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BANG v. MDUSD lawsuit lays out chronology of abuse suspicions, charges, claims and reporting related to Woodside Elementary teacher

By Theresa Harrington
Thursday, October 17th, 2013 at 11:05 am in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.


A lawsuit filed against the Mt. Diablo school district last month by The Bay Area News Group provides a comprehensive look at the circumstances that led to Woodside Elementary teacher Joseph Martin’s arrest and the subsequent claims made against the district.

As reported by Times writer Lisa Vorderbrueggen, Bay Area News Group is asking a judge to force the district to release internal records about Martin, 45, who has been charged with 125 counts related to the alleged sexual molestation of 13 young male students between 2006 and April 2013. He was arrested in June and is in jail on $10 million bail. He pleaded not guilty in July. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

The district has refused to produce documents pertaining to Martin, citing personnel and investigatory exemptions in California’s public records law. The news organization argues in its lawsuit filed in Contra Costa Superior Court that the records are not exempt and must be produced.

BANG attorney Duffy Carolan’s 175-page lawsuit includes a 12-page complaint that outlines the chronology of the state’s case against Martin, along with three subsequent claims and a civil rights lawsuit. It also details investigative reporter Matthias Gafni’s attempts to get records related to Martin from the district.

In a June 29 Public Records Act Request, Gafni sought: “Any and all writings pertaining to Mt. Diablo Unified School District teacher Joseph Andrew Martin, 45, relating to allegations of wrongdoing (including inappropriate behavior with students), complaints, investigations, findings, discipline meted out or other action taken against Mr. Martin during his tenure at the district.”

BANG is seeking district investigations into incidents that were allegedly witnessed and reported to district officials by other teachers. For example, one complaint alleges that a teacher walked in on Martin and a male student one evening and saw that they were behind a closet door with their shoes off. Another teacher said older boys who had graduated often returned to the campus and went into Martin’s room alone, with the classroom door locked, according to claims.

In the most recent claim, a 2013 police report is quoted, which cites a 2006 internal district document that found “potential child abuse” by Martin. The police report says no one from the district reported Martin to Child Protective Services or to law enforcement authorities at the time. Instead, the district created new rules for Martin, such as keeping his classroom door open at all times, according to the claim.

Here is the complete lawsuit:

This is not the first time BANG has requested personnel-related documents from the district. In the past, I have received large files from the district in relation to personnel decisions that led to separation agreements with employees. These files contained numerous memos documenting complaints and meetings to remedy those complaints. No such documents were released to BANG in relation to Martin.

And earlier this year, Times columnist Dan Borenstein asked the school board to review documents that were withheld from his Public Records Act request by then-General Counsel Greg Rolen. Borenstein asked trustees to waive the privilege asserted by Rolen and to release documents related to employment agreements with then-Superintendent Steven Lawrence, Rolen and three other top administrators. As a result of Borenstein’s appeal directly to the school board — which bypassed the general counsel — trustees agreed to release more documents.

In this case, too, the board has the right to override Interim General Counsel Jayne Williams’ denials and release documents that are being withheld, in the interest of public transparency. Trustees Barbara Oaks and Brian Lawrence were elected last November, after pledging to usher in a new era of transparency in the district. They — along with Board President Cheryl Hansen — voted to terminate the previous superintendent’s contract a year early, in part due to mistrust in the district that resulted from secrecy and stonewalling public requests for information.

Further complicating this case is the fact that previous Interim Superintendent Johh Bernard is the father of Jennifer Sachs, who was principal at Woodside Elementary in 2006 and is named in some of the claims. Trustees hired Bernard soon after Martin was placed on a leave of absence. Bernard worked through the end of September, during the time when Martin was arrested and alleged victims began filing claims against the district. He told me that the district would cooperate fully with police and his relationship with Sachs would not affect the investigation.

Newly appointed Superintendent Nellie Meyer, who took the helm Sept. 23, has entered into a contract with Bernard’s employer — Total School Solutions — for nine months of consulting as she transitions into her new role.

Do you believe the district should release documents that it is withholding related to internal complaints about Martin?

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120 Responses to “BANG v. MDUSD lawsuit lays out chronology of abuse suspicions, charges, claims and reporting related to Woodside Elementary teacher”

  1. Doctor J Says:

    So after placing Martin on Admin Leave on April 25 due to the sexual abuse criminal investigation, the “district” sends a letter to parents saying Martin “returned to Kansas” for a family medical emergency and would not be completing the year. Which District person signed that lie ? Has anyone a copy of that letter that can be posted ? Why wasn’t that letter produced by the district with the others ?

  2. g. de la verdad Says:

    But The Tin Man, The Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow and the legal Wizard himself were left behind in OZ, where the board eventually, after much debate, finally took a cover-up action in an attempt to preserve the last dregs of district dignity—leaving the taxpayers (including the tax-paying victims) to ultimately pay the bill….

  3. Phoenix Says:

    I think it is a close call under the Marken case; see link to case below. Williams has a legitimate claim that the documents are exempt from disclosure under the PRA. BANG’s argument that the public’s right to know outweighs the interests protected by the exemptions of the PRA will probably succeed under the Marken case and the cases cited therein:

  4. tmharrington Says:

    As previously pointed out, the board could also decide that the public’s right to know outweighs the interests protected by the exemptions, saving a costly court proceeding.

  5. Phoenix Says:

    Sure, they can always do that. But it opens the door to the Board being always asked to override a decision to disclose documents exempted under the CPRA, which is a slippery slope. Sometimes the public’s right to know is not outweighed by privacy rights. I also don’t think avoiding the cost of litigation is always the measure by which to make decisions; some legal issues need to be litigated.

  6. Doctor J Says:

    In this case, every dollar spent on litigation, deprives children of education. So if MDUSD spends $250,000 [or more] of public taxpayer money on attorney fees for itself and BANG [yes, we will have to pay their fees], that is $250,000 that won’t get to the classroom. My vote is simply tell the truth and produce the documents and let the chips fall where they may. Its time to stop the cover-ups — after all, the cover-ups caused 95% of the problems. Lets try a new tactic — TELL THE TRUTH. Sometimes the doctor has to amputate to save the rest of the leg. Sure, a few administrators and teachers may have egg on their face, hurt their careers, but they made their beds — now let them lay in them. Lets start the healing and put our resources and efforts into reforming education in MDUSD.

