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Archive for the ‘Capistrano Unified School District’ Category

My Voter Recommendations For The November 3, 2020 Election

Posted by Craig P Alexander on September 23, 2020

Each election I create my “Craig’s Pics” voter recommendations for those who would like some suggestions on how to vote.  Of course I also encourage everyone to conduct their own research and come to your own determinations.  

For the November 3, 2020 election here are my Craig’s Pics November 3, 2020 General Election. I hope you find them helpful.  

There are two other sites I recommend for voter recommendations.  One is Robyn Nordell’s Conservative California Election Website   Robyn does A LOT of research and she has recommendations for races I do not comment on.  She is also a wonderful servant and a champion of the home school movement. Robyn kindly publishes my Craig’s Pics recommendations along with other conservative’s recommendations on her Orange County page. And we do not always agree! 

The other site is Nancy’s Picks which is run by Nancy Sandoval.  Like Robyn, Nancy spends A LOT of time researching candidates and issues.  Nancy’s Picks is one of the other conservatives Robyn Nordell publishes on her Orange County page.

Whatever you do please do vote this election.  Even if you feel your vote for President will not deliver the state to President Trump, there are so, so many other down ballot races that need your vote! Congressional candidates in your area need your vote.  State Senate and Assembly candidates need your vote.  Local races need your vote.  If you do not vote, your voice will not count in your local city council races, school board races, etc., etc.  Many men and women in the military have paid the ultimate price to secure our right to choose our leaders at election time.  I highly recommend you vote this election! To find out how to register to vote in Orange County go to the Registrar of Voters web site for voter registration.  

 

Posted in 1st Supervisorial District, 29th Senate District, 37th Senate District, 38th Congressional District, 39th Congressional District, 45th Congressional District, 46th Congressional District, 47th Congressional District, 48th Congressional District, 49th Congressional District, 55th Assembly District, 65th Assembly District, 68th Assembly District, 69th Assembly District, 72nd Assembly District, 73rd Assembly District, 74th Assembly District, Aliso Viejo, Anaheim, California, Capistrano Unified School District, Costa Mesa, Dana Point, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Mission Viejo, Moulton-Niguel Water District, Municipal Water District of Orange County, North Orange County Community College District, Orange County, Orange County Board of Supervisors, Orange Unified School District, Rossmoor Community Services District, Saddleback Valley Unified School District, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, South Orange County Community College District, State Assembly, State Senate, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

OC’s Close Contests: 90.2% of Ballots Counted, D. Nguyen Within 17 Votes of Diep, Contreras Gains, Why TUSD Measure N is OC’s Closest Bond

Posted by Chris Nguyen on March 11, 2020

The OC vote count continues, with approximately 9.8% of ballots still to be counted.

After counting 25,961 ballots yesterday, the Orange County Registrar of Voters reports 76,649 ballots remain while 706,425 have been counted, which means 90.2% of OC’s 783,074 ballots have already been counted (OC voter turnout in the 2020 primary appears to have settled at 47.9%).

As OC Political noted Thursday, the Secretary of State defines “Close Contests” as those races where there is a margin of 2% or less, so we are tracking Orange County’s close contests where there is a margin of 2% or less.

Because Central Committee races are exhausting to analyze and write about (and presumably exhausting to read about), only races where a new person is in sixth place (since the top six are elected in each district) are being covered, the count resulted in no changes in any of the Central Committee races in either major party.

72nd Assembly District

In the 72nd Assembly District race for the second slot to reach the top two against former Senator Janet Nguyen (R-Fountain Valley), incumbent Tyler Diep (R-Westminster) saw his lead shrink to just a razor-thin 17 votes (0.02%) against Councilwoman Diedre Nguyen (D-Garden Grove) as late Democratic ballots continue to fuel her rise.  In all likelihood, Diedre Nguyen will overtake Diep in the next count, and Diep will become one of those rare legislative incumbents who loses re-election in the primary.

Diep’s lead has continued to fall, having previously been 291 votes (0.29%), 309 votes (0.31%), 1,050 votes (1.19%), 1,286 votes (1.54%), and 1,975 votes (2.56%).

