Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fox news hammers another nail in the coffin of fair and balanced reporting: $1M gift to Republican Governors Association

News Corp. defends $1M gift to Republican Governors Association
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 17, 2010

Rupert Murdoch, who has never been shy about making his political views known, has voted with his sizable checkbook.

Murdoch's News Corp. has made a $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association, triggering swift criticism from Democrats that a contribution of that magnitude casts a shadow on his media properties, particularly Fox News.

"For a media company -- particularly one whose slogan is 'fair and balanced' -- to be injecting themselves into the outcome of races is stunning," Nathan Daschle, executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, said Tuesday. "The people owning Fox News have made a decision that they want to see Democratic governors go down to defeat. It's a jaw-dropping violation of the boundary between the media and corporate realm." ...

The NCT may have fooled some readers into thinking that a MiraCosta College mediator spoke with the authority of a judge

See MiraCosta College posts.

San Diego's retired judge David B. Moon, Jr. is not a judge, he's a mediator-for-hire. He is famous in some circles for his successful efforts to help employers get away with mistreating employees. However, when the employee in question is someone who has run an organization, and has worked closely with the lawyers for the organization, it seems that Mr. Moon does his best to get the employee an extremely good deal. In the case of MiraCosta College, a appeals court has ruled that the deal Moon got for former college president Victoria Richart was so generous that it was illegal.

Mr. Moon's statements should be given no more weight than those of any other mediator who is paid to be biased. But the North County Times, by focusing on his status as a retired judge, makes it sound like his personal opinion has some special value:

"...before the 2007 settlement, a retired judge retained by the college board found that Richart had a valid claim for damages against MiraCosta and some of its trustees worth 'in excess of $2 million'" (emphasis added).

Reporter Paul Sisson should have described Moon as a mediator, not a judge.

Across town, the San Diego Union-Tribune has broken the link to the following story it published on the same subject:

"This is Google's cache of http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2010/aug/13/judge-says-former-miracosta-president-must-repay/. It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on Aug 14, 2010 00:28:07 GMT. The current page could have changed in the meantime.

Judge says former MiraCosta president must repay $1.3 million
Friday, August 13, 2010 at 5:05 p.m.

A judge has ordered the former president of MiraCosta College to repay about $1.3 million in compensation she has received from the college district under a 2007 settlement in which she agreed to step down and waive her right to sue over employment issues.

Victoria Muñoz Richart and the district agreed to a $1.6 million settlement after the faculty cast a no-confidence vote against her over her investigation into the illegal sale of palm trees that belonged to the college.

Leon Page, an attorney who lives in Carlsbad, quickly sued, contending that state law prohibits public agencies from granting more than 18 months’ worth of salary and benefits in terminating contracts.

He lost at the trial level, but in November the 4th District Court of Appeal agreed that the deal was an unconstitutional gift of public funds and declared the settlement contract void. The appellate court sent the case back to Superior Court to sort out what to do next.

In his ruling, Judge William S. Dato said the solution is to return the parties to the status they had before the agreement was reached, ordering Richart to repay the money within 90 days and reinstating her right to pursue legal claims against the district.

“Technically, she is also relieved of her obligation to step down as president of the district, but the significance of that fact is far from clear,” Dato wrote, noting that the college has a new president (since March 2009) and that “it is unlikely Richart would want to resume the position even if the district board was willing to permit it.”

The ruling also ordered the district to withhold the approximately $300,000 remaining to be paid under the settlement.

Neither Richart nor her attorneys could be reached for comment Friday.

“This was an abusive, corrupt bargain,” Page said of the deal he torpedoed, saying his role was to stand up for the college and taxpayers “since nobody else did.”

Although he has no role in any future dealings between Richart and the Oceanside-based district, Page said, “I think now this can very easily be settled.”

He said he envisions a scenario in which Richart is able to “hold back” some of what she has been paid.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to squeeze every last penny out of Victoria,” Page said.

Michael Gibbs, an attorney for the college district, said that while there have been no discussions since Dato released his ruling Thursday, a settlement is possible.

“I am sure there will be a good-faith effort to reach a resolution,” he said.

And if that doesn’t happen, there “may well be” more litigation in the case, he said.

Friday, August 06, 2010

My apology regarding SDUT's Sign On San Diego website

San Diego Union-Tribune

I apologize for my mistake about how
the SDUT published comments. I've
erased this page, and am working on
a full explanation which I will
publish in this space. I mistakenly
thought I posted a comment on one
web page of the SDUT, but I had
actually posted my comment on
another page. I kept looking at the
first page (the one that had everyone
else's comments), waiting to see my
comment, and, of course, my
comment never appeared.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Why did the San Diego Union Tribune talk about Francisco Escobedo's other school district, but never mentioned Lowell Billings' other district?

