The Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education voted 7 to 0 Monday to fire food services director Ed Dodd, who was accused of insubordination for openly criticizing his superior's budget-cutting recommendations.
The school board agreed to oust Dodd despite a last-minute request by his attorney for an arbitrator to review the charges against him. David Durchfort, Dodd's attorney, said he will appeal the board's decision to the district's three-member Personnel Commission.
Durchfort said Dodd was dismissed in "retaliation" for voicing his opposition to plans by business services administrator Rory Livingston to reduce the cost of the school lunch program by laying off workers and increasing the cost of student lunches.
Dodd, according to an April 2 district memorandum released by Durchfort, was accused of insubordination and "knowingly falsifying" information when he spoke out against Livingston's proposal at two board meetings on Feb. 11 and 24.
The memorandum by Mark Karadenes, assistant superintendent of personnel services, also stated that Dodd failed to notify his superiors of his opposition, ignored their request that he stop making public protests and failed to attend a scheduled meeting with Livingston and Supt. George Caldwell to discuss his actions.
Durchfort said Dodd was singled out for refusing to endorse several emergency cost-cutting measures proposed to reduce losses in the school lunch program. The lunch program has suffered from rising costs and declining participation and has lost an estimated $700,000 in two years, according to a recent audit.
Livingston called for an increase in the price of lunches from $1.50 to $1.75. He also asked that six cafeteria workers be laid off and that the district reduce the operation of the 42-member cafeteria staff by 16 hours.
Dodd warned that the cost increase would result in a 40% drop in student participation. He also recommended that the district return to a system of preparing all its meals in a centralized kitchen.
Two years ago, the district contracted with Preferred Meals System Inc. of Chicago to provide prepackaged meals for elementary school students. Meals for high school students continue to be provided by the district.
In asking the board to reconsider its decision, Durchfort warned that the firing would have a chilling effect on other district employees who may want to speak out against their superiors.
School board member Connie Jenkins said that Durchfort simply had a different view of the facts than the board.
Dodd, 56, had been employed by the district for 2 1/2 years.