VERDICT IS IN: Jury unanimously finds Fallbrook Union Elementary School District wrongfully terminated Elaine Allyn; district ordered to pay over $1.19 million

FALLBROOK – The following are two statements provided to the Village News on Thursday, Feb. 26,  following a unanimous verdict in favor of plaintiff Elaine Allyn in the Allyn vs. Fallbrook Union Elementary School District lawsuit claiming wrongful termination.

The first statement is from Allyn’s legal counsel, Curran & Curran Law.

The second statement is from Fallbrook Union Elementary School District legal counsel, Gil Abed of Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz, APC, who defended the district.

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“1.2 million verdict in employment retaliation case against Fallbrook Union Elementary School District”

“In a resounding victory against the alleged misconduct by her former bosses, FUESD superintendent Candace Singh, Ray Proctor and Dennis Bixler, Elaine Allyn, the former 18-year information technology director for the district, prevailed in her claims for retaliatory mistreatment and wrongful termination with a unanimous jury award of $1,194,000 for lost past, present and future income and emotional distress (general damages).

“Ms. Allyn originally alleged claims for wrongful termination in violation of public policy, retaliation under the Labor Code and for the failure to conduct a proper alleged discrimination investigation relating to Mr. Bixler investigating his own boss, Mr. Proctor. Her claims were refined by her counsel and, based upon technical legal/procedural grounds, a single claim went to the jury; whistle-blower retaliation in violation of Labor Code section 1102.5.

“Ms. Allyn testified she had questioned the spending of Ms. Singh, alleging she had spent in excess of $43,000 of public funds on a larger office and redecorating and over $14,000 in public funds on new tech items for herself, when she first became Superintendent in August 2011. She further alleged that Ms. Singh and Mr. Proctor had spread these expenditures around various district budgets to avoid the scrutiny of the board. Ms. Singh had asked Ms. Allyn to purchase a larger computer screen for her from the IT budget so as not to “flag the board.”

“Ms. Allyn had also testified in the early summer of 2011 that Mr. Proctor had warned his fellow administrators to “clean their houses” as he was aware of public investigations into misconduct in other districts concerning improper financial relationships with contractors and other financial misconduct and was concerned Fallbrook could be investigated and he could be embarrassed or disciplined for his own alleged financial misconduct.

“Mr. Proctor and Ms. Singh then directed Ms. Allyn to delete the district’s archive server which contained three years of district historical emails. When Ms. Allyn initially refused and asked her bosses to provide a legal opinion because she believed what they were asking violated law and district policy, they threatened her with insubordination charges and ordered her to delete the email archive sever telling her they would take care of the legal issue.

“Once that was done, in a further attempt to cover themselves and point the finger at Ms. Allyn in case of investigation of the District, they falsely and pretextually accused her of “hacking” and reading their emails and conducted a $43,000 pretextual investigation with the district lawyer Dan Shinoff’s trusted investigator, who found no computer or forensic evidence of misconduct by Ms. Allyn.

“Despite the findings of the investigator, Ms. Singh, Mr. Proctor and Mr. Bixler still falsely charged Ms. Allyn with reading emails, deleting emails, and failing to assist the district with the voluntary Erate funding program. In a formal Notice of Charges document, Mr. Bixler, who testified the documents was “wordsmithed” with Mr. Shinoff, presented these pretextual and false charges to the board, resulting in Ms. Allyn’s wrongful and retaliatory termination.

“Earlier in this litigation, district spokesperson, Dennis Bixler, had previously falsely indicated to the press Ms. Allyn had been terminated for dishonesty, fraud and violation of district policies. After an initial trial, which Ms. Allyn and her counsel believe the district intentionally caused to be mistried, the district board again falsely reported to the press Ms. Allyn was terminated for dishonesty, fraud and violation of district policy.

“The dedicated jury in this second trial listened attentively to all the evidence and believed Ms. Allyn and her former district employees, all of whom were absolutely honest and sincere and none of whom were impeached, not a single time in the trial. The district witnesses were impeached repeatedly with inconsistent deposition and former testimony from the first trial. The district witnesses were shown to be inconsistent with each other on key issues in the case with Mr. Bixler giving five different versions of Ms. Allyn reporting to him and Mr. Shinoff and his investigator that she had been directed by Ms. Singh and Mr. Proctor to delete the districts archive email server.

