Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Everybody but Daniel Shinoff: The North County Times stops naming MiraCosta College's lawyer

Suddenly you can't find Daniel Shinoff's name in the North County Times. Why? Because Shinoff is trying to prove that he's not a public figure so he can stop me from writing about him?

My suspicion is that Shinoff, one of the favorite sources of information for NCT, suddenly doesn't want to be mentioned by name, and the newspaper wants to stay on friendly terms with him.

Shinoff's new moniker is "the district's lawyers." He comes alone to settlement conferences and board meetings. This morning he is listed as MiraCosta College's lawyer on the San Diego Superior Court calendar (no judge listed):
North County
08:30AM Dept N-27
Ex Parte
Case number GIN058018

But like the Queen of England, Daniel Shinoff apparently prefers to refer to himself in the plural.

Other than that, North County Times is doing a terrific job reporting on education. Until now, the NCT frequently quoted Shinoff in its top-notch articles about north county schools.

The following opinion piece from NCT is typical of good reporting and opinion writing, with the omission of that once-ubiquitous name. By the way, I didn't write any of the comments, although I heartily agree with most of them.

North County Times
January 15, 2008
Click HERE to see the original article.

Slapped by karma?

By: SUNANA BATRA - For the North County Times

The new year has already ushered in some positive developments in the ongoing sordid saga at MiraCosta College.

When former MiraCosta President Victoria Munoz Richart was sued by faculty member Eileen Kraskouskas, who alleged that Richart had besmirched her reputation and forced Eileen to retire, Richart's attorney, Randy Winet, contended that Richart was well within her rights, and argued that people working in public education have to bear the "cross" of intemperate comments about their work performance.

The judge agreed, dismissing the case on the basis that she believed it to be a SLAPP, or Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation, suit, which aims to silence a group or an individual raising issues of public concern.

Fast forward a few months and, lo and behold, luck being the friend of the righteous, the judge presiding over the case brought by Leon Page against Richart and the district just happens to be the same judge, Judge Jacqueline Stern.

Imagine the dread Richart must have felt knowing the frailty of their argument, since it's the exact same argument the district successfully crushed just a few months ago. What a delicious tidbit of irony. Kraskouskas' grandstanding was no different from Richart's, Kraskouskas just didn't have free lawyers to duke it out for her.

So, what to do? Richart must get Judge Stern removed (or "papered" in fancy lawyer speak), and did, as was her right. While this sort of practice isn't illegal, it's certainly questionable. Did her lawyer "paper" Judge Stern because Stern knew that Dr. Richart, as president of the college, had previously rebutted a claim similar to the one she made when negotiating her buyout package, clearly working against her credibility? Is Mr. Winet now hoping that the new judge, Judge Thomas Nugent, never finds out about what happened in the Kraskouskas case?

You gotta love comeuppance for trying to silence people.

Wrapped only in her ambition, Richart had to know Judge Stern would point out that the queen had no clothes.

In the Kraskouskas case, she framed the suit against her as an attempt to squelch her free speech. But in striking the "do as I say, not as I do" posture, she does not believe her employers should be granted the same free speech that she enjoyed.

So, a question comes to mind: Why didn't the district's lawyers force Richart to file a lawsuit and then challenge her flimsy claims with an anti-SLAPP motion, since they beat a similar lawsuit just four months prior?

Of course, such questions are not likely to go unanswered for too long, as I'd wager that Judge Nugent is likely to compel Richart to testify soon.

But, hands down, the cherry on top has to be a comment, steeped in foreshadowing, made by Richart, in a letter addressed to her ally Charles Adams. She complains that the minority board members made a public evaluation of her by stating in public that they did not agree with the majority. She states: "This action causes me to believe that it may be in my best interest to publicly reveal all of the misconduct that has occurred at MiraCosta College prior to my arrival."

Unbelievable. Funny? Pathetic? Both? We shall see.

-- Encinitas resident Sunana Batra is a freelance columnist for the North County Times. Contact her at

Comments On This Story

Note: Comments reflect the views of readers and not necessarily those of the North County Times or its staff.

We want to know more wrote on Jan 16, 2008 7:48 AM:
When Ms Richart is questioned under oath, the public deserves to learn if the school's lawyer was representing his client, MiraCosta College, or her. If the lawyer was representing her, did he inform his client, MiraCosta College, of the conflict. To do so would have been his ethical duty.

thank you wrote on Jan 16, 2008 8:24 AM:
I appreciate the NCT for printing this commentary.

Ethical? wrote on Jan 16, 2008 9:04 AM:
One uses the word "ethical" in relationship to the lawyers for MiraCosta and/or Richart? This relationship is almost incestuous and the trustees (majority) just seem to bless everything the taxpayers' money pays for! Now the bill for defending the district against the D.A. will be added to the toll. Ethical? A joke!

angry taxpayer wrote on Jan 16, 2008 10:52 AM:
Is the faculty happy with Leon Page's lawsuit which the taxpayers must defend? This gadfly simply wants to run for office and is playing a game to advance his political ambitions. And at the taxpayers' expense.

To Angry wrote on Jan 16, 2008 11:08 AM:
You need to check your facts before you open your mouth and let the loose thoughts fly out. Mr. Page is working to save the taxpayers' money - a job the trustees (get the word trustee?) are elected to do, but at which they failed. Mr. Page will get his expenses paid - that's all. This has nothing to do with faculty as the spinners are trying to imply. This is what the public is supposed to do when the politicians try to pull the wool over the public's eyes. Put your anger toward the trustees who got us into this mess by colluding with Richart to hide the truth.

What a mess wrote on Jan 16, 2008 11:16 AM:
This whole mess has come about because of Richart's inability to fulfill her duties as a leader. She can hand out the criticism but can't take it? Oh boo hoo. Let's get the majority off the board and get some new people in there who care more about finances and education than politics!

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