Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 2:34 p.m.
Nearly a year after a state appeals court dropped charges against him, James Fleming is suing Capistrano Unified School District for in attorney fees and lost wages--which one of Fleming's attorneys once estimated at more than $1.6 million.
The former superintendent filed a complaint in Orange County Superior Court on Sept. 21, claiming that the four-and-a-half year legal battle he endured has left him unemployable, and that the district must reimburse his legal fees in accordance with California labor and government codes.
In 2007, Fleming was indicted by a grand jury for allegedly compiling an "enemies list" of parents who'd criticized the school board. Last December, the charges were dismissed, a decision that was upheld by the California Supreme Court.
"He is a victim," says Florida-based attorney John R. Sutton, who represents Fleming. "He lost his job, lost his income, paid substantial attorney fees and was in court for three years or more. An appellate court indicated that he was only doing his job."
Fleming resigned as superintendent of CUSD in 2006 under an alleged agreement that the district would pay for his legal expenses. Then in March 2007, a newly configured school board voted to stop paying those fees in a move described as "arbitrary and malicious" in court documents.
In July, Fleming's former attorney Joseph Mullaney sent a letter to CUSD Board President Jack Brick, demanding that the district pay the ex-superintendent a grand total of $1,648,889--$576,680 in back pay and benefits, $445,668 for the reimbursement of legal fees and $622,541 for the "loss of future earnings and damage to his reputation and standing in the professional community."
Marcus Walton, a CUSD spokesman, says the district "can't discuss pending or existing litigation."