Q: Is there more to it than that issue?
It isn't all of it. The problem is it's all in her personnel file which is private.
The thing that really is bothersome to me is she demanded a public hearing so that
the charges could be heard against her. So I show up there [at the March 31
meeting when she was released] and I told her that what we had in mind was 20
minutes for me and 20 minutes for her to present her view of the charges. And
then she acted as though she was completely caught by surprise. But she's the
one that asked for open session.
What the Brown Act says is that if there are complaints or charges to be heard
against an individual, they can be heard in closed session or in open session at the
option of the employee. She chose not to have those heard in open session despite
the fact that she asked for an open session.
I think quite frankly the community was misled by her because she wanted to have
an open session, but she didn't want to have an open session to discuss the
charges. In fact, I heard she said, "I have no idea what they're talking about." Well,
that's just not true.
[Maura Larkins comment: Quite frankly, Dan, the community is being misled by you
when you pretend that you respect and obey the Brown Act. Your clients violated this
precise section in my case.]
D. Who's Disingenuous?
Q: The board has been meeting in closed session for about six months over this,
Well, yeah. There were evaluations, there were opportunities for her to respond.
Then she had a lawyer, and there were all kinds of threats made regarding
litigation. But for her to tell the community that she didn't have a clue what the
charges were, well if that's the case, why did she ask for an open session? It's
really disingenuous as far as I'm concerned.
[Disingenuous? Surely not as disingenuous as Dan Shinoff saying
everything will come out in a lawsuit he's in charge of. (See part F
below.) Shinoff's law firm says its excuse for not producing documents in
one case is that the paralegal couldn't find Shinoff's files. Why didn't
Shinoff just TELL the paralegal the location of the critical evidence he
collected at taxpayer expense? Or get the files himself?]
Q: Which item or items in her contract did she breach?
The material breaches of her contract include not complying with the law or with
not doing your job in a manner that's consistent with your obligations as
superintendent. It's like any other employer-employee relationship. She's the CEO
and the board of directors has the right to hold that person accountable.
Q: Do you expect her to file suit?
Everybody else says she will. I'm not so sure that she will. [People] talk about how
she'll recover attorneys' fees. Well, there's no attorneys' fees provision in it. So
she needs to make this big financial investment, that's number one. Number two,
she'll go into the retirement system, and that is going to be an offset against any
damages that she can claim because you can't get a double recovery.
Cost of Keeping
The irony is that Marsha
Sutton keeps plenty of
secrets to protect Dan
Shinoff, Lora Duzyk and
the powers that be at San
Diego County Office of
as someone who
at schools. So why does she
support Dan Shinoff despite
his shameful refusal to
investigate the report of two
teachers that another teacher
was likely to come to school
and shoot everybody?
came within the same week:
the importance of reflection
By Marsha Sutton
San Diego Jewish World
April 28, 2009
It was a day the world as we
knew it ended. Schools would
never be the same. The
psychic scars on America
would be irreversible. No
parents were unaffected by the
unimaginable horror. And
children in school at the time
will forever remember the day it
Columbine, April 20, 1999. It
was the day two deranged
students at Columbine High
School in Colorado planned
and executed one of the most
cold-blooded, brutal attacks in
modern history. It’s now 10
years after the worst high
school shooting in the nation,
and the country still reels from
I refuse to name the killers,
who I believe would have
wanted nothing more than to
be remembered by name as
the doers of this despicable
Instead, we should pay tribute
to the dead – children, ages 14
to 18, each of them somebody’
s baby, shot while hiding under
desks in fear, sitting on lawns,
walking in hallways.
Cassie Bernall, Steve Curnow,
Corey DePooter, Kelly Fleming,
Matt Kechter, Daniel Mauser,
Daniel Rohrbough, Rachel
Scott, Isaiah Shoels, John
Tomlin, Lauren Townsend,
Kyle Velasquez and teacher
Painful as it is to look back and
be reminded of the day,
forgetting – something we all
want to do at moments when
life’s twists and turns become
unfathomable – dishonors their
memory and reduces their lives
to a footnote in one of the
darkest hours of our time.
People talk about the lessons
of Columbine, and perhaps
this is one of the most
important: Carnage of this
magnitude shattered the
illusion that parents can protect
their children from all
conceivable risks. We suddenly
learned that our schools can’t
guarantee our children’s safety
– and classmates can turn
We learned to live with the fear
we tried to hide, as we watched
our children head off to school
each day thereafter. We began
to ask more questions of our
kids, to listen carefully when
they shared their thoughts, to
pay closer attention to their
friends, to be alert to
conversations during carpool
Protecting ourselves from
constant worry became the
new challenge, as we
struggled to find a way to
balance the need for
awareness of potential
dangers with freedom from
But in the time that police at
Columbine waited for the
SWAT team to assemble, 10 of
the 13 victims were murdered.
