, and one said he was beat up and had his car vandalized.

Jurors found that Joseph "Joey" Ramelli and Megan Donovan, both 19, were subject to "severe and pervasive" harassment, that school officials knew or should have known about it, and that officials failed to take "immediate corrective action," attorneys in the case said.

Daniel Shinoff, an attorney for the Poway Unified School District, said the jury also found that the district and its employees did not discriminate against Ramelli and Donovan.

The jury awarded $175,000 to Ramelli and $125,000 to Donovan.

Jurors did not comment to the media about their verdicts.

Poway Unified School District Superintendent Don Phillips issued a prepared statement Wednesday afternoon in which he expressed "a great deal of respect" for the jury's efforts and said he was "heartened" by the jury's finding that the district did not discriminate.

Phillips said in the prepared statement that the district's attorneys have recommended that the district ask a state appeals court to review the case.

"The district is committed to tolerance and respect for all members of our community," Phillips said. "I believe the efforts by our staff to provide support for these two students was significant."

Shinoff said the Poway school board will have to decide whether to appeal the ruling. Its next meeting is June 27.

Attorney Bridget J. Wilson, who also represented Ramelli and Donovan, told jurors in her opening statement at the trial that her clients were verbally threatened. She said Ramelli was spit upon, punched and kicked and that his car was vandalized.

School officials took "minimal or no action at all" when the incidents were reported, Wilson said.

When Donovan and Ramelli complained, they were accused of exaggerating and fabricating events, Wilson told the jury.

The district's attorney, Paul Carelli, wrote in a trial brief filed with the court before the trial that "considerable evidence" existed to show that district administrators investigated the alleged incidents, but that the complaints from Ramelli and Donovan often were "vague, provided no names and no witnesses."

School officials said during the trial that the school had counseling programs in place for students. Carelli said one teacher offered to escort Ramelli to the bathroom and another told him he could park his car next to the classroom, but he never took advantage of the offers.

Rosenstein said in an interview Wednesday that her clients did not want to sue the district, but they, their parents and their attorneys received no response when took their complaints to the district...

Ramelli and Donovan left Poway High after their junior year and went to an independent study program before they graduated, Rosenstein said.

Ramelli and Donovan, who had asked for $225,000 each, now attend Palomar College and work, the attorney said.

City News Service contributed to this report.


Grand Marshal: Joseph ‘Joey’ Ramelli and Megan Donovan
Published Thursday, 28-Jul-2005 in issue 918

Heading this year’s Pride parade are two former Poway High School students who have proved themselves exemplary of grass-roots activism this year.
Having endured more than three years of emotionally distressing harassment at Poway High, the duo took their cases to San Diego Superior Court after their concerns and complaints were pushed aside by school administrators.
The pair testified to a federal judge, relating Ramelli’s story of extensive teasing and taunting that started in his freshman year and Donovan’s experience of mistreatment as an out lesbian, which she said led to her being denied a position on the girls’ varsity softball team. Both experienced substantial bouts of absenteeism due to the uncomfortable environment they felt was present at Poway High.
The school hired a team of lawyers to counter the Ramelli and Donovan’s claims, but the two stuck out the five-week trial. At its conclusion, Ramelli was awarded $175,000 and Donovan received $125,000 in damages due to mistreatment, though the jury failed to find the school or its employees liable for any discrimination.

Poway Unified School District wins--it was right on this one

This ruling was(temporarily)de-published by Supreme Court so the lower court could rule on certain matters. The lower court has now ruled, and so this decision may be re-published any day now.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the decision of Poway Superintendent Donald Phillips and principal Scott Fisher not to allow student Tyler Chase to wear to school a T-shirt that said “HOMOSEXUALITY IS SHAMEFUL ‘Romans 1:27.’”


"Poway High School (“the School”) has had a history of conflict among its students over issues of sexual orientation. In 2003, the School permitted a student
group called the Gay-Straight Alliance to hold a “Day of Silence” at the School which, in the words of an Assistant Principal, is intended to “teach tolerance of
others, particularly those of a different sexual orientation.”

"During the days surrounding the 2003 “Day of Silence,”3 a series of incidents and altercations occurred on the school campus as a result of anti-homosexual comments that were made by students.

"One such confrontation required the Principal to separate students physically. According to David LeMaster, a teacher at Poway, several students were suspended as a result of these conflicts. Moreover, a week or so after the “Day of Silence,” a group of heterosexual students informally organized a “Straight-Pride Day,” during which they wore T-shirts which displayed derogatory remarks about homosexuals. According to Assistant Principal Lynell Antrim, some students were asked to remove the shirts and did so, while others “had an altercation and were suspended for their actions.

