Saturday, January 28, 2012

Need A Smile? "Chuckmeister" Obliges

Sometimes the "news of the day" just leaves you wishing for a little more levity in your life, right?


Well, as I've reminded you many times in the past, my old pal, Chuck Cassity, always provides a little comic relief on his blog, Chuckmeister Unleashed. . His most recent contribution to the enlightenment of our populace is certainly no exception. You can read it HERE.

So, take a couple minutes and chuckle along with Chuck (and me). Have a great weekend.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Leaders Volunteer Maximum Pension Rate(Amended)***

City of Costa Mesa Communication Director Bill Lobdell issued a press release Friday afternoon announcing that the city's top leaders have volunteered to pay 39% of their pension costs. The text of that press release is below:

City of Costa Mesa leaders volunteer to pay 39% of their pension costs, one of the highest employee contributions in the state

COSTA MESA, Calif. - The top leaders for the City of Costa Mesa have volunteered to pay 39% of their pension costs—the highest rate possible—saying they need to set the example of contributing their full retirement share to help insure the city’s finances are sustainable. The employee contribution will be one of the highest in California for public workers.

“We don’t know of any city in the state where public employees are contributing this high of a percentage to their pensions,” Mayor Gary Monahan said. “It makes me very proud that Costa Mesa’s leadership team is leading the way when it comes to pension reform. This is a landmark for Costa Mesa and its residents.”

The move to increase pension contributions will affect eight city executives, including Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch, Assist. Chief Executive Officer Rick Francis, Economic Development Director Peter Naghavi, Police Chief Tom Gazsi, Finance Director Bobby Young, interim Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz, and interim Development Services Director Khanh Nguyen.

Interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold is not paying into the retirement system and will be unaffected, but his successor will pay his or her full pension share.

The estimated annual taxpayer savings from the increase contributions, including the fire chief’s share, is more than $50,000.

Non-public safety executives are currently paying 31.49% their pension costs. The contribution increase will go into effect as soon as it’s approved by the City Council, likely at its Feb. 7 meeting.

Police Chief Gazsi currently pays 11.61% of his pension costs (as do other Costa Mesa police officers), with the City picking up the remaining 88.39%. Police officers are allowed to pick up 48.633% of the cost of their pensions. Gazsi and CEO Hatch are currently working on a plan to move the police chief toward this maximum contribution level.

When hired, the new fire chief will immediately begin paying 49.32% of the cost of his or her pension, if the City Council approves the increase in employee contributions. Currently, the fire chief would be paying 12.92% of his pension costs, with the City would be picking up the remaining 87.08%).

Recently, due to an expired clause of a labor agreement, Costa Mesa firefighters (excluding battalion chiefs) dropped from paying 12.92% of their pension costs to paying 2.15%. The City now pays 97.85%. In real terms, the firefighters now pay $103,000 annually to their pensions, and the city pays $4.7 million

In recent negotiations, the City has asked the firefighters to pay the 29.92% of their pension costs.

“Our leadership team felt like we couldn’t be asking employees to make their full pension contribution unless we did it first,” said Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch. “In these times, it was the right thing to do for our City and its residents.”

However, others feel this announcement left out some important details. For example, Jennifer Muir, Communication Director for the Orange County Employee Association, sent this comment in response to the press release: The true leaders in Costa Mesa, the City’s rank and file employees, have been paying nearly 40 percent of their pension costs for years. And we’re supposed to be celebrating that the City’s leadership is following that great example? I guess it’s better late than never.”

Saturday afternoon Communication Director Bill Lobdell sent me an email refuting the "facts" provided (above) by Jennifer Muir. Here's what he wrote to me:
"Muir is flat out wrong.

1. Until now, all general employees -- managers and rank-and-file -- made the made the exact same contribution. This fiscal year it's 31.5% of the total pension costs.

2. Muir apparently used LAST fiscal year's numbers, when ALL non-safety employees paid about 38% of their pensions. But pension costs went up this year and the employee contributions stayed the same, reducing the percentage paid by employees down to 31.5.

By the way, Muir knew her information was wrong late Friday afternoon because the Register and Voice of OC reporters told her, but I guess she didn't bother to correct it with you.