Today, a more aggressive
“active shooter” training
procedure has replaced the
more controlled approach that
police had been trained to
practice before and at
Worse yet, the National Rifle
Association, under the
leadership of then president
Charlton Heston, displayed a
remarkable lack of sensitivity
when the group decided to
continue with its scheduled
convention in Denver – just
miles from Littleton, Colorado,
where the Columbine
shootings had just taken place
one week earlier.
There were unanswered
questions about how teenage
killers are created.
Desensitized to violence
through music and video
games? Bullied repeatedly into
a permanent state of rage?
[See Daniel Shinoff's actions
after two students were shot
dead at Santana High School
in San Diego area.]
An abusive home life? Mentally
ill from the start? Theories
were debated and disputed,
and offered little comfort or
reassurance for parents...
Schools learned how to help
students finger, with immunity,
troubled classmates and to
report sinister conversations
overheard in hallways and
[Maura Larkins comment: But
if the schools, deterred by
lawyers like Daniel Shinoff,
fail to fully investigate reports,
then they really haven't
improved much, have they?]
Educators now practice lock-
down drills, pay more attention
to their students’ dark
moments, offer anti-bully
awareness and prevention
training, and make school
safety one of their top priorities.
And we all learned that the
disgraceful catchphrase “from
my cold, dead hands” carries
more power than sensible
restrictions on access to guns.
One day after the 10th
anniversary of the Columbine
killings this week was Yom
Remembrance Day, which fell
on Tuesday, April 21.
On this day, we remember the
six million Jews who perished
at the hands of the Nazis
during World War II. I’d list all
their names if I had the space.
As the survivors of the German
death camps age and their
numbers dwindle, there is a
sense of urgency in the stories
they tell – a panic that all will be
forgotten once the last survivor’
s voice has been silenced.
Why is it important to recall
these bleak, depressing
chapters in our history? Why
are we obligated to look back in
horror and remember the
insanity of soulless madmen?
“Never again” is of course one
reason. Education and
awareness stimulate empathy
and generate outrage, which
help prevent future atrocities.
But it seems to me there’s
another, perhaps more
Without a collective memory,
the fear is that our children and
children’s children will no
longer comprehend the human
capacity for evil. And without
that understanding, delivered
on a level that kicks you in the
gut, we can’t fully appreciate
humanity’s infinite capacity for
love, joy and beauty...
[Maura Larkins comment: I
agree with Marsha on this. It
is important to be aware of
how things have gone wrong
so that we can recognize the
process and nip it in the bud.]
The preceding was published
previously in the Carmel Valley
News, for which Marsha Sutton
is an education specialist.
intend to step
with this story
Marsha Sutton, education
writer at SDNN, has
uncovered what school
attorney Dan Shinoff would
consider a vile outrage: an
educator asked children to
draw analogies between the
Holocaust and events that
happen in their schools.
Stars come out
at Gompers gala
By Marsha Sutton, SDNN
Thursday, April 15, 2010
...;[Katie Strom] also teaches
students about the Holocaust
during World War II.
“They haven’t ever had it
before,” she said. “I always do
lessons about the Holocaust
because I want them to
She said she lets the
students wander in smaller
groups in other museums,
but she has them stay
together in the Holocaust
“In the Holocaust Museum I
actually make them go
through with me and we stop
at each place and I explain to
them what’s going on,” she
said. “We look through the
readings together and I take
questions from them, just so
they really get the whole
She said they talk at length
about the quotes on the walls.
“For example, one of my
favorite quotes is: ‘Don’t be a
victim. Don’t be a perpetrator.
But above all don’t be a
bystander.’ And then I talk to
kids: ‘What does that mean to
you, and how can you connect
that to what happens at your
school on a daily basis?’”...
Another Marsha Sutton interview, this
time with DMUSD trustee Steven
[This is how a reporter should conduct an interview. Contrast
this with the Shinoff interview. Or perhaps winning through
intimidation is the plan of the board majority, and Marsha
Sutton is trying to help them out.]
A conversation with DMUSD trustee McDowell
Apr 15, 2010
By Marsha Sutton
An interview on April 12 with Del Mar Union School District trustee Steven
McDowell, who abstained on the motion to fire former DMUSD superintendent
Sharon McClain at the March 31 school board meeting...
Q: Why did you abstain?
McDowell: I haven't articulated yet an answer to that. I don't have a good answer for
Q: Did you not think she violated her contract?
Based upon what we received from legal, I guess there was grounds that she
violated her contract. But it was a two-part motion - whether or not that was in
place and whether or not it was in the best interest of the community and the
board to terminate her.
Q: Did the motion ask for two votes?
It was just one vote.
Q: What was your thinking?
I was not prepared for the principals standing up and applauding Sharon. That
just took me back. There was a part of the relationship that I personally had not
looked into enough.
We said that we would support Comischell [Rodriguez] as the president of the
board. And I've always tried to support the president of the board. In terms of the
relationship to the superintendent, the person I look to is the current president
because they're the ones that have to have the most dialogue, the most
relationship with the superintendent. And to the extent that's not working or is
working, that is a factor in votes like that to me.