"Because of these conflicts in 2003, when the Gay-Straight Alliance sought to hold another “Day of Silence” in 2004, the School required the organization to consult with the Principal to “problem solve” and find ways to reduce tensions and potential altercations. On April 21, 2004, the date of the 2004 “Day of Silence,” appellant Tyler Chase Harper wore a T-shirt to school on which “I WILL NOT ACCEPT WHAT GOD HAS CONDEMNED,” was handwritten on the front and “HOMOSEXUALITY IS SHAMEFUL ‘Romans 1:27’” was handwritten on the back..."

Click HERE to see the full decision.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sunana Batra and I don't usually agree

I loved Sunana Batra's opinion piece in the North County Times (previous post), so I looked her up. I discovered that Sunana and I are usually miles apart.

I agreed with Sunana's analysis of the antics of Victoria Richart and the majority MiraCosta trustees, but my guess is that Sunana won't attack Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz, the lawyers who conducted the MiraCosta circus. After all, conservative favorite Leslie Devaney is a partner of the firm, along with Daniel Shinoff.

Here's what Sunana has written in the past.

First, an article from the North County Times posted on Free Republic on 12/06/2007.
Click HERE to see the Free Republic post.

New law (SB 777) tests the limits of tolerance
The North County Times

New law tests the limits of tolerance

By: SUNANA BATRA - Commentary:

I can't help but shake my head at the misguided parents who have once again drunk the California Teachers Association's Kool-Aid and see a new law meant to protect homosexual and transgender students (Senate Bill 777 ) as just another nice attempt to make sure no student is ever made to feel uncomfortable. They are the clueless frogs just getting comfortable in the warmth of a cozy bath that makes them feel oh so good and tolerant.

And, as in the parable, it won't be long before that warm bath soon becomes lava as their sons are forced to practice the "egg as a baby" exercise -- meant to foster an understanding of shared responsibility, relationships and cooperation -- not with a girl classmate but with Johnny...

The irony is stinging as we consider reports from Temecula of a student who fled her classroom in tears after her teacher, betraying tolerance herself, allegedly called Christians "out of control" and "prejudiced."

...As is fashionable across America these days, Christians are the first to be marginalized...

[Maura Larkins' note: We do have marginalized people in America, but Christians are not among them, unless they belong to another group that is actually marginalized.]

Here's another article by Sunana:

Red County
Politics from the Center Right
Click HERE to see the original post.

December 14, 2007
Sunana Batra's Report from the Lincoln Club
The following is a great write up Sunana Batra did for Red County on Mike Murphy's presentation to the Lincoln Club last nite....

Crazy times demand crazy leadership.

by Sunana Batra

A frequent speaker on elections and politics, Mike Murphy's keynote speech to the 24th annual Lincoln Club Christmas party was tremendous. After reading a few of his Backseat driving columns from the '04 election, I was expecting a few zingers from a guy who's got a great knack for brilliantly employing very visual metaphors that stay with you and I was not disappointed. Mike grabbed the audience's attention with his witty, at times cutting and insightful comments.

He suggested this year's election is a classic "wrong track" election, where the voters are demanding change and predicted Obama actually might win the nomination.

...The fact that Romney, who is very strong, comes off as too perfect and that his family appears to be out of a Sears catalog, perfect in every way, with no ugly children. (Crowd laughs.)

...He also added that we've got a great shot particularly if the Democrats keep being this cocky. "After all they're Democrats, so that means they are our secret weapon." (Crowd laughs again.)

...(footnote - 1. Mike Murphy had joked that he had written a letter to Dennis Kucinich, saying he had moved to his cause and had written him a possible slogan, "Crazy times demand crazy leadership," but got nothing back. I thought that was hilarious! (I'm from Cleveland and Kucinich was my Mayor when I was a kid. - SB)

Posted by Barry Jantz on December 14, 2007

Saturday, January 12, 2008

6 months for obstruction of justice by Marion Jones

Marion Jones joined the club of people who sue for defamation even though they know that their target told the truth.

Marion Jones Gets Six-Month Term for Obstruction

By Patricia Hurtado
Jan. 11, 2008

Marion Jones, the record-breaking sprinter who tearfully confessed she used steroids after years of public denial, was sentenced to six months in prison for lying in two federal grand jury investigations.

Jones, 32, of Austin, Texas, pleaded guilty in October to two counts of obstruction of justice in probes of steroid use in sports and a check cashing scheme allegedly involving fellow athlete Tim Montgomery...