Candidate Name Total Votes Percentage
35,199 34.38%
25,797 25.20%
25,780 25.18%
15,597 15.24%

 

1st Supervisorial District

In the 1st Supervisorial District race for the second slot to reach the runoff against incumbent Andrew Do (R-Westminster), Councilman Sergio Contreras (D-Westminster) grew his lead over Mayor Miguel Pulido (D-Santa Ana) to 1,386 votes (1.70%).

While there has been one post-Election Night count with Pulido gaining, Contreras has gained in most of those daily counts. In the prior counts, Contreras’s leads over Pulido were 1,293 votes (1.63%), 1,207 votes (1.59%), 865 votes (1.22%), 968 votes (1.47%), and 514 votes (0.82%).

Candidate Name Total Votes Percentage
35,540 43.65%
17,506 21.50%
16,120 19.80%
12,250 15.05%

 

Tustin Unified School District Measure N

Tustin Unified School District’s Measure N continues to steadily inch up ever so slightly, but it is unlikely to reach the 55% required to pass a local school bond.  In the prior count, it was 53.01% (1.99% short of 55%).

So far, 19,648 voters have cast votes on Measure N.  Assuming the 90.2% of ballots counted is uniform across the County (which certainly isn’t the case, but it’s the only number available and is better than no estimate, and doesn’t account for undervotes or overvotes), that would leave 2,135 ballots for Measure N.  If there are 2,000 ballots remaining for Tustin Unified School District, that would require 73.08% of those ballots to be in favor of the bond.  That would be an astronomically high percentage for a 2020 primary election bond.

Candidate Name Total Votes Percentage
10,442 53.15%
9,206 46.85%

Former Fullerton Elementary School District Trustee Chris Thompson (R) inquired in the comments on yesterday’s post about if there were any theories as to why Measure N got closer to passage than any other school bond in an election when all nine school bonds failed.

Tustin Unified School District had a combination of things that worked in its favor.  No other school district had all three of TUSD’s factors in favor (though obviously TUSD still fell short):

  • TUSD’s Measure N was one of only two OC bonds on the March 3 ballot that listed projects by campus (the other was Saddleback Valley Unified School District’s Measure M, though that had an overwhelming 62.75% of voters opposed, but SVUSD’s electorate is much more conservative than TUSD’s, and there was organized opposition); all other bonds listed potential projects without linking them to specific campuses or listed campuses without specific projects.  Greater specificity of projects likely helped voter confidence that there were specific items being approved, as opposed to the perception of a giant block of money being provided to the school district for miscellaneous facilities.
  • TUSD used a school facilities improvement district (SFID), which meant only 2/3 of the school district was voting on this bond, as the other 1/3 were outside the SFID.  That 1/3 were areas that already had Mello-Roos that went to schools, per TUSD’s web site on Measure N.  This presumably was to prevent voters from those areas to be upset about growing their school bills.  (TUSD is still paying off several bonds.)  While Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) proposed bonds in two separate SFIDs (Measure H opposed by 56.36% and Measure I opposed by 54.60%), TUSD has a greater degree of trust with its community while CUSD has been roiled by community mistrust with recall elections, very rigorous campaigns where incumbents have been repeatedly tossed from office, etc.  Additionally, the CUSD electorate is simply more conservative than the TUSD electorate, and there was organized opposition.  Also, CUSD had a defeated bond just four years ago while TUSD’s last bond was eight years ago, but that one was successful.
  • TUSD had no organized opposition.  Brea Olinda Unified School District’s Measure G, Capistrano Unified School District’s Measures H and I, and Saddleback Valley Unified School District’s Meausre M all had organized opposition.

Posted in 1st Supervisorial District, 72nd Assembly District, Capistrano Unified School District, Saddleback Valley Unified School District, Tustin Unified School District | 1 Comment »

BREAKING NEWS!! OC Realtors stand with taxpayers, unanimously opposing new taxes from measures I, H, M and Proposition 13 (2020).

Posted by Craig P Alexander on February 28, 2020

The Orange County Association of Realtors (OCAR) Board of Directors voted unanimously to Oppose new bond taxes in the form of Capistrano Unified School District’s Measures H & I, Saddelback Valley School District’s Measure M and the state wide bond tax of Prop. 13 (the March 2020 version – not the 1978 Prop. 13).