So Comischell's vote had a factor, because we weighed the votes of the other
board members. But it wasn't enough for me to say I'm also going to do that. That
put me kind of in a stalemate.
And you know everyone puts us as a group of three. And ... I have different views
on this stuff [than fellow trustees Annette Easton and Katherine White]. So part of it
was trying to set me off from them. So that was a little bit of it, even though it
probably shouldn't be.
It was mostly I was trying to take into consideration the perspective of the board
president, trying to take into what I felt was more of a community and
administrative staff reaction which I wasn't prepared for, and also trying to balance
whether or not it really was in the best interest of the community do it right at that
point in time.
Q: Did the meeting change your mind? You just told me that you agree with the
attorney that she may have breached her contract. But then the fact that
Comischell may have changed her mind and the fact that you had all these people
at the meeting influenced you then?
Q: Does a 3-1-1 vote put the district in greater jeopardy?
I don't think it will because our understanding is ... that it was contractual. ... It
should not be an emotional issue. It will be a much more clear-cut case in terms
of whether or not she violated the contract. ... They shouldn't necessarily be
weighing the vote.
If I had to get up in court, I would say probably the same thing which is there were
two different things - whether or not she violated the contract ... and whether or not
we should let her go.
Q: You mean whether it was right to fire her at this time?
That one I wasn't as sure about.
Who as board people are we looking out for? You look out for your community, you
look out for your administrative staff.
Q: Would the vote have turned out differently if it had been taken in closed
Q: Would you have changed your vote?
More likely I might have changed my vote if I was asked [to be] the first one to vote
and not the last one.
Q: The first one ... meaning?
To cast a vote. Then, as I said, I took in the factor of what the president's vote was
because they have the closest relationship with the superintendent.
Q: Were you surprised to learn that Comischell Rodriguez voted against firing her?
I was surprised [because the item] was agendized. You don't put things on the
agenda unless you're ready to vote on it. [I assumed] she was ready to vote on it
and she wanted to bring it forward.
Children will be impacted
Del Mar Times
Dear Del Mar Union School District board
I was at the Del Mar Union School District board
meeting March 31, but decided not to speak.
There were so many people who shared my
feelings I figured I would let them speak for me.
Now I regret not speaking because there is so
much I have to say. First of all, I would like to put it
simply to the board members: Garbage rolls
downhill. You - yes, you and your personal
vendettas, political ambitions, and inability to work
effectively as a team are up there at the top.
You have made a decision and just sent the
garbage rolling downhill to:
And, most importantly, to our children! Our children
are the ones who will be impacted the most by
this mess that you have created. And that is so
sad and so unfair to them. I can only hope that
now that you have decided to let Dr. McClain go,
you will put every effort into moving on and
seriously improving our district. The morale out
there is so bad, you have a lot of work to do. Good
luck with that.
Carmel Del Mar parent and PTA board member
A parent did Marsha Sutton's job, requesting
public records. (Notice that Marsha Sutton isn't
the reporter here.)
Some parents unite to
protect McClain's job
Del Mar Times
Feb 4, 2010
By Lee Schoenbart
Del Mar Union School District Superintendent
Sharon McClain should not be fired. That is the
message a group of parents in the Del Mar Union
School District say they are trying to make sure the
district board hears loud and clear.
Some parents and teachers contend that the board
is trying to replace the second superintendent in
less than two years during a time of great financial
crisis and uncertainty throughout the district. They
say trustees are vigorously pursuing an expensive,
single-minded agenda to terminate McClain over
The board's actions are being fought
on three fronts with a parent group
led by Kerry Traylor of Del Mar Hills,
another by Carmel Valley resident
Jill Steiner and the Del Mar
California Teachers Association.
Steiner, who has researched what the district has
paid in legal fees and to terminate former
superintendent Tom Bishop, contended the
incident was blown out of proportion over a
disciplinary action after a Sycamore Ridge mother
vehemently objected to the principal ordering a
one-day suspension of her child.
"We signed a declaration standing behind Dr.
McClain and we all went to the board on Dec. 16,"
stated Cassie Brunker, a kindergartner teacher at
Carmel Del Mar School who has been with the
district since 1990. "Instead of having 50 of us say
something, we had (CTA president) David Skinner
make the presentation and we all stood up at the
McClain was not fired at that time.
Asked to comment on whether the board is still
considering dismissing the superintendent, former
board president Katherine White declined to
comment, citing employer-employee
Steiner said she believes the board has spent an
irresponsible amount of money on legal costs
related to the possible termination of McClain.
"I decided to do some research because I knew
there was something wrong," she said. "I made
a PRA (Public Records Act) request
for the attorney's bills involved in
this effort to terminate the
superintendent and it turned out
they had been trying to terminate her
since July 2008. I don't think
anybody knew about it.
"They had been trying to terminate her, spending
all this money on the heels of having bought out
(former superintendent) Tom Bishop. We haven't
finished paying off Tom Bishop the over $300,000
that we bought him out for," Steiner said. "I was
infuriated when I researched it and found they
(the board) have spent almost $30,000 of our
money, district money intended for the
instruction of our children, on lawyers, to get rid
Since the Dec. 16 meeting, new board president
Comischell Rodriguez, who would also not
comment on the specifics of McClain's
employment status, said, "We've actually made
progress and I can tell you that Sharon and I share
a very good working relationship."