``This was a worldwide lie,'' U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas said at a hearing today in White Plains, New York. He also sentenced her to 800 hours of community service and two years of probation.

...She was the first athlete convicted in the almost five-year-old U.S. government steroid investigation.

...He ordered her to serve 400 hours of community service for each of the two years of probation. Her service should be with children and emphasize the need to tell the truth, the judge said.

Steroid Probe

In court today, Jones cried as she addressed Karas, asking not to be separated from her two sons, ages 7 months and 4 years.

...Karas turned aside her appeal for leniency, saying that, at her plea hearing in October, she failed to fully admit that she used banned substances.

... She said she believed she was taking ``flaxseed oil'' at the time.

``I am troubled by that statement,'' Karas told Jones today. ``That's a very difficult thing to believe that a top- notch athlete, knowing that a razor-thin margin makes the difference, would not be keenly aware and very careful about what he or she put in her body, and the effects.''

Impeding Investigation

Jones was charged with impeding the San Francisco steroid probe of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or Balco, based in Burlingame, California, and the separate Manhattan investigation of the bad-check cashing scheme.

In addition to pleading guilty to taking substances before the Sydney Olympics, Jones admitted lying about knowing that Montgomery deposited $200,000 in counterfeit checks in a bank account. She lived with Montgomery, the father of her older son, in 2005...

Steve Riddick, 56, a 1976 Olympic gold medalist who was once Jones's coach, was also charged in the check-kiting case. He was convicted of bank fraud after a trial in May and sentenced late today by Karas to 63 months in prison.

Montgomery pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy and bank fraud. His sentencing hasn't been scheduled.

...Barry Bonds, Major League Baseball's all-time home-run leader, was indicted in November on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying to a grand jury about steroid use. Prosecutors said the outfielder told a panel in 2003 that he never knowingly used banned drugs, according to his indictment.

...Congress is returning to the issue of steroids in baseball following last month's report by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, which linked more than 80 players including Pettitte and Clemens to performance-enhancing drugs. The same House committee held hearings in 2005 and urged a tougher drug policy for the sport.

...In February 2006, Jones settled a $25 million defamation lawsuit against Victor Conte, the Balco founder. Conte, who claimed he supplied Jones with performance-enhancing drugs including THG, served a four-month jail term after pleading guilty to steroid distribution...

Friday, January 11, 2008

San Diego schools and lawsuit abuse: the schools are protected, the kids and employees are not

"Schools are largely insulated from lawsuits..."

Schools should make school safe for children by teaching students and adults better ways to deal with problems. Instead, schools give away taxpayer dollars to lawyers and insurance companies to cover up wrongdoing and mistakes.

More families are taking school bullies to court
Feb. 17, 2006 San Diego Union Tribune

Click HERE to see the original article.


More families are taking school bullies to court

By Chris Seper

February 17, 2006

School bullies who get a trip to the principal's office could also find themselves in front of a judge.

More parents whose children are beaten or bullied are suing their attackers' families or schools, according to court filings and experts on school violence. Some want money to pay for broken noses or more severe injuries. Others hope a lawsuit provides a sense of justice they didn't get from criminal trials and school discipline.

Violence-prevention centers also are hearing from more parents about whether to take schools and bullies' families to court.
“A lot of parents who take steps to a civil case believe the criminal justice system didn't work,” said William Lassiter, manager for North Carolina's Center for the Prevention of School Violence, one of the country's first school-safety agencies.

The center received one or two calls a week from concerned parents before the 1999 Columbine school shootings. Now it gets about a half-dozen daily. About a quarter of those callers eventually discuss a lawsuit because police and school officials didn't help them, Lassiter said.

“Somebody has got to get serious about this,” said Mike Duitch, whose family lost a suit in 2001 against the city schools in Canton, Ohio. Duitch's son, Nathan, was badly beaten by a group of students during his freshman year, an incident that the Duitches said was part of a school-sanctioned day of hazing.

No one – from the FBI to the U.S. Department of Education to anti-bullying advocates – tracks school violence lawsuits, but anecdotal evidence and interviews suggest civil courts are wading into these murky conflicts as the country focuses more on bullying.

Rachel Mertz tormented Emma Silverblatt during eighth grade at Mayfield High School, according to the Silverblatt family's lawsuit in Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Common Pleas Court. Emma, who is Jewish, said Rachel would threaten her and use anti-Semitic insults.

But Rachel, who like Emma was 13 at the time, told police that Emma called her names and regularly slapped her when they rode the school bus. Neither girl told the school, and each denies picking on the other.