Only Muir could take what is a positive step forward for the City and is residents and, using false information, twist it into something divisive."
So, the beat goes on...

OK, this is it now on this post on this subject. Jennifer Muir read Bill Lobdell's reply and offers the following rebuttal. This will be the last entry on this post on this subject... it's getting too complicated to follow. Anyhow, here's Jennifer's comment from today, Monday, January 30th:

"Bill Lobdell is correct that I was using last year’s PERS rate when I emailed you. I only realized later that the rate had subsequently changed. That said, the employees demonstrated true leadership when they agreed to that contribution level in 2010 – a level that is virtually the same as what executives are agreeing to now. The only reason managers and executives shared the same contribution rate back then is because CMCEA employees led the way by negotiating those contribution levels. I pointed that out to you because it’s deeply disappointing to employees when the City’s media machine consistently fails to acknowledge efforts and sacrifices the rank and file have made these past several years. Plainly, that is what’s been divisive."

Also missing in this dialogue is that fact that - despite mention being made of recent negotiations with the firefighters - as I understand it, no overture has been made by City management to ANY of the individual bargaining units during the past 12 months requesting a discussion of modifications to the current pension rates. Instead, the elected (and appointed) leaders of the city have chosen to create a hostile, adversarial atmosphere and attempted to violate their own rules by issuing premature layoff notices to nearly half the staff.


While this gesture by the top leaders in the city is certainly noteworthy and is much appreciated, the reported $50,000 savings to the city represents only a drop in the bucket. It is hoped that the C
ity management will actively engage the bargaining units in sincere, meaningful discussions about pension contributions, and do it soon. It is my understanding that each of the individual units would welcome those kind of conversations. I guess we'll see...

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An Honor Bestowed And PacAmp Amplified

It was a busy afternoon in Costa Mesa yesterday.


First, at 4:30 I joined more than fifty other people at the f
ormer Farm Sports Complex as it was dedicated to local hero and municipal legend, Jack R. Hammett.
Hammett, a former mayor and Pearl Harbor Survivor, has been inst
rumental in many of the early-day accomplishments Costa Mesa experienced. He has been a municipal leader for more than five decades and a mentor to many.
He was honored by residents, family, friends, fellow World War II patriots and politicians. During the nearly one-hour long ceremony many rose to praise Hammett for his many contributions to our community. Among those present were Mayor Gary Monahan, Ma
yor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, council members Steve Mensinger and Wendy Leece. Eric Bever was a no-show. I also saw Planning Commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick and Parks and Recreation Commissioners Jeff Mathews, Ethan Temianka and Kim Pederson. About-to-be-lame-duck Assemblyman Allan Mansoor showed up festively dressed in what looked like pajama tops, indicating that he just got off a plane from Sacramento.
Brad Long of Costa Mesa Television was scampering around, camera in hand, so we can probably expect to see some good coverage of this very nice event.


I went directly from the dedication to the Fairgrounds for an "open house/workshop" on the proposed modifications of the Pacific Amphitheater. Soon-to-be-former-CEO of the Fairgrounds, Dr. Steve Beazley, guided a presentation of the initial proposals for the modifica
tions planned. He emphasized that they are in the very initial stages of this process - they just hired an architectural firm from Los Angeles - and that this meeting would certainly not be the only one.

Beazley fielded most of the questions from concerned residents - the room was packed to capacity, around 80 - and admitted that he didn't have all the answers yet. He did encourage any resident to call him for a one-on-one conversation, but was pressed to give a broader
presentation than I think he anticipated. He did tell us that the Board anticipates spending $4.5 million on the proposed changes and that any construction would not start until August, after the Fair has ended, and would be completed before next year's Fair. More meetings are anticipated this spring.

The meeting commenced a little late because the Fai
r Board had not yet finished its Closed Session. When they did come out and adjourn their meeting, many members stuck around and, at one point, were polled by one member of the audience on their individual commitment to retaining the same sound restrictions currently in place. Each said, one way or the other, that they supported the current sound level restrictions. It was of interest that members Kristina Dodge, Dale Dykema and Dave Ellis were not present. I didn't see Ellis at all, and Dykema and Dodge skipped out after their closed session.