McClain said: "The board and I don't always see
eye to eye and we have had disagreements, but
what I want to do is put it behind me and move
Steiner said she would continue her grassroots
effort for parents to support the superintendent.
To learn more about the two parent groups
seeking support for McClain, go to
www.facebook.com and search for the "Parents In
Support of Superintendent Sharon McClain" page.
"We are telling parents to be vigilant," she said.
"Look on the agendas of the meetings every week,
and if termination of Dr. Sharon McClain is on the
agenda, we're going to try to call everyone we know
to show up at those meetings just like we did in
December to oppose this."
"I was the one who rallied the troops for the Dec. 16
meeting when Sharon was about to be fired," said
Traylor, whose children are in the first and sixth
grades at Del Mar Hills. "Through working with
Vanessa Black, our PTA president at The Hills, we
contacted all the PTA (leaders) in the seven other
schools and made sure there were a couple
hundred people at the meeting to speak out
against firing Sharon McClain."
Steiner, the mother of a fifth-grader at Carmel Del
Mar and a member of the PTA, said, "Out of the
clear blue, last December, they were talking about
the termination of the superintendent and I couldn't
believe it. I was astonished. It was on the agenda
that they were trying to terminate her for a minor
G. WAS SHINOFF GIVEN A DIRECTIVE TO
Q: Were you hired with the directive to fire her?
[Maura Larkins comment: Another ridiculous question. That's not how they would say it. He
wouldn't say YES even if someone had indeed told him he'd get a special bonus for finding a
way to fire her. He would keep it quiet as "attorney client privilege," which he has even cited
as an excuse for refusing to release public records.
You really don't want the public to know the truth, do you? While all the other reporters are
busy making public record requests, you're trying to convince the public that Sharon McClain
violated the law by obeying the Public Records Act.]
No, I was never given a directive to fire her. They were frustrated in terms of
superintendent-board relations, they were concerned about how things were going, and
they wanted to get legal counsel on it.
[Wanted legal counsel on "it"? "It" sure does sound like firing her.]
Q: You would have advised them if they didn't have grounds to fire her?
[Yeah, right. Dan Shinoff tells officials what they want to hear. He makes it happen for them.
If he'd told them in the beginning that they couldn't fire her, he'd be about $30,000 poorer
Q: Did all five board members appear to understand that she violated her contract?Were
they all behind this?
That's getting into how they think and how they deliberate and what they said in closed
session, and I really can't say that.
[Again, Marsha, this question was so loaded even Shinoff didn’t answer it. And it assumes that
McClain violated her contract.]
Q: Were you surprised that one person abstained and one person voted against?
I'm never surprised when it comes to voting because I think that it's really easy to take a
position that you feel comfortable with at one time and then facing an angry crowd is a
difficult thing to do. So whether you vote in favor or against, it's a very, very difficult thing
to do. And quite frankly, I think it scares away good people from getting involved in public
service. That crowd was very angry. It's always easier to do things without an angry
crowd, that's for sure. I think that everybody did their level best.
[This is the type of thing board members pay Shinoff to say. He works for them, not the
Q: Does a 3-1-1 vote strengthen McClain's case in a way a 5-0 would not have?[via e-mail]
Not at all. The number is irrelevant in a court of law. Although that is different than the
court of public opinion.
After speaking with the attorney, I requested the exact wording of the motion to fire
McClain, took another look at her contract and called board president Comischell
Rodriguez for further explanation on the STRS issue...
The contract specifies seven definitions of "serious misconduct," including conviction of
a crime, acts of moral turpitude, willful malfeasance or gross negligence, fraud or
embezzlement or theft, failure or refusal to perform her duties or obligations, refusal to
obey governmental laws and regulations, and unsatisfactory performance after being
given a reasonable time to rectify deficiencies.
[McClain was a typical superintendent, no better, no worse than average. Shinoff has
supported officials who were much worse than McClain.]
The STRS clause, item 8-E in the contract, reads in part as follows: "... the board shall
provide the superintendent retirement contributions in the amount of sixteen thousand
dollars ($16,000). At her discretion, the superintendent may elect to use the retirement
contribution payment to offset her employee contribution to the State Teacher Retirement
System or to fund a tax-sheltered annuity, or some combination thereof. ..."
The STRS issue, which was eventually discussed in open session at a recent board
meeting, was a bone of contention between McClain and the board since last summer.
"I know that she had requested that her STRS contribution be changed at no cost to the
district," Rodriguez said.
[That sure doesn’t sound like anything wrong.]
McClain had asked the district to pay the $16,000 directly to her and she would then
contribute to STRS. This would not cost the district any more money but would allow her
to receive a higher pension.
This, McClain claimed months ago, was agreed to by the board last summer, although
there appears to be nothing official in writing.