  7. Doctor J Says:

    Who signed the letter ? Lets see a copy.

  8. Doctor J Says:

    Looks like Interim Principal Ava Sudduth didn’t even last the whole first month of school at Woodside, having now been replaced by also experienced Sandy Brickell, now listed on the school website as the “Interim Principal”. Opening for Woodside principal still listed on Edjoin as open, having been first listed on August 9 despite the secret reassignment of Jen Cronan more than a month earlier. Such instability has to be unsettling to the children and parents and staff of Woodside.

  9. Phoenix Says:

    Dr. J, I agree with you that in this case, it is best to just produce the documents because you are correct that BANG will probably prevail and MDUSD could be on the hook for their attorneys’ fees [not automatic; court still has discretion not to award fees to BANG even if they prevail]. I want to point out the other side of the argument on producing investigation reports. Investigations are supposed to be confidential, and witnesses are reluctant to tell the truth to investigators for a myriad of reasons if they believe their statements will not be kept confidential. If a school district has a practice of always producing investigation reports pursuant to PRA requests despite the exemption in the Act, it will have a chilling effect on the District’s ability to get witnesses to cooperate and tell the truth during investigations, because they will be afraid their statements will not be confidential. That impedes the District’s ability to investigate employee misconduct and to discipline or dismiss employees where necessary. It’s not a black and white issue of just telling the truth, and there are a number of factors to consider when determining whether or not to release an investigation report.

  10. Doctor J Says:

    @PHX, very insightful, thanks. Seems to me that the witnesses giving a truthful and full statement to the investigators early on in the case is more likely to allow quick settlement of the case and avoid the witness having to give “public” testimony in court or depositions. Doesn’t the real problem arise when the statements of co-employees are “contradictory” each pointing the finger at the other ? But there seem to be a whole list of good reasons to settle the case early, and certainly that would be in the best interests of the children victims, the schools, the staffs, etc. — all of which will allow the “healing” to begin quicker and move on.

  11. tmharrington Says:

    Also, the district could redact certain information if it believes it would compromise confidentiality. Then, BANG might challenge the redactions, but at least we would have the bare bones of the report.
    As I previously mentioned, I have received personnel-related information — which did not include an investigation — in the past as a result of a CPRA. This included complaints from parents.
    Also, the board has already opened the door to direct requests to waive exclusions based on its handling of the Borenstein CPRA.

  12. tmharrington Says:

    Brickell, who retired after serving as principal of Sequoia Elementary for several years, is known for running a tight ship.

    Here’s the website listing her as interim principal:

  13. Doctor J Says:

    Redaction of student and minor’s names was accepted by Matt Gafni in his original PRA request, a copy of which was attached to the lawsuit.

  14. tmharrington Says:

    It’s possible there could be other information the district would want to redact as well.

  15. tmharrington Says:

    Another claim has been filed:

  16. Phoenix Says:

    Investigations are focused on the complainant’s allegations; witnesses who support or refute those allegations; and the statements of the respondent/accused. It isn’t a question of people pointing fingers at each other generally; but a question of whether you have unbiased witnesses who corroborate each other to support a finding by a preponderance of the evidence. At the time of the investigation, the issue wasn’t who did or didn’t do a mandatory report; it was what the witnesses saw and heard. Redacting witness statements means taking out their name but leaving the substance of their statements. Many times the substance of what they say reveals their identity, and removing the name alone does not protect their confidentiality. Similar issues come up with reporters’ sources; many would not give information if they knew their identity would be revealed.

  17. Doctor J Says:

    @PHX, since you apparently have a legal background from the depth of your understanding, if the internal investigation also revealed that District personnel had knowledge of “potential claims” and these weren’t disclosed to the insurance company at each renewal of the policy, might that jeopardize the validity of the insurance policies, potentially putting the district on the hook for its own lawyers and any settlements ? If so, aren’t we looking at paying perhaps $20 or $30 million in lawyers and settlements ?

  18. Phoenix Says:

    It depends on what was known at the time of the renewal. If we are looking back at 2006/2007, because the investigation did not substantiate the allegation(s) of child molestation, there would not be a duty to disclose the matter as a potential claim. After that, it is unclear based on the lack of information about what the District knew between 2006/2007 and 2013. But you raise an excellent point, which is that insurers could try to find an exception to providing a defense to the District in this matter if there any reporting errors. I think it is unlikely that insurers will not provide a defense, as they would risk an insurance “bad faith” claim from the District which could subject them to punitive damages larger than the face of the original policy.

  19. Doctor J Says:

    Why PHX do you say the allegations were not substantiated in 06/07 ? I thought that was one of the big questions as to what was known in 06/07 when Jennifer was principal ??

  20. tmharrington Says:

    The district has brought forward a new social media policy that discourages teachers from communicating with students via these methods. But, perhaps it should also train administrators to better supervise staff.

  21. Doctor J Says:

    No comments on the Agenda for Wednesday ? How many times will it change before Wednesday ?

  22. Phoenix Says:

    Dr. J, I am basing it on the portion of the investigation report cited in the CC Times, in which it is stated as I recall, “This report would not be honest, and its conclusions not fully supported, if it did not acknowledge at least the potential of child abuse.” The conclusions that were fully supported were not conclusions that child abuse or molestation had occurred; they were something else; most likely that inappropriate/unprofessional conduct had occurred. The investigator was saying, I suspect there may be child abuse, but I cannot support that conclusion-but I have to say that the evidence suggests the potential of it. That left the District in a position where it did not have enough to dismiss Martin; so they put him on a remedial plan with directives. If the investigator had concluded by a preponderance of evidence that child molestation had occurred, they would have had to file charges against Martin for immoral conduct under the Ed. Code and move to dismiss him. Whoever’s name went on the 45/90 letter to Martin with is remediation plan is the person charged with making sure the plan was implemented.