Here is OCAR’s press release:

Orange County REALTORS® Board of Directors Votes Unanimously to Oppose Ballot Measures H, I, and M, and Proposition 13 (2020)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: February 28, 2020

CONTACT:   Dirissy Doan, Government Affairs Director, Orange County REALTORS®
Phone: 949-586-6800 ext 119
Email: Dirissy@ocrealtors.org

Orange County REALTORS® Board of Directors Votes Unanimously to Oppose Ballot Measures H, I, and M, and Proposition 13 (2020)

The Orange County REALTORS® Board of Directors voted to oppose local school facility bonds Measures H, I, M, and the statewide school bond Proposition 13 (2020) which appear on the March 3rd primary ballot in Orange County.

Measure H was placed on the ballot by the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) Board of Trustees. If approved by the 55 percent of the voters, it would authorize the District to borrow up to $120 million to repair and modernize CUSD schools located in San Clemente and Capistrano Beach.

Measure I was placed on the ballot by the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) Board of Trustees. If approved by 55 percent of the voters, it would authorize the District to borrow up to $300 million to repair and modernize CUSD schools located in Aliso Viejo, Dana Point, and Laguna Niguel.

Measure M was placed on the ballot by the Saddleback Valley Unified School District (SVUSD) Board of Trustees. If approved by 55 percent of the voters, it would authorize the District to borrow up to $495 million to repair, improve, and modernize SVUSD schools located in the County of Orange and in Aliso Viejo, Irvine, Laguna Hills, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, and Rancho Santa Margarita.

California Proposition 13: School and College Facilities Bond (March 2020) was placed on the ballot by the California State Legislature. If approved by 55 percent of the voters, it would authorize the issuance of $15 billion in state general obligation bonds for school and college facilities, including $9 billion for preschools and K–12 schools, $4 billion for universities, and $2 billion for community colleges.

Expressing concerns about the total amount of bonded indebtedness, the amount by which payment on these new bonds will increase property taxes annually, the way in which this increase may affect housing affordability, and the amount that interest on these bonds will cost homeowners over the lifetime of the bonds, members of the Local Government Relations South Committee voted at its meeting on February 3 to recommend that the Orange County REALTORS® Board of Directors oppose all four of these items, which the Board voted to do at its regular meeting on February 26th.

Here is the link to the Press Release.

For more about the opposition to CUSD’s Measures H & I go to http://www.nocusdbonds.com or http://www.capokidsfirst.com or on Facebook to CapoKidsFirst.

For more about the opposition to Saddelback Valley’s Measure M go to Facebook at No on Measure M Tax

Craig Alexander is an attorney and a resident of Dana Point, California.

Posted in Capistrano Unified School District, Saddleback Valley Unified School District, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Voter Recommendations – A Reminder

Posted by Craig P Alexander on February 27, 2020

As March 3rd is only a few days away, I just wanted to remind voters (who have not cast a ballot yet) that there are voter recommendations by conservatives who do not get paid for their endorsements – people like Robyn Nordell and myself. And we do not always agree!

Here is the link to my prior post on this subject: Voter Recommendations.

Craig Alexander is an attorney and a Dana Point resident.

Posted in 38th Congressional District, 39th Congressional District, 45th Congressional District, 46th Congressional District, 47th Congressional District, 48th Congressional District, 49th Congressional District, Anaheim City School District, Anaheim Union High School District, Brea Olinda Unified School District, Buena Park School District, California, Capistrano Unified School District, Fountain Valley School District, Fullerton Joint Union High School District, Fullerton School District, Lowell Joint School District, Orange County Board of Education, Orange County Board of Supervisors, Saddleback Valley Unified School District, State Assembly, State Senate, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

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.

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

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: , , , , , , , | 1 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 »

Capo Unified School District’s newest Bond Tax attempts: An Expensive Bad Idea!