[Shame on the board for not being forthcoming with the truth about this. It’s typical of Shinoff
to try to pretend something didn’t happen when it did.]
"It was a year ago when the board agreed in open session, unanimously agreed, to allow
her to modify the way her retirement was paid at no cost to the district," Rodriguez said.
The board, however, stipulated that STRS would have to agree to the arrangement first…
When I asked Rodriguez if STRS rejected the plan, she said, "I believe so, yes."
…When asked why she voted against releasing McClain, even though it appeared
outwardly until the March 31 meeting that all five trustees were aligned on this issue,
Rodriguez would not comment.
"I've been advised not to make comment on that question by our attorney," she said. "I
stand behind my vote, but I'm not going to comment on it."…
[Maura Larkins comment: Stutz law firm scares people into keeping things quiet. That’s
certainly what happened at CVESD. He was defending wrongdoing committed by politically-
connected teachers--and so was the teachers union.]
The Del Mar Schools Teachers Union:
Comment on CTA website
The message on the Web site of the Del Mar California Teachers' Association echoes
[The message posted on the teachers union site was written by the district.]
"Each member of this board takes his or her responsibility very seriously," the DMCTA
message reads. "It is our desire that we ensure a smooth transition for a new
superintendent. We truly believe that threats of retribution and litigation do very little to unify
our community. The board has had to make a very difficult decision. Each board member
agonized over making the decision, but it has been made, and now we are moving forward
as a united board that is committed to providing a rigorous, inspiring and nurturing
educational program for all our students."
[Maura Larkins comment: the process should be transparent, especially if the
superintendent is willing to have it discussed. And CTA saying that threats of retribution
and litigation do very little”? Pure hypocrisy. CTA’s head counsel Beverly Tucker asked
several California district attorneys, including San Diego’s Bonnie Dumanis, to prosecute
teachers for sending emails opposing CTA. CTA is constantly suing school districts
when politically-connected teachers are fired. And Stutz law firm is even worse. They
went after the City of Chula Vista for firing Laurie Madigan, who had stayed home from
work because she was afraid she might get sick due to the stress of an investigation of
her actions. And then they went after Tri-City Hospital for firing Art Gonzales and pals.]
Maura Larkins, gadfly
to school attorneys,
Interview #1: School attorney Dan
Shinoff interviewed by Marsha Sutton
(For an opposing view, see April 26, 2010 demand for retraction sent to Daniel
Shinoff by McClain attorney.)
An interview about what led up to the March 31, 2010 firing of former DMUSD
Superintendent Sharon McClain.
When Marsha Sutton's agenda is to
protect specific people in the school
system, then her ability to report
accurately is threatened. Since she has
publicly embarked on a campaign to
misinform the public and hide facts about
Daniel Shinoff, SDCOE and Del Mar
Union School District, it's time for
Marsha Sutton to give herself a title
other than education reporter. How
about "Daniel Shinoff mouthpiece"?
I would have loved to have been a fly on
the wall when board members talked to
Shinoff about what they DID want him to
E. Keeping public records hidden from
Marsha Sutton shows her
biases in two interviews
(see below for second
interview). One is a love
fest, the other isn't. See if
you can tell which is which.
The problem is, Marsha, that voters don't know
the truth about what board members have
been up to behind closed doors.
Shinoff makes it clear that he would have
advised the district NOT to release his billing
records, using the excuse of attorney-client
privilege. And the board clearly agrees with
him. They want to keep secret their
expenditure of $30,000 for a lawyer to advise
them on how to achieve their goals regarding
the superintendent. I think you'd have a hard
time finding a judge to agree with Shinoff's
claim. McClain did not violate the law, she
And the secrecy of the board makes elections
almost useless. Voters simply do not know the
truth about their elected school officials. The
plan of most school trustees is to maintain an
appearance of smooth functioning at the
district and sail to victory as an incumbent.
But the law says the public has a right to see
I'll bet that parent Jill Steiner showed you the
billing invoices she obtained through a Public
Records request. I'll bet that you refused to
publish the information. You had an obligation
to do so in the interest of honest journalism. If
you're going to cover Del Mar Schools, and you
get public records about a pertinent issue, you
need to reveal it. Kudos to Lee Schoenbart for
journalistic ethics and support for democracy.
You are part of the problem of uninformed
It's a little early to be announcing November
election results, isn't it, Marsha?
You don't have a crystal ball. We don't even
know for sure who is going to run, much less
who is going to win. You seem to get off on
simply fabricating "facts" to dishonestly
influence the public's choice of
It turns out they'd been trying to
terminate Sharon McClain since July
2008. I'll bet you knew about this,
Marsha. It throws your article about
the grievance against McClain into a
whole new light. That grievance
described behavior that is completely
typical of superintendents, behavior
that Shinoff has supported time and
The Irony Is Killing
Let's look at what Marsha Sutton
had to say about releasing public
"To judge for ourselves
whether concerns are valid,
let the sun shine. The school
board needs to release its
audit in its simplest form - free
from interpretation even by
the ... attorney who, given the
challenging tone of his
correspondence ... reveals a
clear bias and may lack
Shining a Light in Dark Corners
April 19, 2006
By MARSHA SUTTON,
Voice of San Diego Education Writer
The Irony Is Killng Me
In June 2006 Marsha Sutton wrote a two-part
article about how much money schools get and
what they spent it on. She promised to answer
"How much money is allocated for particular
programs, including arts, music, P.E. and
I wrote to her and asked why she didn't ask
how much money went to lawyers.