  23. Doctor J Says:

    What I don’t understand, and perhaps PHX you can explain it, is if there was sufficient evidence to justify a 45/90 letter for dismissal, why didn’t anyone “report it” since there was obviously “reasonable suspicion” of child abuse ? And since there was a “remediation plan” that was supposed to be supervised, why wasn’t it supervised AND reported to CPS or the police ? Wouldn’t all of this have been in Martin’s employee file and should have been reviewed by each of the multiple principals at the school ? and known to both of the Asst Supts — Personnel and SASS ?

  24. Doctor J Says:

    How much does a “Simple” internal investigation cost ? Here’s a glimpse. How much does a much more complicated one like in the MDUSD Martin probe cost ? Maybe its time to find out.

  25. Phoenix Says:

    Yes, based on the investigator’s report of “potential child abuse” it should have been reported to CPS under the “reasonable suspicion” standard for mandated reporting. Why wasn’t it supervised? We don’t know; I suspect that is where a lot of finger pointing will occur in discovery of the case. If you are the principal, you need to be keeping a close eye on the teacher. If you are the Asst. Sup. in charge of certificated personnel, you need to make sure the remediation plan is being followed. If you are the Superintendent, you need to make sure your Asst. Sup and your principals are doing their job to make sure the remediation plan is being implemented. Yes, all of the staff you refer to should have been following Martin. I wonder, did they try to move him out of 4th grade to a lower grade where the classrooms were more observable? Did the teacher’s union put up a fight about Martin’s remediation plan or fight to get it whittled down to what it was? Many questions which will be answered in the litigation discovery process.

  26. tmharrington Says:

    Shouldn’t the general counsel also bear some responsibility? He should have known the mandated reporting law and have advised district staff to follow it.

  27. Doctor J Says:

    What if the General Counsel told the employees they did not need to report it ? Does that “clear them” of wrong doing ? I don’t think so.

  28. g. de la verdad Says:

    I think it is highly likely that Rolen told everyone involved that no report was to – or would ever – go beyond his desk, if they did what he told them to do. It is also possible that nothing was ever put into Martin’s personnel file where another principal would see it. That doesn’t necessarily mean Rolen didn’t confide in a board member or two—but I doubt if the AALRR legal opinion ever went to the whole board.
    I’d like to know if there was any ‘hush money’ paid to the first family who made the first accusation, or if that student was moved to a different class/school. Did teachers at that time report their own suspicions, or are the teachers’ accounts that we’ve heard of only from more recent cases? Were any teachers who reported suspicions ‘conveniently’ transferred to different schools?

    Did I miss anything along those lines in the lawsuit?

  29. tmharrington Says:

    This topic is scheduled for further closed session discussion Wednesday:

    The last time this was on the agenda, Board President Cheryl Hansen told me she did not know about the case and would find out about it for the first time during the Oct. 9 closed session.

    Potential litigation related to various J. Doe claims are also up for discussion:

  30. g. de la verdad Says:

    And, for the 3rd? or 4th? meeting in a row, they will discuss whether or not the district is going to “initiate” their own litigation against……someone.

  31. tmharrington Says:

    It appears that another Woodside Elementary fifth-grade teacher has only worked in the district since August, 2012:

  32. tmharrington Says:

    I see that the independent contract for MDHS requires the consultant to immediately contact the principal, designated administrator and the School Linked Services Administrator in the event a CPS or police report is necessary:

    It does not say that the administrator should make the call, just that the administrator should be informed. It doesn’t specifically say the contractor should make the call either, so it’s a bit vague.

  33. Doctor J Says:

    Interesting that this particular contract “form” was adopted in 2009 — wonder what it said prior to that time with regard to mandatory reporting.

  34. Phoenix Says:

    I’d go back and read his job duties; it should cover advising employees regarding compliance with all laws applicable to school employees including their duties under PC 11165.7. I’ve heard Rolen and Sachs really disliked each other, and wonder if the alleged strained relationship had any impact on the investigation or implementation of the remediation plan. The facts will come out in the discovery process.

  35. Doctor J Says:

    Job duties attached to Board Agenda March 25, 2013, and footer says revised on 12-2-2008.

  36. tmharrington Says:

    Just in time for tomorrow’s board meeting, the CCT has published an editorial demanding that MDUSD release the records sought in the BANG lawsuit:

    Will promised transparency be abandoned in favor of a circle the wagons mentality, which has been evident so often in the past in the district?

  37. tmharrington Says:

    The 2013-14 Parent Handbook spells out the mandatory reporting law on page 24:

    Did previous parent handbooks include this info?

  38. Hell Freezing Over Says:

    TH – this contract also mentions YVHS – see the services page.

  39. Doctor J Says:

    In a recent blog, I gave the link to the 2012/13 Parent Handbook — not sure if its in the “old” or “new” blog.

  40. Concerned13 Says:

    That’s not exactly how things happened. But it was the Principal that continued this lie – backed by JBM. The “emergency in Kansas” was the first thing told. Subsequent letters were signed by the Principal (Jen Cronan) and, when questioned, she would refer to JBM. ut the “family emergency” was kept up through the end of the year.

  41. tmharrington Says:

    Concerned: Do you have letters sent to parents communicating this information? If so, would you be wiling to share them with the CCT?

  42. Doctor J Says:

    Penn St. pays $59.7 Million for 26 victims. How much will MDUSD pay for 13 victims of MartinGATE ?

  43. Phoenix Says:

    Dr. J, since I ascertain from your posts you are either a District insider, or at least an extremely close follower over many years who knows all the relevant players, in your opinion, whose job was it to follow Martin after the 2006 investigation and make sure he complied with this disciplinary plan referenced in the civil case? I am asking this separate from the duty to report to CPS, which according to the civil complaints filed did not occur.

  44. Doctor J Says:

    @PHX Everyone who approved or had knowledge of the disciplinary plan — the names of whom have not yet been made public. Suspicion would probably focus on everyone in the chain of command from the time of the plan’s development until the arrest.