Many residents in attendance asked questions that implied concern about ANY changes at the Fairgrounds with just a recognizable tinge of distrust in the Boa
rd. Of course, that's understandable considering the events of the past couple of years. In fact, one member of the audience asked about the noise restraints in the event the Fairgrounds is sold. Beazley did a wonderful tap-dance around that one and never did answer the question.

Now the architects will huddle with the Fairgrounds sound expert, Gary Hardesty, and work together to come up with a final design. More meetings will be held, according to Beazley - assuming he's around.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Shiver In Republican Indiana

A friend forwarded me a link to the web site of the Lunchpail Republicans, a group of my fellow Republicans in Indiana who feel disenfranchised by their party leaders and have decided to do something about it. You can find their site HERE. But, before you click on that link, take a minute to read the rest of this entry and watch the video clip at the bottom.


As I read the information on their site, including the comments and
commentaries they've published and viewed the video clips they've included, I began to feel a kindred spirit with these folks. The reasons they've created this organization rings with much familiarity. They felt disenfranchised by their Republican leaders - very much the way more than a few of us Republicans here in Orange County feel about the way Scott Baugh and his band of merry miscreants are trying to guide the game here. Much of the rhetoric used in Indiana is exactly what is being said here in Orange County - particularly the bogus anti-union claims.


The site includes several video clips, as you will discover when you visit it. However, I've embedded one that made a big impression on me for your viewing pleasure. I'll look forward to your comments.

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Meetings Today and Tomorrow

In case you've forgotten, the Costa Mesa Parks and Recreation Commission under the guidance of Chairman Jeff Mathews meets this evening at 6:00 in City Council Chambers at City Hall. They have a slim agenda and only meet every other month, so if you want to see them in action go to City Hall or watch the meeting televised live on CMTV - Channel 24 (Time Warner Cable) or Channel 99 (ATT U-Verse).


the Orange County Fair Board holds its monthly meeting, but this one has been re-scheduled to 3:30 so folks attending can transition seamlessly to the Open House/Workshop about the modifications planned for the Pacific Amphitheater that's being held at the Fairgrounds Administration building beginning at 6:00. That subject has been a lightning rod for controversy over the years. You can read about that meeting HERE.

I suppose we might hear more information about the pending departure of Fair CEO Dr. Steven Beazley, who announced his retirement from State service recently.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

NMUSD Board Fires Hubbard

In a closed session late this afternoon the trustees of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District voted unanimously to fire convicted felon, Dr. Jeffrey Hubbard, from his position as superintendent of the district. According to the report by Fermin Leal and Tony Saavedra in the Orange County Register, HERE, the action is retroactive to Monday, January 23rd.

According to coverage provided by Britney Barnes in the Daily Pilot, HERE, indicates that Hubbard will still be eligible for his pension but, because he was fired before turning 55 - his birthday is Thursday - the amount will be significantly less. Trustee Judy Franco is quoted by Barnes as saying, "If the district had fired him without cause before he was convicted, Hubbard would have been entitled to 18 months of pay." The Register article calculates that his pension, based on his salary of $305,920 annually, w
ill be $119,920.

Deputy Superintendent Paul Reed will act as superintendent until March 5th, or until an interim leader can be found, according to Barnes. (Daily Pilot Photo)

There is no doubt that the Hubbard incident has been a major distraction for the school district for more than a year. While I hope - with his conviction and the board's decision to fire him - teachers, students and parents will be able to re-focus on the job at hand - educating the more than 20,000 students in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. However, I do fear that this sad event will linger in the minds of all for some time. I certainly hope the trustees will make a wise decision on Hubbard's replacement... the district deserves it.

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More Trouble For Local Pot Dispensaries

As most of you know, recently several so-called "medical marijuana dispensaries" in Costa Mesa - and the residences of their operators - were raided, the operators jailed and the "product" confiscated. That meant significant financial trouble for each of them, but it appears their trouble is just beginning.

