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California Briefing / ORANGE COUNTY

District focus of Brown Act probe

September 05, 2008|Seema Mehta

The district attorney's office confirmed Thursday it was investigating allegations that the Capistrano Unified School District violated the state's open meeting laws.

A spokesperson declined to comment on the nature of the investigation, but Trustee Duane Stiff said he was interviewed by prosecutors about potential violations of the state's Brown Act during the closed-session portion of the school board's Aug. 11 meeting.

The Brown Act allows elected officials to meet in closed sessions in strictly limited circumstances, such as employee evaluations, labor negotiations and legal matters, and also spells out what must be disclosed publicly about these meetings.

The 50,000-student district has been at the center of years of acrimony and controversy in South Orange County, including the felony indictment of a former superintendent on allegations that he created "enemies lists" of district critics.

In October, the district attorney's office issued a scathing report that the school board routinely violated the Brown Act, discussing in private topics such as construction contracts, silencing district critics and preparing parents for bad news about schools, all of which should have been debated in public. The board accepted the findings, and agreed to provide training to trustees and to tape all closed-session meetings.

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