  45. tmharrington Says:

    Based on information I received about a different elementary teacher at a different school who was disciplined by the district, it appears that disciplinary plans are documented by the principal and that the SASS Dept. and Personnel Dept. are involved, along with the legal dept. The teachers’ union was also copied on a memo outlining findings and directives, which were issued by the Personnel Director. In that instance, the principal and personnel department planned to follow up to ensure the directives were followed. Later, the teachers’ union president participated in a conference with the teacher, principal, and personnel director to discuss ongoing concerns. Subsequently, a letter of reprimand was issued by the principal, with copies to the personnel director and teachers’ union president. In that instance, the principal followed up promptly and documented the teachers’ failure to adhere to the directives. This school also had a change of principals and the new principal received parent complaints the following year, which led the assistant superintendent of personnel to issue a 45-Day Notice of Unprofessional Conduct, which was copied to the SASS director, principal and MDEA president. The file also included several emails from parents expressing concerns about the teacher. The district eventually entered into a separation agreement with the teacher.
    Based on that case, which did not involve suspected child abuse, it appears that the school principal, SASS assistant supt., personnel assistant supt., MDEA and the legal dept. should have been aware of Martin’s disciplinary plan and there should be a paper trail, which the district appears to be withholding.

  46. Phoenix Says:

    TH, just an observation, there is a possibility that in the instance you site, the legal department actually wrote the 45-day notice. In Martin’s case, since the legal department assigned out and managed the investigation, there is a very good to almost certain chance the legal department wrote a 45-day notice and disciplinary plan for Martin, even if the Asst. Superintendent’s name went on the 45-day notice. I suspect MDEA was also well-aware of the situation.
    Let me ask, when suspected individuals were reported near schools, how often did legal show up to monitor and comment on the situation to the press?

  47. Doctor J Says:

    Maybe MDEA and MDEA officers who knew about the reasonable suspicion of Martin’s improper actions should also be made defendants and help with the settlements ?

  48. tmharrington Says:

    Phoenix, I’m a bit unclear on your question. What do you mean by “suspected individuals” being reported near schools? The legal dept. has sometimes shied away from speaking to the press in general, although Greg Rolen has acted as the district’s spokesman in some instances. In the Martin case, the board voted to terminate Rolen’s contract early the same night Martin was put on administrative leave. But, that closed session had already been scheduled ahead of time, so it’s unclear whether that decision had anything to do with Martin.

  49. Phoenix Says:

    This is the kind of thing I am talking about,

    If the same level of attention had been given to whether Martin was in compliance with his plan; things may have turned out differently. Following Martin was just diligent, basic hard work, the kind that doesn’t involve positive publicity like the article noted above.

  50. Doctor J Says:

    Yesterday, MDUSD filed an “answer” to the lawsuit by BANG — Theresa, can you post a copy ?

  51. tmharrington Says:

    Apparently, our attorney hasn’t yet received it yet, but she promised to send it to me when she does.

  52. g. de la verdad Says:

    I wonder. Putting the BANG PRA request aside, and considering other child molestation cases in the news in the past few years, doesn’t the $10million bail set for Martin seem very high? Reading the accounts from the Woodside students, there seems to be a history of inappropriate “touching” but no reports of Martin going to what we might consider (to put it gently) the “extremes” of sexual abuse.

    I wonder. Once the police got involved, did the report from Woodside merely serve as the straw that finally broke a serial child molester’s back?

    I wonder. Is Martin in jail just for ‘this’ case, or is there far more that we don’t know about.

    Contra Costa County Examples: both in Mar 2013,
    1) Anthony D’Tileo, 23–(preschool teacher!) was arrested and charged with four counts of lewd and lascivious acts against a child under age 14 — bail was set at $5.6million.
    2) Joel Kaufman, area baseball coach, charged with two counts of performing lewd acts on a child under 14, and one count each of performing lewd acts on a child between 14 and 15 and penetration of a drugged or intoxicated person, plus charges of filming/video taping. His bail was only $325K.
    So exactly what charges are listed on the Martin arrest report?

  53. Phoenix Says:

    It is high, but there are at least 12 victims and, as I recall, 129 felony counts charged by the DA, so that drives up the bail amount. It is not out of line with the D’Tileo case you cite of 5.6 million given the very high number of counts charged and high number of victims.

  54. tmharrington Says:

    The state’s charges are included in the BANG lawsuit as an attachment.

  55. tmharrington Says:

    Here’s the district’s answer to the BANG lawsuit:

  56. Doctor J Says:

    The District is stonewalling the TRUTH. The only reason for doing so could be so the extent of the knowledge by district administrators, teachers, and other mandated reporters is not divulged to the public — this is a cover-up of EPIC proportions.

  57. Phoenix Says:

    Dr. J, I write this comment to point out what I believe has been a hypocrisy. When Rolen didn’t produce records, he was vilified. He was released, most were happy, and now you have the same lawyering going on. Its LAWYERING, this is what lawyers do. They argue; they litigate. Whatever Rolen did wrong, his “wrongs” weren’t about not producing records, but other conduct. When Jayne Williams was appointed interim, I recall your glowing posts about her experience,. But, in reality, her legal decisions on the production of documents are no different than Rolen’s were. I’m just pointing out facts here. Clearly the board supports opposing the writ of mandate. Have things changed? Yes there are new players, but, this is what politicians and lawyers do.

  58. g. de la verdad Says:

    Yes, but district legal counsel should be taking their orders from the district leaders. Unfortunately, you may be right — we are dealing with a board that’s still top-heavy with politicians.


    /ˌpɒlɪˈtɪʃən/ Show Spelled [pol-i-tish-uhn] Show IPA



    a person who is active in party politics.


    a seeker or holder of public office, who is more concerned about winning favor or retaining power than about maintaining principles.


    a person who holds a political office.


    a person skilled in political government or administration; statesman or stateswoman.


    an expert in politics or political government.

  59. Doctor J Says:

    @PHX – Lawyers give advice, clients make decisions. Jayne Williams’ contract is over soon. The Board, after receiving advice, makes the decision. With the tornado of legal problems staring the district in the face which almost all arising from years before 4 of the Board members were on Board, what will the Board do ? Find a new “in house” General Counsel or seek out experts in the various issues that rise from the graves left by others ?? So PHX, what’s next on the Writ of Mandate ? Who will be first in the deposition chair to be grilled for days — what documents were searched for ? what documents exist but weren’t produced, and why ? Who do you see on the list of witnesses ? Will the judge really review potentially thousands of pages of documents ?