The following is a press release issued by the United States Attorney's office last week that outlines the aggressive enforcement of federal drug laws as they pertain to marijuana stores state-wide, with special emphasis on our recent local activity. I've added some highlighting for emphasis. It seems to me that the nearly four dozen such establishments purported to be currently operating in our city may be re-evaluating their business model.


Federal Enforcement Actions Directed At Marijuana Stores Continue with Four New Property Forfeiture Lawsuits and Warning Letters

January 18, 2012

LOS ANGELES – As part of a continuing, coordinated effort against commercial marijuana operations in California that started last fall, federal prosecutors over the past week have filed four asset forfeiture lawsuits against properties housing marijuana storefronts in Los Angeles and Orange counties and have sent warning letters to property owners and operators of illegal marijuana stores in several Southland cities.

Three asset forfeiture complaints against buildings in Costa Mesa where marijuana stores are currently ope rating were filed this morning in United States District Court in Los Angeles. Prosecutors this morning also sent letters to marijuana store operators and to the owners of properties where nearly two dozen marijuana stores currently operate in Costa Mesa.

The three forfeiture actions filed today allege that the owners knowingly allowed marijuana stores to operate. The Costa Mesa buildings named in the forfeiture lawsuits house: three marijuana stores currently operating at 440 Fair Drive, where the owner of the building has been “cited numerous times by Costa Mesa officials for allowing the operation of marijuana dispensaries,” according to the lawsuit; American Collective, a marijuana store allegedly operated by a man with a 2003 state court conviction for marijuana sales that was one of two Costa Mesa stores and related locations where federal and state agents yesterday executed search warrants that led to the discovery of two separate marijuana grows, each with more than 500 marijuana plants; and Otherside Farms, whose operator told Costa Mesa Code Enforcement personnel that he intended “to make so much money” at the location that he was going to give the city of Costa Mesa a “donation” of up to $500,000 every year that would help the city stave off layoffs.

Letters went out today to the owners and operators of currently operating or recently closed marijuana stores – nearly three dozen in Costa Mesa, and one now-shuttered store in Newport Beach. All known stores in these two South Orange County cities are now the subject of federal enforcement actions.

Last week, the United States Attorney’s Office filed another asset forfeiture lawsuit against the building that houses the Alternative Medicinal Cannabis Collective (AMCC) in an unincorporated part of Covina. This complaint alleges that Los Angeles County code enforcement personnel took action against the operation and, in March 2011, the County filed a lawsuit against the owners of the property where the store is located.

Warning letters were sent last week to property owners and operators associated with marijuana stores in unincorporated Walnut, La Puente, Murrieta and Lake Elsinore, where a total of 17 stores are believed to be currently operating. Those receiving letters were warned that the stores are operating in violation of federal law and that they have 15 days to take steps to discontinue the sale and distribution of marijuana at the stores.

In October, the four United States Attorneys in California announced coordinated enforcement actions targeting illegal marijuana cultivation and trafficking. In the Central District of California (see, one criminal case that now involves seven defendants linked to a North Hollywood marijuana store called NoHo Caregivers is set for trial on May 22. Three civil forfeiture actions filed in October are still pending, but the stores in the properties have been closed. And dozens of letters sent to those associated with marijuana stores in 13 Southland cities have resulted in nearly allof the stores being closed, with the remainder currently being the subject of eviction proceedings.

Last week, the United States Attorney in Sacramento announced a civil forfeiture action against a marijuana store, as well as letters that were sent to the owners of properties in several counties where marijuana is being cultivated or sold (see:

The United States Attorney’s Office is working in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration and IRS - Criminal Investigation.

Release No. 12-014


I've intentionally tried to keep a low profile when this subject is discussed . From my vantage point the entire issue is confusing, both to me as a non-using layman and to those in the medicinal marijuana business, too. The feds say selling marijuana is against the law. The state says it's OK if you have a prescription and purchase your "medicine" from a certified dispensary. The local authorities are stuck.

In Costa Mesa it's especially difficult to comprehend because of the mixed massages being sent. Our local police have raided and closed at least one such facility, interestingly operated by a person who is in the midst of a legal battle with the City.