Rachel confronted Emma at Emma's second-floor locker one afternoon in March 2004, the suit said. Emma tried to move Rachel out of the way and Rachel grabbed Emma by the hair. Rachel told police that Emma started kicking her.

Then Rachel dragged Emma to the ground, punched her and banged her head against the school's tile floor several times, calling out insults as she hit her, according to a Mayfield police report and the lawsuit.

Mayfield High suspended Rachel for five days, and she left the school soon after. Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court ordered her to mediation, a type of court counseling meant to work through youth problems.

The Silverblatts want $50,000 for their daughter's head and neck injuries, blurred vision and mental anguish, which required “extensive medical care,” according to the suit, which is pending. However, Emma Silverblatt's main purpose in suing is that “the community have an opportunity to hear what happened,” said her attorney, Robert F. DiCello.

The Mertzes' attorneys did not return phone calls seeking comment, nor did Denise Striker, Rachel Mertz's mother. The Silverblatt family declined to comment.

A settlement hearing is scheduled for March.

Child advocates don't think civil lawsuits would deter future fights or bullying.

There would be less litigation and a better long-term result if schools and juvenile systems created programs that gave attacked students a sense of justice, said Lassiter...

Bullies, bloggers and free speech: Warren Kremer Paino Advertising drops libel suit

The article below is from:

Simple Thoughts of a Complex Mind
Click HERE to see the original article.

Friday, May 05, 2006
Blogger's Freedom of Speech lawsuit is dropped.

I found this story on It links over to the Media Bloggers Association web page. One of their members, Lance Dutson, had been very critical of Warren Kremer Paino Advertising, who contracts with the state of Maine. WKP decided that he was being too critical and sued him for libel. They dropped the lawsuit today after receiving a lot of pressure from bloggers and some state representatives. Freedom of Speech won out.

"Warren Kremer Paino Advertising (WKP) has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit for defamation against Lance Dutson, a Maine blogger, for publishing criticism of agency and publishing an image of a sample ad prepared by the firm which contained a phone number directing callers to a phone sex line."- according to Media Bloggers Association

"The decision to withdraw the lawsuit comes on the heels of a withering media campaign orchestrated by the Media Bloggers Association on behalf of MBA Member Lance Dutson. Hundreds of bloggers responded to the MBA's call to arms and were joined by media outlets around the world in highlighting the heavy-handed tactics of the state contractor." --MBA

A big round of thanks is in order for the lawyers who volunteered their time on Lance's behalf including MBA General Counsel, Ronald Coleman of the Coleman Law Firm, Greg Herbert of Greenberg Traurig and private attorney Jon Stanley. --MBA

"This demonstrates precisely what we have said all along," said Coleman, "Suits like this are premised solely on the anticpation that there will be no push back from the little guy. Here, there was." --MBA

These have been some freedom of simple thoughts of my complex mind.

Posted by Larry Litle

Thursday, January 10, 2008

SDCOE board president Robert Watkins is not in charge; Diane Crosier is

I think Emily Alpert (Voice of San Diego) may have got one thing wrong in her January 10, 2008 post about the San Diego County Board of Education:

"Management consultant Robert Watkins, an Alpine resident, was re-elected as president of the San Diego County Board of Education yesterday. The board sets policy for the San Diego County Office of Education, which assists the 42 school districts in the county with payroll, legal services, certifying teaching credentials, and keeping up with state academic standards, and also operates the Juvenile Court and Community Schools..."

I think you'll find, Emily, that insurance companies and their lawyers set policy for legal services. Their representative, Diane Crosier, dictates legal policies to the board, not the other way around.

Executive Director of SDCOE-JPA Diane Crosier is the boss, not the school board or the superintendent.

Confession: I was thirty years older than Emily, and had been teaching full time in the classroom for decades, before I learned that the people at the top were airheads who took directions well. I'm a very slow learner, obviously.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The pendulum swings back and forth

As I prepared for my first federal case conference today, the thought came to me that everyone wants to enjoy the benefits of the rule of law, but many people don't want to accept its limitations on themselves.

A great many individuals genuinely believe that the law shouldn't apply to them because they are morally superior, and what they want is what God wants.

Sadly, this aspect of human nature can be found in the most powerful people around the world, as well as in the Little Ceasars that rule homes, offices, schools and villages. It happens in the political left as well as the political right.

So I wonder, to what extent will democracy and civil rights be replaced, here and elsewhere, by rule of those who are above the law?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The tort claim that's missing from the SDCOE-JPA computer

January 4, 2008

I called up Diane Crosier today and asked her what insurance company handled my April 21, 2005 tort claim against SDCOE and CVESD. She looked on her computer and found tort claims for 2001, 2002, and May 2004, but nothing for 2005.