That's clearly a subject she considers none of
the public's business.
She suggests in her interview with Shinoff that
IT WAS AGAINST THE LAW FOR SHARON
MCCLAIN TO RELEASE THIS INFORMATION. In
fact, the California Public Records Act requires
that schools release this information.
Fat Times for Education
by Marsha Sutton
Voice of San Diego
Why are Shinoff and Sutton
upset that public records
Contents of this column:
A. Maura Larkins Introduction
B. The irony is killing me
C. Brown Act
D. Everything Will Come Out?
E. Keeping public records hidden
from the public
(including Lee Shoenbart article)
F. Children will be impacted most
Interview #1: School attorney Dan Shinoff
A. Marsha's Introduction
B. STRS contribution
C. Brown Act
D. Who's Disingenuous?
E. Keeping public records hidden from the public
F. Everything will come out in a lawsuit? (See red area below.)
G. Was Shinoff given a directive to fire McClain?
Interview #2 A conversation with DMUSD trustee McDowell
A. Marsha Sutton writes:
"...Board members who voted [Sharon McClain] out would, we can assume,
like nothing more than to share every detail of their reasoning but are
restrained, according to their lawyer, by the law which prohibits them from
disclosing any personnel matter."
[Maura Larkins comment: No, Marsha, we can not assume this.
School boards usually try to keep their reasoning secret, along with
factual information and documents in their possession. When is the
last time you heard of a school board member agreeing to be
deposed for a lawsuit? You are making totally unwarranted
assumptions here. My guess is that the last thing the board wants
(or plans) is for the whole story to come out.
UPDATE: I turned out to be exactly right about this.]
"McClain has them at a disadvantage, as she can speak as she likes,
knowing there can be no response from the other side. In the conversation
related here, an interesting point is that the board's attorney, Dan Shinoff of
the law firm Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz, said all personnel information
would be revealed if McClain chooses to file suit."
[That would be a first. Have you ever looked at the piles of protective
orders filed by Shinoff in school lawsuits?
Dan Shinoff refuses to produce information for court cases, keeping
documents secure from the opposition, and fights against
depositions. I’ll bet the same thing will happen if and when Sharon
McClain sues. I’m still waiting to see documents Dan Shinoff
personally collected at Castle Park Elementary School in 2001. These
documents were subpoenaed by me for the defamation lawsuit
against me by Shinoff's law firm, but Shinoff never produced them.
So much for the full story coming out. Click HERE to read the
explanation of Shinoff’s partner Ray Artiano for why he didn’t produce
the documents. Why do you keep repeating this claim that the full
story would come out, Marsha? I'm sure Stutz law firm thinks it is
terribly sweet of you to say this, but members of the public who want
to be accurately informed may not agree.]
"So either all the sordid details eventually get disclosed through costly court
proceedings, or McClain refrains from suing and the district saves money but
the community remains in the dark."
[I disagree with Marsha. It might save money in the long run if the
truth were exposed in court in a lawsuit by McClain and the system
were changed. Del Mar apparently learned nothing from MiraCosta
College’s bad experience with Shinoff.]
"One issue that clearly troubled the lawyer is that McClain had asked for an
open session on March 31, which is her right, and he came prepared to
present the board's case. But then she changed her mind before the start of
the meeting, perhaps not realizing that an open session meant a public airing
of the charges against her, not just the vote. "In a follow-up e-mail on this
issue, Shinoff wrote, 'She chose not to address the charges in open session.
... Sharon wanted the public comment, not a defense of the charges.
Completely contrary to her request.'"
[I asked for an open session when CVESD fired me for not coming to
work when I was harassed by a small group of teachers with
connections to the union. (See Castle Park Elementary.] I told the
district I would be happy to return to work as soon as there was an
investigation into actions committed by Robin Donlan and Linda
Watson against me. Shinoff was in charge of my case; he apparently
assured the board that they could get away with denying me an open
session. And he was right.]
"Another point: One clear-thinker posted in a blog that the anger against the
firing of McClain may have to do more with displeasure with the school
board than any love for the former superintendent. It's important to
separate the two. Many observers, myself included, have expressed
profound disappointment over the way this board has functioned since
2006...Just because people may believe school board members have not
served the district well does not necessarily mean they made a mistake in
this instance. ..
"Finally, energy spent demanding the resignations of board members in the
spring of an election year, when a new group of three will surely be elected
come November, seems pointless. Yes, stay vigilant, but would it not be
better to focus on who will replace them rather than continuing to vocalize
displeasure? I think we can safely assume that this message of
dissatisfaction has already come through loud and clear."