  60. Doctor J Says:

    And I thought you were going to give us the definition of “top-heavy”. From same source:
    /ˈtɒpˌhɛvi/ Show Spelled [top-hev-ee] Show IPA
    1. having the top disproportionately heavy; liable to fall from too great weight above.
    2. relatively much heavier or larger above the center or waist than below: a top-heavy wrestler.
    3. Finance.
    a. having a financial structure overburdened with securities that have priority in the payment of dividends.
    Remember Linda Mayo was elected in 1997 — her deposition could last for a week with long pauses between the question and the answer. Besides, I think she is a “pack rat” with regard to maintaining all district handouts and communications. It would not surprise me that she has direct information on MartinGATE.

  61. Phoenix Says:

    Dr. J, there are no depositions in writ of mandate proceedings. The matter will be set for a court hearing; and each side files motions in support of, and in opposition to, the request for writ of mandate, which usually have declarations attached as exhibits to support the party’s position on the legal issues. Depositions and “paper discovery” will occur in the civil cases, particularly the one filed by Stan Casper. I am not advocating for Rolen and I am not criticizing Williams; I am only pointing out that they provided legal decisions not to disclose public records under certain exemptions, decisions which were supported by the respective school boards at the time the initial advice was given. I do not know everyone who will be deposed; but I do know that all of this litigation will be costly and will take significant time to resolve.

  62. Phoenix Says:

    Dr. J, to answer your question on in-house versus outside counsel, I have not researched this specifically, but I am pretty sure that every district the size of Mt. Diablo or larger has in-house counsel and also sends work out to contracted legal counsel. If you check the CDE website, I believe MDUSD is the 16th largest district in the state, and that all of the larger districts do have in-house counsel, starting with the 15th largest, Stockton Unified. IMO, MDUSD should hire a new general counsel after a lot of careful vetting.

  63. Doctor J Says:

    PHX, so how does BANG identify which documents have been withheld if MDUSD doesn’t tell them ? How does BANG verify if MDUSD made a thorough search through the electronic archives of all employees and Board members ? Doesn’t someone make a list and then identify why they are not producing them ?

  64. Doctor J Says:

    Lots of factors are in play in whether to have “in house” or “outside” counsel, and how many lawyers. In fact, a whole book has been published on evaluating the factors.

  65. tmharrington Says:

    When Dan Borenstein asked trustees to reconsider Rolen’s denial, another attorney came in and again asked for documents from district employees and board members, then presented them to the board for a decision about whether or not to release them. Hopefully, the board has asked to see the documents that are being withheld.

    As I mentioned, previously Rolen DID release documents to me that were related to personnel issues. And Cooksey released many documents and emails to me related to Mildred Browne’s departure. So, there is precedent in the district for releasing personnel-related documents.

  66. Doctor J Says:

    But Theresa, you never did know for a fact whether or not ALL of the documents were given to you or what the extent of the document search was.

  67. Concerned Says:

    Is it true that Ms. Brickell, the second interim Woodside principal, is leaving Woodside already? What is the district thinking?! Woodside students and staff deserve better than this revolving door of principals.

  68. Phoenix Says:

    I am going to guess that the personnel documents released to you by Rolen did not put him in a bad light light, whereas the contract extension documents that he refused to produce did potentially put him in a bad light. When Cooksey released documents, I believe Browne already signed a settlement agreement. With the BANG request, you have major litigation pending against the District; these documents have the potential to hugely prejudice the District’s defense, and even poison a jury pool if the civil case does not settle, so the Board has every motivation to invoke the CPRA exemptions and not produce the documents. Based on the answer filed, it has been so advised by its current interim general counsel (and probably insurance defense counsel as well). There are many complex factors and it is not just an issue of past precedent.

  69. g. de la verdad Says:

    Maybe the bigger question is who’s actually running the district. Is it the new supt, or is it her “mentor” team? Are legal issues the pervue of the interim Counsel or her “Firm” — Do we have a bunch of follower-leaders, including board, who think “We’re paying them, so they must be smarter than we are and we have to do what they tell us.”
    Oh, rats! I think I just channeled Mayo!

  70. Phoenix Says:

    Dr. J, the factors listed such as size of the District, number of complex legal issues, and need for proactive legal action all militate in favor of having in-house counsel in a District the size of MDUSD. In-house counsel has direct contact with administrators and access to records and school sites, which is a huge advantage to the District. Every time outside legal counsel places a phone call or sends an email, the District is billed. Consider the Martin case. In a situation such as that, if you are outside legal counsel, you do not have the ability or access to monitor the disciplinary plan as would in-house counsel. There is a financial disincentive for administrators to follow-up with outside legal counsel to confer on these issues. General counsel regularly attends MDUSD K-12 principal meetings at Willow Creek (or did). That alone was an opportunity to follow up with the Woodside principals and ask how things were going and ask if Martin was following the plan. GC has access to school campuses at any time and can check in on problem employees/teachers, because GC is a district employee, and outside legal counsel are not a district employees and do not have that type of access. These benefits and many more are why almost all large school districts in California have gone with an in-house legal counsel model.

  71. tmharrington Says:

    I have inquired at the school and was referred to Julie Braun-Martin, whom I have emailed to find out if this rumor is true.

  72. Doctor J Says:

    Yesterday Julie B-M posted an opening at Concord High for a VP — wondering if one of the VP’s might be headed to Woodside ? Julene ????

  73. Concerned13 Says:

    g. de la verdad – As the mother of two of Martin’s victims, I can assure you that his bail and charges are accurate and just.

    I say that NOT because of what’s happened to my children; but by knowing the particular details of what has occured to all of the children. Those details are saved for the criminal trial.

    He has 125 felony counts – as you can see by the other cases you mentioned, most of them had less than 10. In addition, the “special circumstances” are that these counts involved children under 14, and that these acts occured over three or more months (much longer in most all cases).

    Without divulging more, $10 million bail for a serial child molester – with 125 felony counts – is more than just.