And, we also have the curious situation of our mayor, Gary Monahan , who hosts a pro-cannabis radio program at his gin mill and openly speaks out in favor of legalizing them in our city. It's no wonder when at least one of those operators recently raided has expressed a loss of faith in humanity. I suppose one could understand his view, considering that he's been snuggled up to local politicians for a couple years and feeding their election campaigns with contributions.

In fact, one dispensary located at the building mentioned in the press release above posted a notice on its door indicating that folks who attended the event at Monahan's bar could bring a receipt and receive a "free house joint", and that if you contribute $20.00 or more to Monahan's re-election campaign the dispensary will give you a $20.00 credit.


Heck, we had that "industry" very prominently represented i n the recent Costa Mesa United golf tournament - a fund raiser for youth sports. Again, mixed messa ges.


I'm not going to get into the whole, "I need my medicine for my ailment" issue. I acknowledge that there may, in fact, be folks who receive significant relief from pain of an illness by using cannabis, but I expect them to also acknowledge that there are MANY folks who are simply using these pot stores to supply their habits.


In my opinion, we need laws that are uniform and that can be enforced by local authorities. Clearly, there is a mountain of money being made by at least some of these "dispensaries" - one guy who was busted last week bragged about it, for goodness sake. Obviously, you don't have to be smart to grow and sell marij uana.

I don't intend for this site to become a place where this issue will beflogged into submission, but it is an important issue in our city that needs attention.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

More Reaction To Hubbard's Conviction

Late this afternoon Kimberly Claytor, President of the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers AFT local 1794 issued a press release regarding the conviction of Dr. Jeffrey Hubbard, the now-disgraced Superintendent of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. The text of that press release follows:


Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers AFT 1794 Responds to Guilty Verdict of Superintendent Jeffrey Hubbard

This afternoon, Dr. Jeffrey Hubbard, N-MUSD Superintendent, was found guilty by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury on two of three felony charges of misappropriation of public funds.

As educators, we are saddened by the impact that this case has had on the reputation of our district and the resources it has drained from our classrooms.

Though the felony charges stemmed from employment outside of Newport Mesa Unified School District, the email messages exchanged between Jeffrey Hubbard and Karen Christiansen, introduced as evidence in the case, revealed behavior unbecoming of a superintendent of a school district. Furthermore, the majority of our School Board members voted to grant Jeffrey Hubbard five months of paid leave to prepare for his defense – this money would have better served the public had it been spent in our classrooms.

We look forward to finding a new superintendent who respects processes put in place to protect the public trust, understands both the Newport Beach and Costa Mesa communities, and is willing to put the needs of our students first. We call on the School Board to have an open and transparent public process, with input from parents, teachers, and other community members in our search for a new superintendent. We want a School Board that is responsive and responsible to the community.

Additionally, in an article in the Daily Pilot this evening, HERE, trustee Karen Yelsey - described as a Hubbard supporter - is quoted as saying the school board, "will be in the search for a new superintendent".

According to that article, the Board of Trustees will meet Tuesday at 3:00 in a closed session to discuss how to manage this issue. I certainly agree with those who feel this whole sordid affair has been a major distraction to the district and it's time to put it behind us.

Some folks have suggested that Paul Reed, who has been standing in for Hubbard during his absence, simply be elevated to the position of Superintendent. If Reed wants the job, that might work. But I've got another suggestion.
(Daily Pilot Photo)

Instead of spending thousands of dollars on a nationwide search effort, why not reach down into the innards of the district itself and select a new superintendent from one of the many highly skilled administrators working within the organization. The first name that pops to my mind is Estancia High School principal Kirk Bauermeister. He's been on a fast track for years, is a proven visionary and leader and a man who really knows this community. It's worth some careful consideration.

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I'm Back And Ready To Rumble!

Didja miss me
? I took my own advice to you,, and took a few days to visit the magnificent elephant seal colony just north of Hearst Castle on Highway 1. Now is "prime time", with thousands of those critters on the bluff for easy viewing, including at least 1,000 pups born within the past couple weeks. The "Big Show" continues through February. There's still time for you to make the trip - you'll never forget it.
Having my priorities firmly in mind, I decided not to hang around here for the shill-fest conducted by Jim Righeimer, Steve Mensinger and their chief shill, Colin McCarthy, last Thursday evening. In a gathering sponsored by McCarthy's Costa Mesa Taxpayers Association ( an OC GOP front group) and billed as a "panel discussion" of Righeimer's Charter scheme, from reports from the scene, it was simply a political rally for Mensinger and McCarthy - rumored to soon be endorsed by the OC GOP's grand pooba, Scott Baugh - and our completely ineffective Assemblyman, Allan Mansoor.