Posted by Craig P Alexander on January 10, 2020

For the March 3, 2020 ballot Capistrano Unified School District is pushing two bond tax measures on the voters. Measure H for San Clemente (except Talega) and Capo Beach property owners and Measure I on the rest of Dana Point, all of Laguna Niguel and Aliso Viejo owners. If passed both measures would obligate voters to pay (with interest) an additional SEVEN HUNDRED TWENTY FOUR MILLION DOLLARS ($519,000,000.00 for Measure I plus $205,000,000.00 for Measure H) on top of all of the other taxes and bond taxes we already pay.

In this article I will set forth why these bond taxes are NOT a good idea. My knowledge of this subject comes from when I ran for the CUSD Board of Trustees in 2014, being part of a group that opposed CUSD’s Measure M in 2016 and the research I and others have done regarding past and present bond tax attempts. I wish to make three points.

The first is taxes. Or I should say taxes, taxes and more taxes. California residents are already among the highest taxed in the nation.

In 2012 voters passed new “temporary taxes” (Proposition 30) promoted by the teacher unions with a promise these taxes would provide billions of dollars for the school system.  Then in 2016 the same unions and their fellow travelers were successful in passing Proposition 55 resulting in most of the Prop. 30 “temporary taxes” being extended for twelve years.

Again voters were promised this was for public education. These higher income taxes have given California the dubious distinction of having the HIGHEST state income tax rates in the nation. This is in addition to gasoline taxes (second highest in the nation then, as of July 1, 2020, the highest) (Gas Taxes), higher sales and utility taxes, higher DMV fees, etc. with most of these taxes’ deductibility being limited by Federal tax law. It is reported that the state expects a $22 billion operating surplus and to have $20.59 billion in reserves this year. (CalTax ) Voters have every right to ask – where are those tax dollars we have already paid?

CUSD mismanages its funds!

There is one bond tax CUSD would apparently like for voters to forget about – CUSD’s Measure A bond tax passed in 1999. It’s on your current property tax bill and we are still paying for this bond tax (millions are still owed).  Importantly, as part of the 1999 Measure A pitch to the voters, the District listed as reasons for that bond tax the need for asbestos removal/roof repairs/earthquake retrofitting/renovating science laboratories.  Yet for Measures H & I CUSD is still listing these same items as needing repair!  So what did CUSD do with the bond tax money from Measure A?

Why are we being asked to pay twice for the same repairs?

CUSD constantly states it has no money of its own and it is slated via this bond tax to put zero of its own funds into these projects.  Where are our tax dollars CUSD currently receives going?  Over 86% of the District’s funds are spent on salaries and benefits of adult employees of the District.  Thus over the years it does not manage our tax money wisely to plan for building upkeep and maintenance.  For example:

2018 Salary & Benefits:                Regular Salary  & Benefits           Other Pay        Total

Superintendent Kristen Vital:       $333,267.00                                  $91,999.00      $425,266.00

Deputy Supt. Clark Hampton       $241,556.00                                  $58,755.86      $300,331.86

Gov. Edmond Brown, Jr.               $192,442.68                                  $92,730.31      $285,172.99

Thus the Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent each are paid more than the Governor of the State of California!  (Source: http://www.TransparentCalifornia.com).  And in December 2019 everyone at CUSD, including the Superintendent, received raises retroactive to July 1, 2019.

CUSD is a declining enrollment District!

CUSD’s own documents (Declining Enrollment) confirm the District itself knows this. Yet it wants to use these new bond taxes to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into school building projects.   The District, at pages B-3 (Measure H) and B-3 & B-4 (Measure I) list ALL of the existing schools implying all are slated for new construction from bond taxes.  So this raises the question: Why is the District asking the taxpayers to pay for improvements to school sites it will likely need to close over the next few years?  Or is the District not planning to spend the bond tax funds on some of these schools it will be forced to close due to declining enrollment?  If this is the case what is it really planning to do with these taxpayer funds?  Voters deserve straightforward answers on what CUSD intends to do with their bond taxes before they vote to place additional 30 year tax liens on their properties.  Either the District is not planning properly or it is not being forthright with its constituents!

Residents and taxpayers deserve better stewardship of their tax dollars! They deserve transparency from their local government school Trustees and education bureaucrats.   Please vote No on Measures H & I!