New CVESD superintendent Francisco Escobedo

Who is in charge of the San Diego Union-Tribune's editorial policy regarding Chula Vista Elementary School District? The editor who (mis)handled the story of the "Castle Park Five" was Don Sevrens.

Once again, the SDUT fails to give the full story about Chula Vista Elementary School District. Until he was voted out of office in 2008 (and replaced by Russell Coronado), CVESD board member Patrick Judd was an employee of CVESD Superintendent Lowell Billings in another school district, The Accelerated School (TAS) in Los Angeles. At TAS, Lowell Billings was on the board that chose Patrick Judd as executive director of the school.

But here's the big difference between the two situations: Escobedo didn't personally hire Coronado. Lowell Billings, on the other hand, was personally involved in the hiring of Patrick Judd, and Judd was personally involved in hiring Lowell Billings.

The board minutes for CVESD do not indicate that Patrick Judd recused himself from voting for Lowell Billings' employment, nor does it appear that Billings recused himself from voting for Judd's employment.

See blog posts about The Accelerated School (TAS) in Los Angeles.

Shame on the San Diego Union Tribune for cherry-picking the facts it gives to readers. This story reminds me of the "Castle Park Five" story, in which the SDUT was outraged that five teachers were transferred, but never told readers that several of those teachers were deeply involved in illegal actions. The district had paid $100,000s to defend them. The teachers weren't grateful for the district's assistance in covering up their wrongdoing, however. When they were transferred, they filed a complaint against the district!

Chula Vista superintendent candidate had inside track
The president of the school board works for him at another district
San Diego Union Tribune
August 2, 2010

One candidate for superintendent of Chula Vista’s elementary school district had an inside track — one of his employees is the president of the school board.

Francisco Escobedo last week was named the sole finalist for the job, which paid its last occupant $247,000...

It wasn’t mentioned in the news release, but The Watchdog has learned that Escobedo is Coronado’s boss at the South Bay Union School District. Escobedo is assistant superintendent of educational leadership there, a post he has held since 2007. Coronado is the director of student services.

Coronado was one of two board members on a selection committee, which also included a parent, a principal, a labor representative and a taxpayer. That committee passed along three finalists to the board, which narrowed the field to one by a unanimous vote that included Coronado.

Coronado on Monday said his relationship with Escobedo at the South Bay district was not a conflict-of-interest and had no bearing on the recruitment at the Chula Vista Elementary district...

Still, Coronado said, he has decided to recuse himself from the final vote to hire a superintendent, possibly on Aug. 17, “so that there wouldn’t be any misinterpretation.”

Escobedo said he sees no conflict with applying for a job controlled in part by a subordinate.

“I wouldn’t say that is the case,” Escobedo said. “[Coronado] has two roles to play: one as the school board president when he works for Chula Vista. He does an exceptional job at differentiating what his roles are in those two positions.”

Larry Cunningham, the other board member who served on the selection committee, said the relationship between Coronado and Escobedo was “not a discussion item” but that he was aware that they worked together. Asked whether he knew that Escobedo was Coronado’s boss, he said, “I don’t know what the structure is.”

[Maura Larkins' comment: Come on, Larry. Don't be so afraid to admit the truth. If Escobedo is the superintendent, then he's the boss of every employee in the district. I wish you would start giving straight answers to questions. This evasiveness is getting to be a very bad habit.]

Jim Groth, former president of the teacher’s union for the district, said he was unaware of the connection.

“As far as my reaction to it, it’s not uncommon, but it would be proper for a board member not to vote on the process,” said Groth, now a member of the California Teachers Association board. “Everybody in leadership kind of knows everybody else in leadership. To directly supervise them though, in the state of California, I am sure it happens, but as an elected official, you need to be very careful.”

[Maura Larkins comment: But you didn't want Lowell Billings to be careful, did you, Jim? At least not regarding issues that you and he were hiding from teachers and voters, right?]

The successful candidate will replace Lowell Billings, who will retire midway through his ninth year as district superintendent in December. His salary is $247,000, although a replacement with less experience might be paid less.

At South Bay Union, Escobedo’s salary stands at $144,000, and Coronado’s is $124,000.

Escobedo, who has a doctorate in education and has worked in education for 22 years, should not be excluded from the Chula Vista job because a board member happens to work for him, Billings said.

“Do you exclude someone that you really really like because you have a history with them? He is a really good educator,” Billings said. “You have to look at the track record of the candidate that has been selected, and it is immaculate.”

Billings said there was no problem with the news release quoting Coronado praising Escobedo, without disclosing their outside relationship.

“I think you have to put it in the context of how pleased the other board members are,” Billings said. “One board member is not the board. He is not giving his sole opinion. He is voicing the consolidated opinion of the board. He doesn’t speak for himself.”...