[I think a lawsuit would be a great opportunity for the board to
answer to the public. They sure don't answer to the public during
election campaigns or during their closed sessions.]
Interview of Dan Shinoff by Marsha Sutton
B. STRS contribution
Q: What led up to the firing?
Shinoff: They did an evaluation with their concerns and she did a response
and they weren't happy with the response. Then she retained an attorney,
and then the big issue as you know from open session became, at least for
her, the $16,000 issue, which there is no paperwork to support a change in
[Maura Larkins comment: The Ghost of Omero Suarez hovers over
Stutz law firm. This is hilarious when you consider that Stutz law firm
was involving in KEEPING Omero Suarez in office at Grossmont
Cuyamaca after he changed his contract.]
Q: You are talking about the STRS [California's State Teachers' Retirement
Yes, the STRS contribution. But she didn't want that as STRS contribution.
She wanted that as salary. But there was nothing that indicated that there
was action taken to increase her salary. In fact quite to the contrary, the
action appeared to support some sort of contribution to a 403(b) or a 457
retirement plan. So that became a huge stumbling block.
[Or someone decided to make it into a stumbling block, right, Dan?
This isn’t something Stutz law firm couldn’t finesse.]
Q: Didn't the board initially agreed to it?
The board did agree to a contribution to her retirement plan, but apparently
that's not what she wanted. She wanted an increase in salary. So she went
in September ... to see if she could do that, and STRS said no. But that
wasn't what the board had in mind in any event.
[Maura Larkins comment: This sounds like splitting hairs. Again,
compare to the egregious and secret action of Omero Suarez.]
So that became a big problem, and she retained an attorney, and everything
became predicated upon the board capitulating to this demand for a salary
increase which had never been agreed to. And it further exacerbated a
A. Maura Larkins'
Both interviewer and
interviewee try to justify the
withholding of public records
and other questionable
Marsha Sutton seems to have kept her fingers
firmly planted in her ears whenever anyone
mentioned MiraCosta College over the past few
years. She seems not to know that Mr. Shinoff
never oversaw an investigation at MiraCosta
that ended up uncovering the theft of $305
worth of water for palm trees, and cost the
college $3 million and counting. ( Mr. Shinoff
recently lost MiraCosta's Supreme Court
appeal regarding the Court of Appeal decision
that the $1.6 million settlement Shinoff
pressured the MiraCosta board to give to
Victoria Richart was illegal.
Here's an idea for how to save money in
schools: get rid of lawyers who foment
problems so they'll get more billable hours,
whose agenda is to help individuals stay in
their positions instead of helping the public get
a good school system.
There’s one thing I learned from reading the
interview below: Marsha Sutton is trying hard
to convince the citizens of Del Mar that school
attorney Dan Shinoff never makes a mistake.
Sutton has clearly tied her own credibility to
that of lawyer Dan Shinoff. [Note to Marsha:
lawyers are frequently paid to lie, but that's not
what you're paid to do. Are you sure this is
how you want to present yourself?]
Dan Shinoff granting an interview to Marsha
Sutton is sort of like Sarah Palin granting an
interview to Glenn Beck: more like inviting a
friend over to give you a back rub than allowing
a sleuth to try to ferret the truth out of you. I
worry that readers run the risk of becoming
misinformed by Marsha and Dan's cooperative
endeavor to promulgate Shinoff's point of view.
C. Brown Act
Contents of this column:
Why does Marsha Sutton have such an air of desperation in her attempts
to justify the dismissal of Sharon McClain? And to prevent the recall of
DMUSD board members? It's as if she were involved in the decision-
making. She certainly seems to be close to those involved. Did she give
advice to one or more board members? Does she worry that her advice
caused trouble for the board member(s)? How did she get close to
Shinoff? Did it happen before or after she got close to the board member?
Here's a comment [by someone other than Maura Larkins] to Marsha from
San Diego News Network:
Comment by: Observer Posted: May 5, 2010, 5:47 pm
Amazing – you must be the only person who has ever used the
words “highly regarded” and “Daniel Shinoff” in the same
sentence. Suggest you look at the recent case at Miracosta College
where citizen attorney Leon Page ran intellectual circles around the
“highly regarded” Shinoff. The Appellate court and Supreme Court
agreed with Mr. Page. A careful read of the Appellate Court’s
findings suggest they saw right through the highly questionable
behavior of Shinoff.
Here's another comment [by someone other than Maura Larkins] on
Marsha Sutton's journalism:
Comment by: Journalism Posted: May 16, 2010, 11:42 pm
To Ms. Sutton,
not surprisingly I find this quote the most interesting:
“I stand by my interpretation of the resolution.”
this is suppose to be an informative article meaning its not about
what you THINK it is or what your “INTERPRETATION” is (come on
that’s journalism 101).
if you want to be a just and professional journalist get your facts
straight.how are we suppose to trust you as a journalist if you don’t
have the right facts?
do it right or don’t do it at all.