She asked if the claim was about continuing incidents.

I said, no, they were about specific, single events on November 4 and 10, 2004.

She said it might be in the May 2004 file, but the file is in storage.

Below is the claim that either no one ever entered properly into the SDCOE-JPA computer, or someone removed from the computer.

It regards SDCOE-JPA lawyers who suborned perjury.

April 21, 2005

State of California
Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board

Kathy Davis, Business Services
San Diego County Office of Education
Lowell Billings, Superintendent

Re: Maura Larkins
Date of injuries: November 4, 2004 and November 10, 2004


...The SAN DIEGO COUNTY SCHOOLS RISK MANAGEMENT JOINT POWERS AUTHORITY, hereinafter designated as the “JPA,”... and Chula Vista Elementary School District, ... and attorney Daniel Shinoff and his associates Jeffery Morris and Kelly Angell, on or about November 4, 2004 and November 10, 2004, caused injury to claimant by suborning perjury of witnesses during testimony in depositions for San Diego Superior Court case number GIC 781970.

...One such incident occurred on November 4, 2005 during the deposition of Robin Donlan.

Another such incident happened on November 10, 2005, during the deposition of Michelle Scharmach.

Kelly Angell indicated to deponents that they were forbidden by law to reveal information in depositions if that information were covered by attorney-client privilege.

[In fact, it is the lawyer
who must abide by
attorney-client privilege.

Kelly Angell caused deponents to believe that their careers might be in danger if they answered certain questions. Counsel is required to tell Chula Vista Elementary School District that it would be illegal to retaliate for any testimony given by defendants in depositions, and Chula Vista Elementary School District is forbidden by law to retaliate for such testimony. Counsel was clearly trying to intimidate and manipulate witnesses, on behalf of herself, the JPA, and CVESD, to commit perjury...

The full tort claim can be found HERE.

Kelly Angell Minnehan now works at Fagen, Friedman and Fullfrost.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Shame on CTA for opposing funds for junior colleges

Here's my response to Jim Groth's latest pronouncement.*

Jim, since K-12 teachers are failing so many kids, they ought to stand up for the right of those kids to finish learning basic skills for a low cost in community colleges.

*Jim, a CTA Director who is one of San Diego's biggest Beverly Tucker fans, says in his latest message:

"..CTA has a recommended position against Proposition 92, the Community College Initiative. CTA opposes Proposition 92 due to concerns that it may take money from Proposition 98 funding and that this proposition does not properly address the funding of community colleges..."


Jim's essay begins like this:

"2008 is just around the corner. The exciting side of 2008 is that it is the year our country elects a new president..."

Being a mom is NOT what makes Lorie Zapf a fan of defense lawyers

An open letter to Lorie Zapf:

I was fascinated by Emily Alpert's article in Voice of San Diego about Lorie Zapf. Emily wrote:

"Lorie Zapf, president of the [Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse/CALA] group's San Diego chapter, said schools are falling prey to a system that makes it too easy to file lawsuits.

"'Right now anybody can file a lawsuit ... It is so incredibly easy, and there aren't big repercussions for bringing frivolous suits,' Zapf said. 'Then the schools are stuck defending themselves.

"'All that money just makes me sick,' she said, 'being a mom.'"

(The above is from Voice of San Diego,

All that money makes me sick, too, Lorie.

But perhaps you failed to notice that the report from your own organization shows that the abusers of the taxpayers are the school lawyers, who took $10.7 million from San Diego Unified School District budget between 2005 and 2007.

On the other hand, victims received settlements or verdicts of less than one-fourth of that amount: $2.5 million. Some worthy victims received nothing at all except a second mortgage to pay lawyers.

For example, James "Ted" Carter mortgaged his house to pay Veronica Aguilar and her firm, Holben and Associates. A jury awarded him $1.2 million for doing what any mom would want a teacher to do: reporting that a coach had told a boy to take a body-building substance which caused the boy's kidneys to fail. The school did nothing to the coach who advised taking the substance. But then Escondido School District do allowed the wife of the coach who pushed substances to fire the teacher who reported the problem. The jury was right, but California's Court of Appeal is so in favor of business and the status quo in the power structure that it overturned the decision, saying the school.

Who was the lawyer against James Carter? Daniel Shinoff, partner of Leslie Devaney, a past board member of CALA and continuing presence on CALA's TV show.