  74. Concerned13 Says:

    Absolutely. HUGE cover-up.

  75. g. de la verdad Says:

    Concerned 13: I have no doubt the bail is justified. What I was really wondering: If the news as it was reported early in this case is correct, after two months of investigations and speaking with potential Woodside victims, when Martin was originally arrested his bail was (per police/news reports) set at $3.6million. After he was arrested, search warrants were executed, and bail became $10million. Did they find other evidence — evidence not yet charged?

    Might this be a case of the DA going after the ‘most obvious’ ‘best’ case/125 charges, while there is perhaps evidence that could follow for another case? Maybe the earlier reports of the lower bail amount were inaccurate — Or maybe Woodside was not his only hunting ground.

  76. Concerned13 Says:

    The original bail was 3.95 million and 91 felony charges, when he was first arrested. The investigation continued, though – and, yes, more evidence and additional victims were found.

  77. Phoenix Says:

    Concerned13, as a parent and someone who was sexually assaulted as a child myself, my heart goes out to you for what your child went through and what your family is experiencing. Can you state what persons you believe should have been watching Martin and were not? Do you put it all on the principal(s), or do you feel those in District administration should have been coming out to the site to check on him? Or that the District should have tried to dismiss him earlier? I’m curious to any views you can provide.

  78. Concerned13 Says:

    Phoenix – Thank you for your kind words, I really appreciate it more than words can convey.

    Seeing your children hurt in any way (much less by sexual abuse) has taken a huge toll on all of us. There are so many details that I wish I could share, but I can’t compromise certain things. I hope that’s understood.

    I’ll tell you what I can. Given the prior allegations that occurred – and all that was found during that internal investigation – there should have never, ever been a “discipline action” in place. A “discipline action” for “potential child abuse” (MDUSD’s words)???

    If someone can tell me how that even makes ANY sense, it would surely help this mom.

    So – you know my position on what “should” have happened, given the facts, etc. But let’s just go with the fact that they did keep him on w/ certain “discipline actions” in place – ie, keeping the door open, not being alone with one child, being “x” number of feet away from certain classrooms, etc. All of it. YES, I feel that every Principal from Sachs to Batesole to Cronan was responsible to ensure that these things were followed. From there – it was up to the District to oversee and make sure that these actions were followed – overseeing Woodside Principals and overseeing Martin.
    When I say “District” – given the details of the initial allegations – I mean everyone – from JBM up to the Board Members, General Counsel, Superintendent.

    But again, a “plan” for a probable sexual offender?? Really??

    Just one more thought – and I know this is out there already – but there are many teachers (some still on staff at Woodside) — that saw situations that met or exceeded the “reasonable suspicion” reporting law. It wasn’t just that they thought he was creepy or had a bad vibe about him. They saw compromising situations between him and boys – period – and made decision after decision to not follow proper protocal and report.

  79. Phoenix Says:

    Hi Concerned13, I can try to answer your question above about the investigation report. The quote in the article above taken from the civil complaint is that the investigator said, “potential” and not “probable.” While it may seem like semantics, legally “probably” means more likely than not, or 51% v. 49%, while “potential” is something less than that and not enough evidence to get a teacher dismissed. (Permanent teachers like Martin are entitled to a full blown dismissal hearing with witnesses before an administrative law judge and a finding that it is more likely than not that they committed misconduct requiring their dismissal, before they can be terminated.) It appears that when that first investigation report came back in 2006, someone or some persons in the District decided they didn’t have enough to move for a teacher dismissal hearing based on the results of the investigation alone. However, “potential” certainly equates to “reasonable suspicion.” I can’t imagine what the defense could be to not referring the suspicion to CPS at that time to interview potential victims, and after that, watching Martin carefully to make sure he was following the remediation plan. I’m sorry your child and your family are experiencing this awful situation, and I believe justice will be rendered.

  80. Doctor J Says:

    Nancy Dasho now listed as third interim Principal at Woodside in just over two months of school — Why the musical chairs ? She is retired principal of Woodside.

  81. tmharrington Says:

    Julie Braun-Martin said in an e-mail that the district is still searching for a permanent principal at Woodside. She said Brickell had subbed and now Dasho is “subbing.”
    When I googled her, I saw that she was principal of Holbrook Elem. in 2006-07.

  82. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Bay Area News Group received a police report that shows Deb Cooksey dragged her feet in response to police request for internal report about Martin:

  83. Doctor J Says:

    Blockbuster revelations on MartinGATE — I concur with Theresa’s opinion that Cooksey was “dragging her feet” on assisting police in the investigation by requiring a “search warrant”. Incredible that Cooksey says they built a “wall” around Dr. Bernard, interim Supt, since his daughter was one of the Principals implicated in the coverup — yet Bernard made a statement to the press — some wall. Great investigative article by Mathias Gafni. BTW Theresa, your post “Bay Area News Group received a police report that shows Deb Cooksey dragged her feet in response . . . . ” seems to have dropped off the comments. What happened ? Gafni report:

  84. g. de la verdad Says:

    Wouldn’t you think Cooksey would have learned from Rolen’s example that “building a wall around…” is very much like ‘closing the barn door after…’ and it doesn’t do much to fix the harm that’s already been done.

  85. tmharrington Says:

    I typed that comment using the old system instead of Disqus, so I think that’s why it doesn’t show up here. It will also be interesting to find out if Dr. Bernard is the Total School Solutions consultant who is coaching Dr. Meyer. If so, it would appear the wall could have an open gate.

  86. g. de la verdad Says:

    Cooksey’s treatment of police inspector Robert’s requests for records is still playing big on the radio. Gil Gross, Newstalk 910 just did a piece on Gafni’s article. It was not difficult (it never is) to know what Gil Gross thinks. His full five minutes of coverage should have the district’s and Cooksey’s ears burning and eyes watering. Hopefully it has Cooksey looking for “other” employment. Maybe as a law clerk someplace out of the East Bay area.

  87. Doctor J Says:

    Here’s Gil Gross on Cooksey and MDUSD’s refusal to assist the police in investigating child molestations against students. Starts in Hour 3 at 10:06 and runs about 5 minutes. Worth the listen.