D. Everything Will
Come Out in a
...Q: Can you be more specific on the ways she
may have violated her contract?
Shinoff: No, I can't. If she chooses to go public
with her lawsuit, then it's all on the table.
Q: If she decides to sue?
Shinoff: Then everything is wide open...
Everything Will Come Out in a
Not likely--unless Dan Shinoff
improves his fiing system.
Stutz law firm says that the
paralegal can't find critical
documents Shinoff collected
at taxpayers expense for
Chula Vista Elementary
School District. Will she be
able to find documents if and
when Sharon McClain
sues??? Or will Shinoff deign
to look for them himself?
On April 7, 2010, it seems that Dan Shinoff
was keeping a low profile. He had Jeanne
Blumenfeld act as his firm's contact person
on this case.
Attorney: Board is now moving forward
Apr 7, 2010
By Karen Billing
Del Mar Times
Del Mar trustees still won't comment on
After former Del Mar Union School District
Superintendent Sharon McClain's ouster
on March 31, many parents are left
wondering if more specific reasons for her
dismissal could be revealed. The short
answer is "no."
"Unfortunately, the board cannot comment
at this point because it is a personnel
matter," said Jeanne Blumenfeld,
attorney with Stutz Artiano Shinoff &
Holtz, the firm that represents the
While the board can't talk, Blumenfeld said
that McClain has a right to discuss
employment matters. She said McClain's
claims that she was not given prior notice
regarding her dismissal were not true.
The board had notified McClain in
September 2009 that she needed to make
several improvements in her performance,
the school district's attorney Dan Shinoff,
also of Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz, said at
the March 31 meeting.
At the same meeting, board trustee Doug
Perkins said the board had agonized over
the decision to fire McClain for more than
six months, but said he believed the
decision was in the best interest of the
Lee Schoenbart, Karen
Billing and Maura Larkins
pick up the slack in
Education reporter Marsha Sutton writes
about Daniel Shinoff, Sharon McClain &
Del Mar Union School District
[Releasing Public Records: Shinoff and Sutton
claim that obeying the law is a violation of law.]
Q: Was her releasing your invoices [last December] a violation
of the law?
[Maura Larkins comment: Of course not. The law requires that public records be
released. In some cases a lawyer might feel it was in the interest of his board member
clients if the pubic didn't know how much they paid him. But that doesn't make it right to
hide the records, and it certainly doesn't make it against the law to release them. Shame
on you for this, Marsha. You should have been the one requesting the public records
and reporting on them; instead you're trying to justify covering them up.]
Shinoff: Yes. How could she who had retained a lawyer go
through attorney-client communications and decide what she
was going to release? She couldn't do that. She's not a lawyer.
[Maybe she wanted the lawyer to tell her the right thing to do, Dan. Is that concept alien to
you? In almost all cases the employees in charge of releasing public records are NOT
lawyers. The law requires that records be released quickly, so it's usually pretty cut and
Shinoff: Do I think she had a different agenda? Yeah, I do.
[Ah! Yes, indeed, Shinoff doesn’t like his invoices released. But a public record is a
public record, Dan. Marsha, you should know that. What kind of a reporter are you?
SDCOE tries to help Dan cover up how much he soaks the taxpayers for. Thank
goodness there are people like Sharon McClain who respect the public’s right to know
where their money is going. The real problem, of course, is that board members have
different agendas from the public, starting with openness and transparency.]
Q: Is there a laundry list of issues, not just one or two?
[Whoa! Laundry list???? Talk about a loaded question. Really, Marsha, you need to quit
pretending you’re a reporter. This interview reminds me of the way the Bush
administration used to pay reporters to write favorably about their issues. Are you a
plant for people in power? Or a real reporter? ]
Shinoff: Oh yes.
[Shinoff sure doesn't have to argue much with this "reporter."]
Q: Was the board within its rights?
[Wait a minute, Marsha. You're asking this question of the board's lawyer???? He's
PAID to tell you the following:]
Absolutely. It's interesting that all of these people know about her performance. They
know nothing about her performance, one way or another. They elect these people to
hold people accountable - teachers and staff and principals and superintendents. But
apparently they believe they have better information.
Q: Did the board act recklessly?
Not at all. I think the board did their job.
F. Everything Will Come Out in a
Q: Can you be more specific on the ways she may have violated her contract?
Shinoff: No, I can't. If she chooses to go public with her lawsuit, then it's all on the
[Well, I guess McClain is supposed to turn into a quivering puddle of jelly at this news.
I'll bet she didn't do anything as embarrassing as the actions by other superintendents
that have been kept out of the press. Shinoff is pretending here that there is a
superintendent in San Diego that has nothing to hide. I don't think there is. But it's long
past time for the public to find out what goes on behind closed doors at schools. I
imagine it's the board members who have most to hide.]
Q: If she decides to sue?
Then everything is wide open.
Q: When were you hired?
In the summer, in July.
F. UPDATE: 03/23/2011 DMUSD filed a
Motion To Quash Deposition. It turns out
that the district doesn't want it "all on the
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