OC Political

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Archive for February, 2020

Capo Unified School District’s Board of Trustees Are Happy to Spend Your Tax Dollars to Defend Themselves!

Posted by Craig P Alexander on February 18, 2020

A Failure And Breach of Trust

As residents and taxpayers prepare to vote Yes or No on CUSD’s Measure H & I’s bond taxes, we hear cries of “We have no money for maintenance and construction” from CUSD’s Trustees, Superintendent and staff. But when their spending habits are brought under a microscope they fail the test as stewards of our money. Here is a prime example of the Board putting their own interests ahead of the taxpayers and the students to the tune of $41,975.00 taxpayer dollars in attorney fees to protect one of their own!

How many leaky roofs, broken air conditioner units, ramps, etc. could have been fixed with these funds rather than going to attorneys to protect a fellow Trustee? While I realize that $41,975.00 is a drop in the $500,000,000+ budget bucket of CUSD, when the board claims they are responsible stewards of our taxpayer dollars, they need to show a history of wise stewardship. Their past actions do not show wise stewardship at all!

Former Trustee Hatton-Hodson’s Financial Misadventures and the FPPC

In the fall of 2016 it was discovered that now former elected CUSD Trustee Lynn Hatton-Hodson (she resigned on June 2, 2017) had a financial conflict of interest due to her having an ownership interest in a vendor to Capistrano Unified School District.  She apparently did not disclose this conflict in her required filing with the FPPC known as a Form 700 (Statement of Economic Interest).  A citizen made a complaint to the FPPC (the Fair Political Practices Commission) and the Orange County District Attorney’s office about Ms. Hatton-Hodson’s failure to disclose her conflict.

Normally the filling out and defending of a Form 700 is completely on the shoulders of the person who files it – whether a successful candidate for office like Ms. Hatton-Hudson or the losing candidate who is not elected to office.  In this case the CUSD Board of Trustees had an attorney who works for them opine that filling out a Form 700 was an official act of a Trustee and any challenge to that entitles the Trustee to a taxpayer funded defense by attorneys who specialize in this field.  Of course there was no opinion by that attorney about a candidate who did not get elected, but that is food for thought for another day.

The CUSD Board of Trustees to Ms. Hatton-Hodson’s Rescue With Your Tax Dollars

In September 2016, the Board of Trustees voted 6 to 0 (Ms. Hatton-Hodson did not vote) to retain the law firm of Olson, Hagel & Fishburn, LLP of Sacramento to defend their colleague before the FPPC (but not the DA’s office).  The Board of Trustees twice authorized the District to spend taxpayer dollars on this law firm to defend one of their fellow trustees.

The Olson firm was specifically requested by Ms. Hatton-Hodson in a letter addressed to CUSD’s general counsel Mr. David Huff of the law firm of Orbach, Huff, Saurez & Henderson, LLP. [Hatton-Hodson ltr to Huff].  Interestingly the fee agreement between the Olson firm and the District identified the District as the Client not Ms. Hatton-Hodson. [9-28-16 Professional Services Agreement] and amended (for more fees) on 12-6-16 12-6-16 Amendment to Olson Authorization. Yet they apparently defended Ms. Hatton-Hodson – not the District – before the FPPC.

Public Records Act requests to CUSD and the FPPC – Surprise: Three Law Firms for One Matter!

When we sought records under the Public Records Act these requests included attorney fee invoices related to the FPPC matter from CUSD.  In documents disclosed by CUSD we received invoices from not one but three law firms.

In addition to the Olson law firm, CUSD was paying invoices for this matter from the Orbach firm apparently to give legal advice that the Board could spend taxpayer funds to defend Trustee Hatton-Hodson and presumably to watch over the Olson firm.  Also billing on this matter was the law firm of Werksman, Jackson, Hathaway & Quinn apparently acting as an expert to the Orbach firm (strangely not the Olson law firm).  This is a criminal defense law firm (https://werksmanjackson.com/). The hourly rate for the Werksman firm’s senior partner: $750 per hour!  [Werksman Invoices]. All three law firm’s invoices were heavily redacted (blocked out) so that we could not read what these law firms did in Ms. Hatton-Hodson’s defense.