  88. g. de la verdad Says:

    The 9 Doe cases have been filed.

  89. tmharrington Says:

    Here’s our story:

  90. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa, can you please post the Complaints so we can read what our taxpayers money has been spent for ? We need to know if Linda Mayo should be asked to resign or if she has a conflict of interest in voting to conceal MDUSD records on MartinGATE . Also, please don’t forget to post the documents you promised us last week. Thanks.

  91. g. de la verdad Says:

    I’m a bit surprised the suit doesn’t also name Isserman. Personnel would surely have been involved in reviewing and sealing the records.

  92. g. de la verdad Says:

    Mayo wasn’t just ‘on the board’ in 2006. She was President, and likely would have been the first board member notified of the internal investigation.

  93. Doctor J Says:

    Linda Mayo was a Mandated Reporter — so she could be held personally liable for failure to report the reasonable suspicion of child abuse by Martin. Mandated Reporters who fail to report can be held personally liable for all damages caused by subsequent molestations — Linda Mayo needs to do the right thing — and RESIGN.

  94. tmharrington Says:

    There are certainly more people who could have been named. I agree that personnel should have been involved in reviewing the report and setting up the monitoring plan that was never enforced. Someone should have followed up on the fire marshall’s citation as well.

  95. tmharrington Says:

    The complaints are online with the story, listed to the right under “related stories” at

    I will try to get to those other BANG docs today. A reader called to ask whether the report will become public if it is introduced into evidence in the criminal trial. That’s a good question. He also asked whether the district has done anything to negate its insurance coverage through its own negligence. Another good question.

  96. Doctor J Says:

    Former Board President Linda Mayo and gang are charged with Fraudulent Concealment and Conspiracy to Commit Fraud “in perpetuity” after failing to report to the police or CPS suspected child abuse — see the 10th and 11th Counts of the “Caspar” complaint. Every one of those who are guilty should resign and lose their educator’s credentials.

  97. g. de la verdad Says:

    Brian Lawrence once asked ‘Is there any conflict of interest when our interim counsel firm hires itself as counsel for this [Martin] case?’ And relied on the Meyers Nave attorney’s response — ‘We wouldn’t do anything that created a conflict of interest, and the final decision rests with the board anyway.’

    Our Supt. and our board need to instruct Schoenke to instruct Meyers Nave to push through with Martin, and all cases as quickly as possible. Given free reign, Meyers Nave will drag some of these trials out for years. some are already two years old. Meyers Nave came into the district (we were told it was “just” for this case) and in a matter of 2-3 months, through Jayne Williams, took over control of nearly all other existing cases — leaving only one or two under the same counsel that was working certain cases at the time. They “settled” some (without the board reporting out settlements or costs publicly) and they “took over” some, to move the big bucks into their own pockets. Every month since last summer, Meyers Nave (alone) is raking $75-100K out of the district coffers — and they’ve barely begun this and several other court cases. This is just the tip of the legal expense ice berg.

  98. Doctor J Says:

    What is the reaction of the Calif State PTA that Linda Mayo is charged with Fraudulent Concealment and Conspiracy to Commit Fraud “in perpetuity” — after all Linda is the parliamentarian and a Board of Directors member for the State PTA.

  99. tmharrington Says:

    Although the general counsel’s office referred me to Meyers Nave for comment, the attorney there never even bothered to respond to my phone calls or emails. A “no comment” would have been nice.

  100. tmharrington Says:

    The agenda for tonight’s meeting includes two claims being discussed in closed session:

    However, it’s unclear whether they are related to Martin.

  101. Doctor J Says:

    Maybe the State PTA will give you a comment for one of their Board members and Parliamentarian charged with Conspiracy and Fraudulent Concealment ? If the State won’t comment, the National organization might.

  102. g. de la verdad Says:

    Do we know if Steven Lawrence and Greg Rolen ever agreed to/signed the Revision Addendums presented on 3/11/13? Specifically added — meaning the full board was aware of what was about to hit the fan — “H. Any salary provided the Superintendent pending an investigation shall be fully

    reimbursed if the Superintendent is convicted of a crime involving an abuse of his

    or her office or position, as set forth in Government Code sections 53243 and

    I. Any funds for the legal criminal defense of the Superintendent provided by the District shall be fully reimbursed to the District if the Superintendent is convicted
    of an abuse of his or her office or position, as set forth in Government Code sections 53243.1 and 53243.4.

    H. Any salary provided the Superintendent pending an investigation shall be fully
    reimbursed if the Superintendent is convicted of a crime involving an abuse of his or her office or position, as set forth in Government Code sections 53243 and 53243.4.

    I. Any funds for the legal criminal defense of the Superintendent provided by the District shall be fully reimbursed to the District if the Superintendent is convicted of an abuse of his or her office or position, as set forth in Government Code
    sections 53243.1 and 53243.4.”

  103. Doctor J Says:

    Haight Brown & Bonesteel must be proud about the Fraudulent Concealment “in perpetuity” and Conspiracy to Commit Fraud charges filed yesterday against their partner of less than a month — it probably gives their clients great comfort to know the quality of legal advice Rolen gave to MDUSD that took 7 years to unravel the tangled web — now Haight’s clients can spend a fortune to get that same quality legal advice. Haight really knows how to get free publicity.

  104. g. de la verdad Says:

    Linda Mayo should be recusing herself on any closed session discussions, and Board votes to advise legal staff on the Martin case. Then again, she should have been recusing herself from Martin discussions from the first date that charges were officially brought to the board’s attention.

  105. Concerned Says:

    Was Roger Byland still with MDUSD during this time?

  106. Doctor J Says:

    Yes, Roger Byland, former MDUSD Assistant Supt, was appointed Supt of the Paradise USD on July 8, 2008 and began working up in the hills shortly thereafter.

  107. Doctor J Says:

    Since Linda Mayo could be held liable personally for PUNITIVE DAMAGES out of her own pocket, she now has a financial conflict of interest which disqualifies her from participation or listening to the discussion and voting. She needs to be excused during that discussion. I point this out below.