“The district witnesses even attempted to add new preposterous claims and allegations against Ms. Allyn raised for the first time in the litigation at this trial, like Ms. Allyn had years back sexually harassed her boss Mr. Proctor and Ms. Allyn violated procedures and had a bad reputation. The jurors properly disregarded these new claims as unsubstantiated mud-slinging.”

“At trial, Mr. Proctor also testified for the first time in the litigation that he did not need to delete email as he had printed everyone of his emails for the past 21 years which district counsel said were all “public record.” There was no evidence to support this new allegation and no other witness supported these claims and, in fact, the district charges against Ms. Allyn alleged the district administrator emails were highly confidential and related to confidential district business.

“The jury properly considered all the evidence and found Ms. Allyn had been retaliated against and wrongfully terminated.  Jurors indicated the district’s mistreatment angered and insulted their intelligence and awarded Ms. Allen the maximum damages they believed they could based on the evidence and jury instructions. They even awarded Ms. Allyn a greater sum of emotional distress damages that had been asked by her counsel in closing argument.

“The juries unanimous verdict was a complete victory and vindication for Ms. Allyn and an indictment of the clear alleged misconduct by district administrators. After the verdict Allyn indicated,

“I can’t express the emotion I am feeling. This is not only for me but, for all the people at the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District, former and present employees that are going through the awful treatment that this administration is giving them. I really hope that it opens the eyes of the school board to re-evaluate the current administration and their management philosophy.”

“This firm also believes this was a fair and just verdict for a fine, honest and deserving plaintiff and was a strong message to district administrators that their abuse of power, breach of public and employee trust and attempts at cover up, will not be tolerated.

“This firm also believes it was a strong indication that the district’s counsel, Mr. Shinoff, who the evidence showed assisted these administrators in their alleged misconduct or, at a minimum, gave his clients bad advice and more likely was complicit in the alleged mistreatment of Ms. Allyn.”

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Below is the media statement provided by Gil Abed of Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz, APC, who defended Fallbrook Union Elementary School District (FUESD). The statement is attributed to FUESD superintendent, Candace Singh.

 

” Re: Jury decision/Allyn v. FUESD”

“This lawsuit was filed with 12 claims against the district, 11 of which the district either prevailed or were dismissed. The district intends to seek all remedies available including costs and attorneys’ fees with respect to all of the 11 claims.

“The Fallbrook Union Elementary School District is disappointed with the outcome of the trial with respect to the one claim that the jury was asked to decide.

“While the jury’s decision is not the outcome expected, the district respects the jury’s time and commitment to the judicial process. At the same time, the district will continue to pursue the legal remedies that reach beyond today’s decision.”

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The Village News will publish its customary news coverage of the jury decision in the March 5 issue.

30 Responses to "VERDICT IS IN: Jury unanimously finds Fallbrook Union Elementary School District wrongfully terminated Elaine Allyn; district ordered to pay over $1.19 million"

  1. Teresa Rita   February 27, 2015 at 10:23 am

    It is about time….so sad how are current district administration handled this case. Very happy justice is served. Congratulations Laine and family.

    Reply
  2. FED UP   February 27, 2015 at 11:15 am

    It sounds as though the School District needs to do some “house cleaning”. I’m certain that there must be honest people out there looking for work who could do these jobs better….and who do not cost the District in inappropriate expenditures, legal fees and payouts.

    Reply
  3. Teri Heyneman-Myers   February 27, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    The emotion in the courtroom was palpable.My family and members of the jury knew who was telling the truth, jurors in the previous trial did too, and came to the only conclusion possible. All twelve jurors supported the verdict. The reason for the increased amount awarded to my sister, Elaine Allyn, was said by a juror, “We know we can’t give back what they have taken from her, FUESD, but we hope this helps.”Other jurors were overcome with emotion knowing the toll this experience took on my sister, her family, and supportive friends. District council has stated they plan to appeal. Obviously the legal expenses are costly, but do not be mistaken and blame Elaine Allyn. Blame rests on the shoulders of certain district employees, and their dishonesty during testimony. The jurors were correct in their decision.

    Reply
  4. Susan Edwarda   February 27, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    As a taxpayer, I am appalled that the Governing Board is allowing Singh, Proctor, and Bixler to retain their positions after a jury found them guilty of firing a district employee who blew the whistle on the personal expenditures they were attempting to conceal from that same Governing Board. I am not sure who’s conduct is more outrageous; Singh/Proctor/Bixler’s wrongful and retaliatory termination of Elaine Allyn or the Governing Board’s for not firing them upon hearing the auspices of the testimony and resulting verdict.