Here is the total of what was spent on these three sets of attorneys:

Law Firm          Amount

Olson:              $16,274.50

Orbach:           $11,728.00

Werksman:      $13,972.50

Total:              $41,975.00

As an attorney myself I understand and value the need for the attorney client communication privilege.  However in this case we have taxpayer funds being spent to defend a financial disclosure that is normally funded by the politician themselves.  Therefore the taxpayers should have a right to know what they got for their money.

CUSD could have waived this privilege and given us un-redacted invoices but it choose to not do so.

Serious Questions Remain ESPECIALLY IN Light of CUSD’s Request for our Bond Tax Dollars (Measures H & I)

So after obtaining everything in writing from CUSD (and the FPPC) that they would disclose, many serious questions remain:

What did the Orbach firm do for CUSD that the Olson firm was not already doing other than justifying an expenditure of taxpayer dollars to defend Ms. Hatton-Hodson from her own failures in filling the Form 700?

Why was an expensive criminal defense “expert law firm” hired for this matter (via the CUSD General Counsel’s office rather than the Olson law firm) adding to the cost to taxpayers for Ms. Hatton-Hodson’s failures?

What did the children and taxpayers get for this expenditure of public funds?  Apparently absolutely nothing except dollars that could have been used for repairs and maintenance in the class room are now in the possession of attorneys.  In fact, three sets of attorneys!

What did the children CUSD is supposed to serve get for these tax dollars going to attorneys?  Nothing. No roofs repaired, no AC units repaired or replaced, no ramps repaired, etc.

What did the other Trustees get for this expenditure of their constituents’ money?  Apparently the comfort of knowing that if in the future they are caught with their proverbial hands in the financial cookie jar they will have taxpayer dollars to defend their actions and mistakes as political candidates.

And the most important question for taxpayers and voters who will decide to pass or vote No on Measures H & I, in light of this, how well does the Board of Trustees do at earning our trust that they are seeking the best interests of students and taxpayers?  I would argue that this is evidence that they have failed that trust.  They should not be rewarded with more of our hard earned and already over taxed funds!

Vote No on Measures H & I. www.capokidsfirst.com and www.nocusdbonds.com

Craig Alexander is a resident of Dana Point and an attorney who represents requestors of information under the California Public Records Act.  He can be reached at craig@craigalexanderlaw.com.

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Voter Recommendations from Craig Alexander, Robyn Nordell and Other Conservatives

Posted by Craig P Alexander on February 18, 2020

If you are looking for Voter Recommendations from conservatives who research candidates, propositions and measures on the March 3, 2020 ballot they are now available.

My own “Craig’s Pics” voter recommendations are here: Craig’s Pics March 3, 2020.  For Robyn Nordell’s excellent one stop election shop (my term not hers) go to: www.robynnordell.com

At Robyn’s web site there is an Orange County section where Robyn’s recommendations and others like Kathy Dittner’s, Nancy Sandoval’s and my own are linked.  And we do not always agree on the candidates or issues! Evidence of that is we are evenly split on the race for the 73rd Assembly District.  One thing we all have in common – none of us is paid anything by any candidate, cause or issue group (or any PAC, Super PAC, etc.) for our recommendations.

One thing to note: most of the people who look for and read my voter recommendations, Robyn’s, Kathy’s and/or Nancy’s are conservatives who normally vote Republican.  This election is a Presidential Primary and President Donald J. Trump is running for re-election.  Given that he is the incumbent and it is highly unlikely he will not be the nominee for this state, it may be tempting for Republicans to sit out this election.  This is true whether you support the President or not.

Please do NOT stay home or not vote in this election.  Even if you decide to leave the ballot blank for the Presidential race, there are many, many down ballot races that need your vote.  Remember the “top two” jungle primary still applies to all other races such as Congress, Assembly, State Senate, local measures, etc.  Your vote is needed to help carry good people into other offices.  In addition there is a critical race for the Orange County Board of Education going on.  There are three seats up and all the have good conservative school choice candidates to vote for (you only get one vote if you live in that area).  They are Dr. Ken Williams (running for re-election), Jim Palmer, President of the Orange County Rescue Mission and Tim Shaw.

