District Attorney’s Office finds insufficient evidence to warrant prosecution but will respond if CCCBOE discovers evidence of criminal wrongdoing

By Theresa Harrington tharrington@bayareanewsgroup.com

http://www.contracostatimes.com/concord/ci_27867528/clayton-valley-charter-high-district-attorneys-office-finds

CONCORD — In response to numerous complaints about the operation of Clayton Valley Charter High, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office has found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

In an April 3 letter to three people who submitted complaints, Senior Deputy District Attorney Steven Moawad said he found “insufficient evidence … to warrant criminal prosecution or additional investigation.” Complaints included alleged Brown Act open meeting law violations, fiscal mismanagement, favoritism and nepotism, failure to follow policies and bylaws, failure to unite stakeholders and meet student performance standards, mishandling of sexual harassment allegations and other concerns, Moawad said.

However, Moawad noted that the Contra Costa County Office of Education, which does have jurisdiction over the school’s charter authorization, is conducting a separate investigation and that his office would respond if that agency discovers any evidence of criminal wrongdoing. The County Office could also revoke the school’s charter if it finds wrongdoing, he noted.

Terry Koehne, spokesman for the County Office of Education, said Tuesday that the law firm DWK has invoiced $17,547 for investigative work performed at $255 an hour by two attorneys from Jan. 26 through Feb. 25. He said the investigation is ongoing.

“We’re still in the thick of it,” Koehne said. “The paperwork is voluminous, so there really is no timetable. They’re going through all of the complaints and allegations and are handling all of the records requests.”

Clayton Valley Executive Director Dave Linzey and Ted Meriam, chairman of the board of directors, said in a news release that a small group of individuals had been raising complaints for more than a year.

“It’s time to stop the political attacks and social smear campaigns,” Meriam said. “Together, we must use our positive energies to continue our school’s great achievements and move forward.” But that may be easier said than done. Besides the ongoing the County Office of Education investigation, the school is also dealing with the resignation last week of community-at-large member Jim Killoran, the establishment of a crowdsource site to “save” the school through legal actions, an unfair labor practices complaint filed by an employee whose hours were reduced, and the loss of several staff members who have resigned over the past few months.

“There’s so many things that just come one after the other,” said Pat Middendorf, one of the complainants, who was terminated from her administrative position at the school. “There are many teachers who have resigned since January.”

Jennifer Ferrari, a secretary who resigned in February and is now working in the Mt. Diablo school district, said she left in large part due to the stressful work environment at the school. If things don’t improve, she predicted that many more staff members will leave at the end of the school year.

Meriam said he was surprised by Killoran’s resignation, noting that Killoran had a philosophical disagreement with employees being board members. Currently, two teachers are on the governing board and often have to recuse themselves due to real or perceived conflicts of interest, Meriam said.

“I’m always aware the charter was founded with the idea that stakeholders would have a voice,” he said. “I think we need to honor that, but I think we perhaps need to do that better than we’re doing now.”

MORE INFORMATION To see the letter from the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office to Clayton Valley Charter High, as well as community-at-large board member Jim Killoran’s letter of resignation, visit www.contracostatimes.com/education.

A “Save CVCHS Legal Fund” crowdfunding website is at www.crowdrise.com/savecvchslegaldefensefund

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