Schools are disaster areas largely because bad coaches and bad administrators are protected by defense lawyers, and good teachers and administrators are fired because they got in somebody's way by telling the truth.

I don't think most mothers would agree with you, Lorie, if they knew the whole story.

Education defense lawyers are hired to deprive citizens, particularly those who are victimized in a school setting, of their right to protection of the law.

Should the justice system be partisan? Attorney General Anthony Gonzalez thought so. Apparently so do you.

You are outraged that any ordinary person--absolutely anyone--has a right to petition for redress of grievances.

Shocking! Who do they think they are, Americans?

You clearly think plaintiffs should have certain qualifications. And I'll bet you think those qualifications should be determined by the Republican party.

You don't think Leslie Devaney's current lawsuit against me for defamation is frivolous, do you, Lorie?

Your clearly partisan concerns have nothing to do with being a mom. The status quo is harmful to students, and your efforts to undermine the public's respect for plaintiffs are even more harmful to students. Why not just admit that defense lawyers and insurance companies are your backers, and that you are simply a partisan Republican and Member of the San Diego County Republican Party County Central Committee who is using motherhood to spread cynical propaganda?

Friday, January 04, 2008

CALA: Lawsuit abuse by those who claim to oppose lawsuit abuse

Click HERE to see the original post.

Organizations like CALA (Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse) want defense attorneys to soak up tax dollars, litigating cases against plaintiffs who have been wrongfully damaged.

These cases shouldn't be litigated, they should be settled.

But then the CALA lawyers wouldn't be paid, would they?

But CALA lawyers don't just want to get paid, they also want to win so insurance companies will keep hiring them.

So they go on a propaganda campaign against plaintiffs.

Insurance companies and their lawyers don't care who gets hurt or how many laws are violated, they just want to make sure that juries don't give money to plaintiffs.

Here's an article that describes the situation:

North County Times
San Diego
October 12, 2003

By:SCOTT MARSHALL - Staff Writer

VISTA ---- Playing off California's recent recall election, Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse held an online election last week to "recall" what it described as "crazy" lawsuits and to draw public awareness to the issue of frivolous lawsuits.

Some local attorneys dispute whether any lawsuit abuse problem exists and say national statistics back up their position that it does not.

While the opponents say laws need to be changed so the judicial system protects legitimate victims and businesses, some attorneys contend that the marketing effort to promote the concept of lawsuit abuse already has adversely affected those seeking justice in civil courts...

Chris Hulburt, the president-elect of Consumer Attorneys of San Diego, said the numbers cited by the groups to support their claims of a "lawsuit tax" have no basis in fact. No data exists to back up those contentions, Hulburt said.

"It's just nonsense," Hulburt said. "It's a marketing campaign."

Hulburt said that during the last 10 to 20 years statistics have shown that the number of civil lawsuits filed nationwide has steadily declined and that almost half the lawsuits filed involved businesses suing other businesses rather than cases of individuals seeking money for personal injuries or property damage.

"I think that there is no problem," Hulburt said. "I think it's something that big business has created as a massive marketing campaign that there's some crisis."

A National Center for State Courts report stated that the number of tort cases ---- which include personal injury, defamation and malpractice lawsuits ---- filed in 16 states, including California, rose 75 percent from 1973 to 1990, but have declined continually from 1990 to 2001.

The same report stated that combined figures from those 16 states and 14 others showed a 9 percent decline in the number of tort cases filed from 1992 to 2001.

In San Diego County, however, court cases have climbed in recent years: Court statistics showed that the number of civil lawsuits filed in almost all categories increased each year from the 1998-99 fiscal year to the 2001-02 fiscal year.

Statewide, lawsuits involving property damages, personal injury and wrongful death also have increased in number each year, but the total number of new lawsuits statewide involving more than $25,000 declined from 2000-01 to 2001-02.

Hulburt said some that of the lawsuits include businesses suing businesses and that the data showing increases locally should be compared to population increases in the county. Kotner said the figures show the problem is real.

Is 'reform' possible?

"It indicates that there is lawsuit abuse and we need to reform the system," Kotner said. "We need meaningful changes."

Laws need to be fair, Kotner said, and to provide protection for legitimate victims as well as for businesses.

Striking that balance may not be possible, said Nicholas Pace, a researcher at the Rand Institute for Civil Justice.

"Is there a way to filter out all the really bad cases and not filter out the legitimate cases?" Pace said. "No. There is no perfect system. ... I know when I see a case of lawsuit abuse, but it's difficult to write up a law that describes that and nothing else."

Hulburt and Escondido attorney Carla Dedominicis said the justice system already contains checks to prevent cases without merit from going forward and that campaigns to draw attention to lawsuit abuse already have made it harder for legitimate clients to obtain justice.

"There hasn't been a jury that's been picked in recent years where somebody hasn't expressed a disdain for frivolous lawsuits," Dedominicis said.

Hulburt said every lawyer has seen the same problem in the last five to 10 years because the lawsuit abuse campaign has successfully put the idea of lawsuit abuse in people's minds.

"It's a completely different environment in the courtroom, and it's much more difficult for a legitimate victim to get fair compensation," Hulburt said...

Is this why Carl Cohn is leaving in disgust? CALA works to make sure that school money goes to lawyers, not students and employees

Defense lawyers for school districts are bleeding taxpayers dry, instead of telling districts to obey the law and settle cases of wrongdoing before litigation begins, WHICH WOULD RESULT IN A HUGE NET SAVINGS FOR SCHOOL DISTRICTS.

Ironically, these facts are twisted by defense lawyers who work with organizations like CALA (Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse) to bring about legislation to limit just payments to injured students and employees harmed by wrongful actions.

But at the same time, these individuals work TO KEEP UNLIMITED TAX DOLLARS FLOWING TO SCHOOL DEFENSE LAWYERS and the insurance companies who employ them.

The San Diego Union Tribune, with its usual slanted reporting, states in today's paper, "San Diego city schools spent $1.4 million on verdicts and settlements and $3.2 million on outside counsel in fiscal 2005, according to the [CALA] report. That money could have purchased 1.8 million packs of crayons."

What the San Diego Union Tribune article doesn't say:

The entire $3.2 million wasted on ouside counsel for San Diego schools could almost certainly have been saved if the $1.4 million of payouts had been spent on settlements to injured parties BEFORE the lawsuits were ever filed.

This is what the tort claims act is supposed to accomplish: to give public entities a chance to settle claims before they are filed in court.

But the insurance companies who have their hands deep into the pockets of school districts instruct schools to deny ALL tort claims.

Insurance companies want tax money to go to them, instead of students and employees who have been harmed, even though they have to violate the law to do it. This is how law firms like Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz and Parham & Rajcic obtain millions of dollars meant for kids and teachers and administrators.

How often do government attorneys falsely accuse citizens?

Click HERE to see the original post.

Freed Prisoner Reflects on His Ordeal
January 4, 2008

DALLAS - Three times during his nearly 27 years in prison, Charles Chatman went before a parole board and refused to admit he was a rapist. His steadfastness was vindicated Thursday, when a judge released him because of new DNA evidence showing he indeed wasn't.

"I'm bitter. I'm angry," Chatman told The Associated Press during his last night in jail Wednesday. "But I'm not angry or bitter to the point where I want to hurt anyone or get revenge."

...Unlike many jurisdictions, the lab used by police and prosecutors retains biological evidence, meaning DNA testing is a viable option for decades-old crimes.

District Attorney Craig Watkins also attributes the exonerations to a past culture of overly aggressive prosecutors seeking convictions at any cost. Watkins has started a program in which law students, supervised by the Innocence Project of Texas, are reviewing about 450 cases in which convicts have requested DNA testing to prove their innocence.

"It is time we stop kidding ourselves in believing that what happened in Dallas is somehow unique," said Jeff Blackburn, the founder of the Innocence Project of Texas. "What happened in Dallas is common. This is Texas."

Chatman was 20 when the victim, a young woman in her 20s, picked him from a lineup. Chatman said he lived five houses down from the victim for 13 years but never knew her.

She identified him in court as the attacker, and serology tests showed that the type of blood found at the crime scene matched that of Chatman - along with 40 percent of other black males.

Chatman said he was working at the time of the assault, an alibi supported by his sister, who was also his employer. Nevertheless, Chatman was convicted of aggravated sexual assault in 1981 and sentenced to 99 years in prison. He said his faith kept him from giving up.

Chatman said he believes his race led to his arrest and conviction. The jury, he said, had one black member.

"I was convicted because a black man committed a crime against a white woman," Chatman said. "And I was available."

Chatman said he wants to work with the Innocence Project of Texas to support other people exonerated or wrongly convicted.

"I believe that there are hundreds, and I know of two or three personally that very well could be sitting in this seat if they had the support and they had the backing that I have," Chatman said. "My No. 1 interest is trying to help people who have been in the situation I am in."

He is the 15th prisoner from Texas' Dallas County to be freed after such testing.

"I'm bitter. I'm angry," he says. "But I'm not angry or bitter to the point where I want to hurt anyone or get revenge."