We also need your vote to vote NO on Proposition 13 which is a state wide bond tax (not the 1978 version) and No on local school bond tax measures like Measure M in the Saddleback Unified School District area and Measures H & I placed on the ballot by Capistrano Unified School District.  http://www.nocusdbonds.com http://www.capokidsfirst.com and http://www.facebook.com/noonmeasuremtax/

Craig Alexander is an attorney and Dana Point resident.

Posted in Capistrano Unified School District, Orange County Board of Education, Saddleback Valley Unified School District, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

California Voters Will Confront Hundreds Of Costly Bonds This Year – My Guest Commentary in the OC Register

Posted by Craig P Alexander on February 8, 2020

On February 1, 2020 the Orange County Register published this guest commentary by me in its Opinion section.  I thank the OC Register for publishing my commentary:

California voters will confront a Vesuvius of public school bond measures on the March 3, 2020 — nine of them in Orange County. In South Orange County, the Capistrano Unified School District is pushing two bonds (Measures H and I). If passed, both would obligate CUSD voters to pay $724 million in principal and interest — on top of all of the other taxes and bonds locals already pay.

Bonds are a tax. Just as homebuyers use mortgages to borrow money, governments borrow money, and repay lenders the loan amount (the principal) plus interest, often over the course of 30 years. Few ever talk about interest payments when they talk about bonds — and those interest payments can double the announced cost of the bond, sucking up money for other essential government services.

Voters throughout the state need to ask themselves whether these bonds are truly necessary and urgent, or yet another bailout for bad financial management of the state’s schools.

I’d argue it’s clearly the latter. Our problem isn’t revenue; California residents are already among the highest taxed in the nation. California has the dubious distinction of the imposing the nation’s highest state income tax rates, the second-highest gasoline taxes (we’ll be the highest on July 1, 2020), high sales and utility taxes, and even higher DMV fees. These gold medals in taxation come at the same time that the federal government has killed the deductibility of state and local taxes.

So, our problem isn’t revenue. It’s spending — or rather misspending. Consider that in 2012, California voters passed new “temporary taxes” to support schools (Proposition 30). The teachers unions that backed Prop. 30 promised these new taxes would provide billions of dollars for the school system. Prop. 30 passed, but four years later, the same unions and their allies in government were back with Proposition 55, a measure to extend for 12 years the temporary taxes first passed in Prop. 30.

Residents in CUSD can point to a similar experience. In 1999, voters there passed Measure A, a multi-million-dollar bond advertised as urgent. District schools, Measure A supporters said, were plagued by asbestos, in need of roof repairs and earthquake retrofitting and new science laboratories. Today, 20 years later, Measures H & I CUSD use these same problems as the evidence that proves the district is starved of cash.

Voters have every right to ask where all those tax dollars went. District records show that some 86 percent of its income are spent on the salaries and benefits of its employees. Some of those employees are paid remarkably well for a district that can’t manage its money. CUSD Superintendent Kirsten Vital earned $333,267 in 2018. Her deputy, Clark Hampton clocked in at $241,556. By contrast, Gov. Gavin Newsom was given a raise in December, bringing him to $210,000 annually, making him the nation’s highest paid governor. The bottom line: Each of CUSD’s top officials earns more than California’s top elected official.

Finally, it’s important to note that student enrollment in CUSD is declining. CUSD’s internal documents confirm that district officials know this. And yet they want to use new bond taxes to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into school building projects. So why is the district asking taxpayers to pay for improvements to school sites it will likely close over the next few years? Or is the district planning to spend the bond revenue on other projects?

Voters deserve straightforward answers on what CUSD intends to do with their bond taxes before they vote to place additional 30-year tax lien on their properties.
Residents and taxpayers deserve better stewardship of their tax dollars. They deserve transparency from their local government school trustees and education bureaucrats.

Craig Alexander is a Dana Point resident, property owner and an attorney. For more information go to http://www.NoCUSDBonds.com and http://www.CapoKidsFirst.com.

Posted in Capistrano Unified School District, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »