Fallbrook District Ousted Its Board President but Won’t Say Why

Fallbrook Union Elementary University District / Image by Adriana Heldiz

Extra than a thirty day period right after the ouster of Fallbrook Union Elementary College District’s board president, the board and district team have declined to make community any information that would aid explain the selection or the obvious human means grievance that board users say preceded it. And a person board member is now making accusations of wrongdoing that go further than the unique criticism filed in January.

The removal of Board President Caron Lieber arrives months just after Fallbrook Union Elementary uncovered itself mired in a standoff involving opposing forces on its governing board, with just one facet seeking to retain the services of outdoors legal counsel to look into the complaint versus Lieber, and the other undertaking its very best to stymie that hard work.

That battle continues to be unsettled 6 months afterwards, even after Lieber has been stripped of her position — a conclusion that was manufactured with a 3-1 vote through a shut session meeting on June 11. She will nonetheless maintain her board seat, but the motives for removing Lieber as president are even now a secret. Board members are maintaining their lips sealed, a lot to the aggravation of Lieber’s supporters in the group. Lieber herself decried the procedure for her elimination as unfair.

Faculty boards throughout San Diego County have been pulsating with drama and stress over the previous 12 months and many of people disputes can be traced to reopening through the pandemic. But at Fallbrook Union Elementary, the big drama upending relations amongst customers is nevertheless completely mysterious.

What is identified for sure is that the accusations — in a single of the smallest school districts in the region, serving about 5,000 learners — go on to fly.

♦♦♦

There was little sign publicly that the particular board meeting on June 11 would finish with Lieber’s removing as president. The only merchandise on the meeting’s agenda was a discussion of “matters that may perhaps result in litigation.”

Lieber was not current at the assembly, most of which took spot in shut session. At the close of it, board Vice President Suzanne Lundin went back again on report to examine a short statement, notifying the public of the decision to take out Lieber as president. Lundin declared that she was the lone “no” vote, with JoAnn Lopez, Susan Liebes and Ricardo Favela in favor of removal.

The breakdown of that vote marked a little bit of a deviation from the earlier on more contentious difficulties, Favela experienced ordinarily sided with Lieber and Lundin.

Lundin pointed out that she’s now the board president but added nothing at all about the context surrounding the vote.

At the board’s basic assembly a week and a 50 % afterwards, Lieber sounded off about the system for her elimination as president and criticized the colleagues who pushed her out.

“What I assume is so fascinating about this celebration is that we were all elected by the group of Fallbrook, and if” — she turned her notice to every single of the three board members who voted to clear away her — “you, or you, or you, were being to have a 3-hour meeting about you, I would either make positive you were being there or give you a prospect for a rebuttal.”

Lieber went on to say that whilst she has no issues about Lundin as the new board president, she thinks the vote was “tainted.”

“I am incredibly worried that a board would remove somebody from an business midway by means of their term without the need of listening to her aspect of the story or his facet of the tale,” Lieber explained.

Adhering to the vote, Lopez — 1 of the board members who voted to oust Lieber — declined to give specifics but instructed Voice of San Diego that the determination to remove Lieber “was not made flippantly.”

“The particulars of that criticism are confidential but quite critical,” she claimed in an e-mail. “The current board proceeds to handle this problem. Sadly, as we try out to transfer forward, we come across ourselves with repeated and egregious new board violations — as latest as June 21.”

When asked what violations she was referring to, Lopez alleged that board members have been violating California’s Brown Act by speaking with a single one more about board-related topics in private. She very first produced that accusation months back when the board was first debating irrespective of whether to seek the services of outside lawful counsel to oversee the thriller grievance in opposition to Lieber.

Once more, she offered no details.

♦♦♦

The initial grievance in opposition to Lieber was submitted by an unidentified district employee and very first created public — inadvertently, it would seem — at a particular board assembly on Jan. 21.

Though the nature of the grievance was intended to be discussed only in closed session, Lopez enable it slip in an open up session portion of the assembly even though arguing that Lieber, then the board president, ought to not take part in the choosing of exterior lawful counsel to offer with the complaint.

“You’re the particular person remaining accused,” Lopez advised Lieber. “So for you to be concerned in the determination-building system of who we could employ the service of to secure all of us, is a conflict of desire in my feeling.”

It stays unidentified exactly what Lieber has been accused of, or by whom. But the criticism raised eyebrows with some community customers based mostly on Lieber’s historical past on the board.

“I believe that there’s a lot which is likely on that we’re not getting instructed, that the public is not getting told about,” Leticia Maldonado-Stamos, a previous Fallbrook Union Elementary staff and Fallbrook resident who participated in the drawing of the district’s recent trustee location maps, told Voice of San Diego. “And that bothers me, and that ought to trouble everyone on that board, and that ought to trouble everyone in the community.”

Lieber has been an outspoken opponent of the previous board the greater part. On a variety of troubles, from the acceptance of an earlier trustee area map that was eventually rejected by the county Board of Education and learning, to a $32,000 rate tag for a mission statement, to wage boosts for directors, Lieber frequently identified herself the sole opposition.

It was only following a few preceding board customers remaining Fallbrook Union Elementary — a single made a decision to retire mid-term and the other two chose not to run for re-election — that Lieber discovered herself with a vast majority that appeared sympathetic to her arguments, and she was elected president in December 2020.

Then arrived the news of the mysterious criticism. Lieber’s to start with whole assembly as board president on Jan. 16 was referred to as to discuss it.

“I really feel like there are some driving-the-scenes machinations that have been outdoors of the general public purview,” Maldonado-Stamos reported. She proposed some of the machinations could possibly have to do with the district’s lawful counsel, Dan Shinoff.

Some board associates have said publicly that they really don’t think Shinoff is the appropriate man or woman to handle any investigations since of his extensive ties to the superintendent.

Shinoff is a prolific San Diego-space schools legal professional who has witnessed his share of controversy over the many years. In 2015, the San Ysidro School District sued his organization for alleged malpractice — the district claimed he withheld a settlement proposed by a solar power contractor in a individual legal dispute, trying to get to draw out the lawsuit and collect more lawful service fees. Shinoff’s company at some point settled with San Ysidro for $1.8 million.

He also represented Fallbrook Union Elementary in a wrongful termination lawsuit introduced by a former district employee who accused administrators of firing her when she objected to purging email messages. Fallbrook in the long run lost that scenario.

“Under no circumstances would I assistance owning district personnel seek the services of counsel in this situation,” Lundin reported in January. “They’ve previously hired who they feel need to be counsel. Some of us don’t consider it’s impartial.”

As with nearly anything about this scuffle, it’s unclear exactly where any of this will conclusion up.

At the most the latest governing board conference on June 21, the board was set to have another closed session conference with legal counsel “to examine pending litigation.” Just ahead of that was to consider place, nevertheless, Favela advised the relaxation of the board he was not sensation very well and needed to table that discussion. The board voted to delay the closed session.