Recall of Sheila Benecke and Marlene Draper, Capistrano Unified School District, California (2008)

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Sheila Benecke
Sheila Benecke and Marlene Draper were recalled from the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) in California by their constituents on June 24, 2008 by a landslide margin[1],[2]

Recall committee spokesman Tom Russell said, "This is a complete repudiation of the dishonesty, corruption and fiscal irresponsibility we have fought against for so long. There's going to be hope and healing. That spirit will begin to take hold, and people will begin to coalesce around the things that have to happen. And that all comes with positive reform."

Organizers of the recall effort submitted 33,000 signatures to the Orange County election board on January 28, 2008. 20,493 signatures were required to force the recall.

Sue Palazzo and Ken Maddox were elected to the positions that became vacant when Benecke and Draper were forced off the board.

The price tag for holding the special recall vote was $677,603.[3]


Marlene Draper

Benecke and Draper were regarded, by those who opposed them, as part of the "old guard trustees." Opponents accused them of fostering "a culture of corruption at CUSD and for gross fiscal mismanagement."

"Enemies List"

Former CUSD Superintendent James Fleming and former Assistant Superintendent Susan McGill were charged with illegally creating two different "enemies lists" in 2005 and 2006 using CUSD time and resources. They have pled not guilty. The jury trials were held in November 2009.[4]

On September 15, 2009, CUSD agreed to pay $653,350 to seven families in the CUSD district who said they were harassed and intimidated after their names appeared on the two lists of alleged "enemies" of the district. As terms of the settlement, the district admitted to no wrongdoing and the families agreed not to pursue further lawsuits against the district.[4]

Tony Beall, a Rancho Santa Margarita city councilman, was named on one of the enemies list and his family was one of the seven that pursued civil remedies for being named on the list. After the settlement, he said, "We have been engaged in this battle for many years and it just came to a point where it made sense to end this litigation. We have been vindicated in many ways – we have replaced all seven trustees, removed James Fleming, Susan McGill and other corrupt officials from this school district, and restored honesty, integrity and accountability."[4]

The $653,350 settlement was mostly paid by the district's insurance policy, although the insurance policy had a $100,000 deductible which it had to pay from its general operating budget.

  • The 2005 "enemies" list contained the names of about 150 families who signed up on an email list that was supporting a recall effort that year that ultimately failed. The district obtained their names.
  • The 2006 list was created by district officials when they went to the Orange County Registrar of Voters Office in Santa Ana to copy down a list of the names of the parents who had signed the petitions in the unsuccessful 2005 recall.

See also

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