AOL Poll Results

How often do you think people are convicted of crimes they didn't commit?

Frequently 66% 8,803
Rarely 34% 4,587

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Carolyn Batiste, Rudy Fernandez, Charles Adams and Greg Post remain unwilling to rise above unabashed cronyism, and defiantly refuse to testify

Here's an editorial that makes sense to me.

North County Times
January 2, 2008

"A trend has been emerging for some time now, most often witnessed within public entities...

"It's not like every dollar spent on each whim or whimper they sic the taxpayer-funded lawyers on comes out of their pocket...

"After all the excoriating media coverage, damning comments by the folks who accredit the college, and general finger-pointing by every party involved, four brazen trustees of MiraCosta College still cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the magnitude of the debacle they helped create.

"Carolyn Batiste, Rudy Fernandez, Charles Adams and Greg Post remain unwilling to rise above unabashed cronyism, and defiantly refuse to testify in a suit brought by a private citizen, which, if successful, will reverse some of the damage they've done..."

I (Maura Larkins) had the same problem with board member Patrick Judd, Superintendent Lowell Billings, and every other high-ranking witness in Chula Vista Elementary School District refusing to testify in my case.

I have a question. Which is more corrupt, the gang of four at MiraCosta College, or the gang of five in Chula Vista Elementary School District?

Bonus question: Which district has the most corrupt lawyer?

Sorry. That was a trick question. Daniel Shinoff represented both CVESD and MCC.

Readers want to know what former CVESD and WCCCSD administrator Richard T. Werlin looks like

I don't have a picture of Richard Werlin, but here is the next best thing I have to offer. I have long suspected that Mr. Werlin was separated at birth from former United Nations ambassador John Bolten.

They share the same kiss-up, kick-down personalities, and the same history of fits of anger and abuse of employees. The last time I saw Mr. Werlin, he was sporting a mustache identical to Mr. Bolton's.

More about Richard Werlin can be found HERE .

Richart used the palm-tree investigation as a pretext for eliminating administrators

Philip Ireland at the North County Times has summed up the MiraCosta College scandal:
January 2, 2008

"...[A] long list of contentious issues polarized trustees into two voting blocs.

Trustees Adams, Post, Carolyn Batiste and Rudy Fernandez formed a voting majority that backed [President Victoria] Richart.

They repeatedly blocked attempts by minority Trustees Gloria Carranza, Judy Strattan and Jacqueline Simon to discuss issues regarding the scandal, the ensuing investigation, the mounting legal costs and myriad political and moral questions that grew out of the controversy.

"Many instructors, backed by minority trustees, say Richart used the palm-tree investigation as a pretext for eliminating administrators who challenged Richart's primacy..."

I'd love to hear from you

Readers are invited to email me at:

That is:
san diego ed
(but without the spaces).

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Incompetent teachers don't get fired, but watch out if you're in someone's way

Teachers rarely get fired for incompetence. Usually the reasons are political. Readers might be surprised to know how vicously teachers and school administrators can fight when they want power.

The Office of Administrative Hearings tends to rubber stamp whatever districts ask for, especially when the judge is trying to cozy up to an administrator on the panel.

In THIS CASE, teachers and administrators in Chula Vista Elementary School District had committed crimes and were trying to cover them up.

But corrupt attorneys Mark Bresee, Daniel Shinoff and Elizabeth Schulman worked to keep those crimes covered up.

U.S. at the Bottom of Global Privacy Rankings

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

PC World
by Scott Nichols

U.S. at the Bottom of Global Privacy Rankings

Big Brother lives. And he may live a lot closer to home than you might think or want.

Human rights organization Privacy International compiled list of the best and worst countries in 2007 for citizen privacy versus government surveillance. The United States sits squarely at the bottom of that list with Privacy International classifying the country as one of the world's most "endemic surveillance societies."

Other low ranking countries include: China, Russia, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and England. Greece was the highest ranking country when it came to citizen privacy protection. Privacy International said that Greece had "adequate safeguards against abuse." No country reached the highest ranking of "significant protections and safeguards" or "consistently upholds human rights safeguards."

The US has dropped in status since last year, when it was given the marginally better label of an "extensive surveillance society."

To some the ranking of high surveillance may sound like a good thing, after all more surveillance means more security, right? However it is important to note that the US ranking is below the ranking of "systemic failure to uphold safeguards" when regarding citizen privacy. There is a trade-off at work where more security means less privacy.

As for me, I'd like to have a bit more privacy. Hopefully in 2008 the U.S. can raise its privacy standards to something above an utter failure.