Stringers who attended the meeting reported to me that fewer than 1
00 people attended. Apparently City CEO Tom Hatch briefly discussed the budget, including the "unfunded liability" portion of the City's financial distress - then left.


tell me that Interim Communication Director Bill Lobdell briefed the "crowd" about transparency and the new City web site, which is due to go online soon.

I'm told that Mansoor hyped the most recent initiative to limit union political contributions that may be on the ballot - and attempted to make himself look like some kind of a campaign finance reformer. What a joke!

Following Mansoor's little bout of self-aggrandizement the "panel" took over. Now, I must admit I'm curious how one holds a "panel discussion" when all the views are on one side of the issue. How does that work? The reason I blew this meeting off was that it was VERY clear that there would only be one side of the issue discussed, and I've already heard that many, many times. For example, how many times can you hear Righeimer read HIS charter? I understand the whole "pride of authorship" thing, but good grief!


I'm told that non-elected council member Steve Mensinger used
this pulpit to, once again, spout that "we're going to have a transparency ordinance for negotiations". I'm wondering just how that will work, since negotiations are usually done during closed meetings between negotiating parties. I wonder how many times in his vast work experience - when he was wheeling and dealing for Arnel Development and other companies - he "negotiated" in public? Maybe he'll tell us about those times and how that worked out for him.

I unders
tand they imported Jerome Kern, a councilman from Oceanside, to regale the "crowd" with stories of that city's recent Charter conversion. Funny that they didn't invite anyone from Rancho Palos Verdes, where their recent Charter push went down in flames, 70% - 30%. As I said, it was a one-sided pitch.

So, the beat goes on with Righeimer's Charter. The second draft is now availabl
e on the City web site, HERE, and it's unclear whether the City will post NEW recommendations for change between now and February 13th, the date of the final public hearing on this issue. As time passes the more I feel that this council is going to place some version of a Charter on the June ballot - most likely with the more onerous elements of Righeimer's Charter included. That means we, the voters, will only have the opportunity to vote it UP or DOWN. The three months between their vote on March 6th - which will almost certainly be to place it on the ballot - and the primary election with it's normal low turnout are going to be very interesting times in our city. We'll just have to do our part to insure that this misguided, politically motivated bad idea goes down in flames in June.

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Hubbard Guilty! School Board To Consider Action

In a press release issued by the Newport-Mesa Unified School District minutes ago, it was announced that Dr. Jeffrey Hubbard, Superintendent, was found guilty of some of the charges dealing with his time at the Beverly Hills School District. That press release follows:

Newport-Mesa USD Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Hubbard Found Guilty on Two of Three Felony Charges by Los Angeles Jury

Dr. Jeffrey Hubbard, N-MUSD Superintendent, has been found guilty on two of three felony misappropriation of public funds charges by the jury at his trial in Department 102 of the Los Angeles Superior Court. The charges all pertained to actions taken in his capacity as superintendent of the Beverly Hills Unified School District over six years ago. There was no allegation of illegal activity during his tenure as Superintendent of Newport-Mesa Unified School District, where he has been employed since 2006.

To avoid acting precipitously in regard to charges that had no connection with Newport-Mesa, and to observe Dr. Hubbard’s legal right to be judged by a jury of his peers, the school board has refrained from action in the past year. At the same time steps were taken to assure that the school district would continue to move ahead while Dr. Hubbard’s personal legal issues were brought to closure.

Board President Dave Brooks has called for an immediate closed session of the N-MUSD School Board in accordance with Brown Act requirements to review the Board’s legal options regarding the superintendent’s employment contract and next steps in light of the outcome in the case. The closed session will be scheduled as soon as possible and further announcements will be forthcoming.

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