Guys, either you go or you're going to cost everyone a lot of money -- that's roughly the sentiment delivered to longstanding Capistrano Unified School District trustees Marlene Draper and Sheila Benecke Tuesday by three of the seven members on the tense and divided board.
The three newest trustees -- Ellen Addonizio, Anna Bryson and Larry Christensen -- who were elected in late 2006 as part of a joint "reform" ticket following the indictment of the district's ex-superintendent James Fleming, have gone public for the first time with an aggressive call for the resignation of Benecke and Draper.
The two women have been mired in controversy, along with the rest of the old board, over a voting record many believe was dictated by James Fleming, the DA's findings that the board had violated open meeting laws in 2005 by holding private meetings never disclosed to the public, the funding of a costly high school and the questionable funding of the district's massive administration building.
Both Benecke and Draper are the subject of a second recall effort led by the parent group, CUSD Recall. The group believes all four "Fleming-era" trustees should step down, but views Draper and Benecke as the most egregious members. (read the back story here.) The group has until Jan. 29 to submit just over 40,000 signatures to the County Registrar of Voters. Sources from the group say they plan to submit well over the minimum number of valid signatures.
Frustrated by a year's worth of 4-3 votes against them, and worried about the prospect of a looming recall election that would cost the district $400,000, the three new members went public with their apprehensions and issued their statement late yesterday. "Under the watch of Trustees Sheila Benecke and Marlene Draper, the school district has experienced a tumultuous decade of controversies...their voting record over the past year demonstrates that our hopes have been in vain, and that Trustees Benecke and Draper will not atone for even their most egregious actions," the statement reads. "For these reasons, we now include our names on the long list of elected officials calling for their immediate resignations or recall."
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The two trustees have ignored calls for their resignation by a lot of elected officials, constituents and media outlets. Trustee Draper has publicly stated that she will not resign, but will not seek reelection when her term is up in November.