    Reply
  5. Julie Gunn   February 27, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    If the Governing Board of FUESD agrees to pursue additional legal action against the unamious verdict by the jury, a recall of all Board members should be initiated. How can they possibly justify the additional expense of an Appeal? This is strictly the arrogance of Superintendent Candy Singh’s refusal to admit she was wrong. It is time for the Governing Board to learn how to say “NO” or it is time for them to GO!

    Reply
    • Cynthia Greer   March 1, 2015 at 10:46 pm

      I agree with Julie Gunn. I’m a retired teacher, and I worked 21 years for FUESD. Singh and Proctor and Bixler caused 1) upheavals and 2) expenditures of money and wasted curriculum and 3) disgruntled employees through their dictatorial methods of behaving/”leading.” I don’t think the school board knew all that happened … it would be very sad and disturbing to think they did.

      Reply
  6. Concerned   February 27, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    I agree with Susan 100%. There is a board meeting this coming Monday, March 2nd, per the districts web site. Every single voter and tax payer should attend and even address the board. We need to let them all know this can’t be tolerated. Singh, Proctor and Bixler are usually in attendance at the meetings. Although I’d be surprised if all three attended this one. All should be fired with no benefits or pensions given to them. I would even recommend the board be replaced except they are elected, so it won’t happen. Wake up Fallbrook and educate yourselves on who you elect into local offices.

    Reply
    • FLBK citizen   March 7, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      I was at the school board meeting on Mar. 2 and all administrators were present. More community members need to attend!!! Show the board members that Fallbrook does care about their students and schools! It was the usual agenda where the board members congratulate each other for attending fundraisers and presentations. The teacher union rep addressed the board about the district’s refusal to negotiate with the union since Sept. Teachers have been without an updated contract for six months. Interesting that the board did approve ANOTHER huge raise for senior district administrators last summer. Check out the website Transparentcalifornia.com for the details on salaries of state employees. You will not find salaries of district admin listed on the FUESD website although all others are! Singh and Proctor have seemingly had the board under their control rather than the other way around. We elected these board members; they work for us. Go to the board meetings and sign in to speak. Robert’s Rules prevails so you won’t get a verbal reply but the board needs to hear how the community is disgusted by FUESD senior administrators’ i…. and i….. behavior. They should not be allowed to continue using the Elemenary District as their own personal fiefdom!

      Reply
  7. IDH   February 27, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    Unfortunately these …….. will continue to fight on with the our public money (their massive egos leave them no choice). Maybe someone on the school board will wake up and smell the coffee! This group probably has a lot more dirty laundry than just the firing Ms. Allyn. Why else would they want the emails deleted????? FUESD needs to pay up and start fresh with a positive group of Administrators who will support teachers and students.

    Reply
  8. Greg   February 27, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    This just adds cost, while at the same time inefficiency, to public education. It’s hard to believe that these people have not been fired, unless an outside investigation has concluded they have done no wrong. If that’s not the case, it’s hard to believe that this stuff happens at these levels of government. I can only imagine what goes on in a bigger pond. I know people who work for government at all levels and they are hard working, honest people. It’s disappointing to hear that this is not the same for these administrators who are making the big bucks. The arrogance and sense of entitlement is astounding.

    Reply
  9. Just Thinking   February 28, 2015 at 6:50 am

    How about the origional accusations? Taxpayers get to pay this award, and we get to pay $57K so she can have a prettier office. And everyone gets to keep their jobs. What a deal!

    Reply
  10. SMH   February 28, 2015 at 8:54 am

    Let’s not forget the inflammatory and degrading letter that the FUESD School Board wrote and The Village News published (with each individual member’s signature). I certainly hope Ms. Allyn goes after each and every one of them for Defamation of Character. And while we’re at it, which one of them leaked Mr. Buntin’s CONFIDENTIAL personnel file to the UT?

    Reply
  11. Fallbrookian   February 28, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    It’s disheartening to see how this is all unfolding. Are we all so convinced that the media is delivering a completely neutral side of this story? We all know the media never lies or takes things out of context RIGHT??? I for one do not know all of the details and honestly at this point don’t care too. I agree that more community involvement should be present at the board meetings, but at ALL of them not just when BAD news is going around. My kids attend this school district and I’ve seen the HUGE improvements made lately. I challenge anyone to set foot in a classroom to observe the wonderful use of technology and education going on which is what truly matters isn’t it? For years the only time people speak about attending board meetings is to bash someone for something, how about complimenting a GOOD thing and if you feel there are no good things by all means run for office and prove everyone wrong!