For more information go to Capo Kids First! on Facebook.  Learn more by attending the combined Chamber of Commerce Forum on this subject on Wednesday, January 29, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. at the City of Laguna Niguel’s Community Room (30111 Crown Valley Pkwy, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677).

Craig Alexander is a Dana Point resident, property owner and an attorney. This post is adapted from a guest column that appears in the Dana Point Times and the San Clemente Times.

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So what did taxpayers get from CUSD’s financing of Former Trustee Lynn Hatton-Hodson’s Financial Conflict of Interest defense? Nothing! Part Two of Two.

Posted by Craig P. Alexander on August 28, 2017

In Part One we outlined how the taxpayers came to pay for Former CUSD Trustee Lynn Hatton-Hodson’s conflict of interest non-disclosure legal defense. In Part Two we find CUSD is blocking the public’s access to what the taxpayer dollars were spent for and a long list of serious unanswered questions.

Even More Taxpayer Education Dollars to The Olson Law Firm and the Blocked Entries of the Descriptions of Services

In December the Board authorized a $10,000 increase in the allowed cost for the Olson firm (for total legal fees of $25,000.00).  [12-6-16 More Money for Olson Authorization]. Then in February 2017 the FPPC closed its file.  The Olson firm did not submit another invoice to CUSD until April 30, 2017 for $937.50.  When CUSD finally disclosed this invoice in late July (after several requests by CPC) it contained the similar redactions as in the 10/31/16 invoice. [4-30-17 Olson Invoice]

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 for the legal defense of a  financial disclosure filing which is normally privately funded by the politician themselves.  Therefore it would be proper for the taxpayers to know what they received for their money.  CUSD could waive the Attorney Client Privilege and give us un-redacted invoices.  But it has refused to do so.

Just What Did the Olson Firm Do For The Money?

With all of the Olson’s firm’s billing activity as of October 31, 2016 we would expect there to be letters and e-mails going back and forth between the Olson firm and the FPPC.

But in the responses to CPC by CUSD and the FPPC not one letter or e-mail was apparently exchanged between the Olson firm and the FPPC.  Not. One. Letter. Or. E-mail. Nothing!  And none between the FPPC and the Orbach or Werksman firms either. The FPPC advised me that if they had “phone notes” of any conversations with the Olson firm, those would have been turned over in response to our Public Records Act request.  None were disclosed.

Serious Questions Remain

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

Why are there be no written communications or telephone notes of conversations between the Olson law firm and the FPPC?

Why would the Olson firm not bill the District for the time put into the case between Nov. 1st and Feb. 28th until April 30, 2017?

Just what did this Olson firm do for the $16,274.50 taxpayer’s dollars it was paid?

Are there other matters the Olson firm is being paid taxpayer money for by CUSD?   There is an investigation by the Orange County District Attorney’s office into this same matter involving Ms. Hatton-Hodson.  That District Attorney investigation is not mentioned in the 9/26/16 Olson retainer agreement with CUSD.

Is the Orbach firm working for CUSD / Hatton-Hodson on the District Attorney’s investigation?  Why else would they hire the $750 per hour Werksman firm which advertises itself as “Tenacious. Proven. Criminal Trial Attorneys“?  The Werksman firm’s total invoicing (per the records CUSD disclosed) on this matter is $13,972.50 to date.  $2,175.00 for work done in March 2017 AFTER the FPPC closed its file in February 2017.

Why would the Olson law firm retained to assist the former trustee by the District not list Trustee Hatton-Hodson as the Client rather than the District? After all the District did not fail to file the Disclosure form correctly – Lynn Hatton-Hodson apparently failed to do this.  Why were there no written waivers of the obvious potential conflict of interest in the file disclosed to CPC?

What did the Orbach firm do for CUSD that the Olson firm was not already doing after the Board of Trustees hired Olson in late September 2016?

Here is the breakdown of the taxpayer dollars spent on lawyers in the Lynn Hatton-Hodson matter to date:

Olson              $16,274.50

Orbach           $11,728.00

Werksman     $13,972.50

Total              $41,975.00

Who Received What Benefits For The Public’s $41,975.00 Tax Dollars?