  108. Guest Says:

    Do you know what will happen with this case? What always happens with civil cases. They will do paper discovery, they will do depositions, they will do more depositions, they will do motions for summary judgment, and then they will go to mediation, and then after two or three sessions, they will settle. And it will all die, as everything does. And the victims will get their money, as they deserve. And maybe someone will lose a credential, but probably not. And no one will ever be in an orange jumpsuit. And former employees like legal counsel and Dr. McHenry will live happily ever after. And Martin will die in jail, or get out when he is a very old man. And that is where the story will end.

  109. Doctor J Says:

    Theresa should get kudos for her story and survey that is making “mandatory” the training for “mandatory reporters”. Theresa, perhaps you can repost the links and tell us the history and behind the scenes stuff — like how one local supt demanded you retract your story because he wanted all reports of suspected sexual abuse to be first “screened” by him before they were reported to the police or CPS and how you shut him down. Theresa, YOU have made a DIFFERENCE in protecting children ! Hats of to you !

  110. Doctor J Says:

    The amounts of damages claimed are in a separate document, which I am told is called a Statement of Damages, which is not filed with the court. Perhaps Theresa can request copies of this from the victims attorneys and post along with the complaints so the public can see what is the amount of money requested by the victims in this case, including punitive damages against the school and district administrators.

  111. tmharrington Says:

    Dr. J: Thanks so much for this comment. A large portion of the credit goes to our investigative reporter Matthias Gafni, who is now pursuing the 2006 report from MDUSD. FYI, we have entered that story in several journalism awards contests, so hopefully the judges will agree that this kind of journalism is an important service to the community. I would also like to credit our database guru Danny Willis (an MDUSD alum), who created the interactive online database that shows how districts responded.
    As a reminder, here’s our story:

    And here’s the database:

    Also, here’s our story about the feds stepping up calls for better training, spurred on by Rep. George Miller, who said suspicions of grooming should be reported to police before it gets to the point of actual abuse:

    The superintendent you mentioned was from Dublin, who disputed our contention that his district’s requirement to inform administrators about suspected abuse before alerting police or CPS was contrary to the law. He said the district was just trying to help people fill out the reports and that it was going above and beyond what the law required. But, when I informed him that this policy could be a disincentive to report suspected abuse by district employees, he said he would call the district’s lawyer to get clarification. I never heard back from him.

  112. tmharrington Says:

    I asked both attorneys for the amount of damages and they said it hasn’t been determined yet. They also said there is some sort of law prohibiting them from listing specific dollar amounts in the pleadings. Lewis said the full extent of damage to his clients is still being determined, based on ongoing counseling the boys are receiving. Casper also said more and more is being revealed as the boys are coming to terms with what happened to them and are slowly opening up about it.

  113. tmharrington Says:

    CSEA rep Annie Nolen made a powerful statement last night (one of many), when she warned that she doesn’t want to see something happen in the district — as a result of its failure to properly train employees regarding bloodborne pathogens — like what happened as a result of its failure to properly train employees in mandated reporting responsibilities (and the failure of administrators who should have known the law to actually follow it).
    Neither suit names the teachers who failed to report their suspicions to police or CPS. Yet, it is clear that several teachers at the school had serious concerns about Martin’s behavior, which prompted the internal investigation. Had those teachers gone directly to police or CPS in 2005-06, the subsequent abuse might have been prevented. It’s unclear why they didn’t, but the implication appears to be that they didn’t know that’s what they were supposed to do because the district hadn’t trained them properly. They trusted the district to follow up. This is why teachers should report suspicions directly to authorities. Unfortunately, district administrators can’t always be trusted to do the right thing.

  114. Doctor J Says:

    Please Theresa, don’t forget to upload the BANG legal brief and request for in camera review. I know you are busy, but those documents are important.

  115. tmharrington Says:

    I’ll get to that when I can. In the meantime, here’s the Meyers Nave belated response to my request for comment:

    Please note that I emailed complete copies of the lawsuits to Meyers Nave the morning of Feb. 11, with the permission of both attorneys for plaintiffs. So, even though Meyers Nave had not yet been officially served, they had the lawsuits and Gilbert was in his office. Both times I called, he was “on the other line.”

  116. Doctor J Says:

    The big lie starts off in Paragraph 3: “The District’s priority has been . . to provide — for every student — a safe school environment . . . ” Its time to hook up the polygraph — why was the suspicious conduct not reported to the police or CPS ? Why was it actively concealed ? Why was there no enforcement of the “restrictions” place on Martin ? Why, until this year, has there not been mandatory training for ALL employees on child abuse reporting as REQUIRED BY LAW ? Why did MDUSD never report to the State Supt of Schools that it was not training its employees in child abuse reporting AS REQUIRED BY LAW ? Why hasn’t the district taken punitive action against the administrators, site and district, who failed to enforce the law ? Lets have some truthful answers and quit padding the legal bills of Meyers Nave. Meyers Nave just spent $2,500 of student’s money to draft that press release — about $50 per word. And teachers are begging for donations of pencils and supplies — what hypocrisy !

  117. g. de la verdad Says:

    The bigger lie may be: “The… [Martin]… was removed from campus.” Talk about a day late and a dollar short! How about 7 yrs late and untold number of new abuses during that 7 yrs!

  118. Doctor J Says:

    How about the whole truth — Martin allowed by Principal Jen Cronan to say goodbye to his students and allowed one on one contact to influence at least one not to say anything — Martin Nave calls that “removed from campus” ? Someone needs to give those lawyers drug tests !

  119. tmharrington Says:

    I think you mean “Meyers Nave.”

    Here’s a new blog post about Rep. George Miller’s call for better training, along with state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson’s call for the same thing, as well as a link to a guest commentary about training offered by the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Contra Costa:

  120. tmharrington Says:

    Here are three of the documents filed with Contra Costa County Superior Court by Bay Area News group’s attorney, Duffy Carolan:

    1. Request for in camera review of withheld documents:

    2. Proposed order re request for in camera review:

    3. Memorandum of Points and Authorities in support of verified petition for writ of mandate directed to MDUSD:

    Carolan has not yet sent me her declaration, but I’ll ask for it again.

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