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

What did CUSD and the children it is supposed to service get for this expense?  Nothing.

What did former Trustee Lynn Hatton-Hodson receive? A free taxpayer funded legal defense before the FPPC (and maybe for the District Attorney’s investigation as well).

Perhaps the real question here is 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.

Craig Alexander is an attorney who represents requestors of information under the California Public Records Act. He is also volunteer General Counsel for the California Policy Center, Inc. a policy think tank that advocates for transparency in government. He is a former candidate for CUSD’s Board of Trustees. Craig can be reached at craig@craigalexanderlaw.com.

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So what did taxpayers get from CUSD’s financing of Former Trustee Lynn Hatton-Hodson’s Financial Conflict of Interest defense? Nothing! Part One of Two

Posted by Craig P. Alexander on August 24, 2017

Former CUSD Trustee Hatton-Hodson’s Undisclosed Financial Conflicts Of Interest And The FPPC

Last fall it was discovered that elected CUSD Trustee Lynn Hatton-Hodson had an undisclosed financial conflict of interest due to her ownership interest in a vendor to Capistrano Unified School District. She apparently did not disclose this conflict in her required filing with the County known as a Form 700 (Statement of Economic Interest). A citizen made a complaint to the FPPC (the Fair Political Practices Commission) about Ms. Hatton-Hodson’s failure to disclose the obvious 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 opine that filling out a Form 700 was an official act of a Trustee and any challenge regarding the form entitles the Trustee to a taxpayer funded defense by attorneys who specialize in this field.

Trustee Hatton-Hodson’s Undisclosed Financial Conflicts of Interest and the FPPC

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.  The Board of Trustees authorized the District to spend $15,000.00 of taxpayer money to defend her.

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]. Yet they apparently defended Ms. Hatton-Hodson, not the District, before the FPPC.

Conflict of Interest – What Conflict of Interest!

The California Policy Center, Inc. sent Public Records Act requests to CUSD and the FPPC after the FPPC closed its file in this matter in late February 2017.

Most of the time a contract between a client and an attorney firm is required under Business and Professions Code section 6148.  CUSD disclosed to CPC the agreement between itself and the Olson firm. Again, oddly, this agreement identifies the District not Trustee Hatton-Hodson as the Client of the firm.  The FPPC complaint was the sole scope of work listed for the Olson firm.

In addition, an attorney is not allowed to represent clients with conflicting interests. Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 3-310.  The attorney may represent two clients where the conflict of interest between them is only a potential one.  But the attorney should obtain a written Waiver of the Potential Conflict of Interest.  Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 3-310 (c).

A potential conflict of interest is something that is very foreseeable in this situation and where the interests if the District and Ms. Hatton-Hodson could become adverse requiring the attorney to withdraw from the representation at any time.  However when we received the documents from CUSD, while the 9/26/17 Agreement was produced, no signed off letters or notices to either the District or Ms. Hatton-Hodson of the Potential Conflict of Interest for the Olson firm were disclosed.  Thus it appears no written waiver was obtained even though one Trustee apparently understood this and brought it to the attention to the Superintendent. [9-26-16 E-mail].

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

When CPC sought records under the Public Records Act the 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.  Importantly there was one invoice from the Olson firm dated October 31, 2016 for just over $15,000 – the entire amount authorized by the Board of Trustees just one half of one month earlier. [10-31-16 Olson Invoice].

But there were two other firms sending CUSD invoices for this matter: 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 acting as an expert to the Orbach firm.  The hourly rate for the Werksman firm’s senior partner is $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 for Ms. Hatton-Hodson’s defense.  We asked CUSD to give us un-redacted versions of these invoices and it refused.

In Part Two of Two – More Public Money for Attorneys, And for What?  Plus Serious Questions Remain from this Episode. 

Craig Alexander is an attorney who represents requestors of information under the California Public Records Act. He is also volunteer General Counsel for the California Policy Center, Inc. a policy think tank that advocates for transparency in government. He is a former candidate for CUSD’s Board of Trustees. Craig can be reached at craig@craigalexanderlaw.com.

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