    Reply
    • Baron Von   February 28, 2015 at 4:58 pm

      Twelve jurors UNANIMOUSLY decided the case in favor of the plaintiff, and then proceeded to award damages GREATER than the amount she asked for. What exactly did the media report that was, as you put it, “BAD”? They published the facts of the decision, and statements from BOTH parties. How is that taking things out of context? Or lying? How does your comment even make sense in this case? According to other accounts reported, the jury found the district was not credible, was inconsistent in their stories, often contradicting each other’s version of events. These are the people you want running the school district your children attend? Because they’re using technology? That somehow gives them a pass?

      Reply
    • Fallbrook Mom   March 5, 2015 at 10:00 am

      I agree that our schools have improved a great deal in the past few years and that this administration is responsible for those changes, but that does not mean they should be able to get away with doing something illegal and unethical! I am very involved with my kids’ school and work hard to support their teachers and administrators but this is unacceptable.

      Reply
  12. Justice Prevails   February 28, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    The jury’s unanimous guilty verdict and award of substantial monetary damages clearly demonstrated that they saw through the School Board and senior administrators, despicable, retaliatory actions in firing an employee who dared question their attempts to cover up outrageous expenditures. It’s time the Fallbrook Community gets involved and elects a School Board that does more than rubber stamp whatever senior administrators, Candy Singh, Ray Proctor and Dennis Bixler, tell them to do. It became clear through the administrators’ testimony at trial that they and the District’s lawyers did everything they could to distort Mrs. Allyn’s record and smear her professional and personal reputation. It didn’t work. The jury saw the truth and did its job. Now it’s time for Fallbrook to attend Monday night’s School Board Meeting and start to clean house.

    Reply
  13. FINALLY!   February 28, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    I had issues with my child at a fallbrook school when I had a meeting with Mr. Bixler, he ignored the fact that my child and myself were being bullied and simply called me a racist to “sum up” the problem. I am white and engaged to a Mexican/Indian, I am far from racist! When I requested to speak with Mrs. Singh, I was told “she was too busy to speak with parents”. It was not until I had my attorney write a letter to Bixler, Singh and the district in general, stating I would not just go away and that me and my child would get fair treatment. Then, At that time Mrs.Singh agreed to meet with me. Although when she did, I came with letters from other parents (witnesses of multiple incidents) that she refused to even see. I was again told I was racist and that maybe I should just leave FALLBROOK, My HOME for the past 33 years. I have since removed both of my children from regular public school. I am overjoyed that someone FINALLY blew the whistle on them! It is most definitely time to take out the TRASH!! Our children deserve better!!!

    Reply
  14. PSL   February 28, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    To Falbrookian,
    Sorry you feel disheartened. Sometimes the press gets it right and the truth hurts.
    These particular district office administrators have been dysfunctional for a long time. They finally got caught taking inappropriate actions while budgeting your tax dollars and mistreating their valuable employees. They have been untruthful so often that couldn’t keep their stories straight even in a court of law.
    To my knowledge no research supports school improvement by negative, dictatorial and unethical leadership in a lavishly remodeled Superintendent’s office.
    Also, you need to know that technology improvements have come with GOVERNMENT funding. Previous budgets have withheld technology funds from the classrooms in order to build massive reserves. These huge reserves have caused many employees to take money from their family budget to buy classroom supplies.
    Positive school experiences are the result of hard working employees at the school sites not the untrustworthy District Office Administrators or School Board for they have made working at FUESD more difficult.

    Reply
  15. Preston   March 1, 2015 at 8:06 am

    Money, power, greed. It is what happens when there is to much. Keep them lean and hungry and you will find there are far fewer problems and more progress.
    I find the same is true raising children only wish I had realized that a little sooner.

    Reply
  16. Alex   March 1, 2015 at 10:04 am

    Awesome Elementary School!!!… -_- smh

    Reply
  17. wow   March 2, 2015 at 7:17 am

    I’m amazed that some of you think think this is justice. The only punishment in this whole affair is to the school programs and salaries that will suffer due to the dollars spent on this fiasco. I’m sure if the school board gets replaced and cleans house, as some of you suggest, there will be even more lawsuits, more money spent on lawsuits and awards, and less money for education. The solution here is to go to school voucher system so parents have a choice of sending their children to get a good education or to a public school where most of the money is spent on litigation.

    Reply
    • Baron Von   March 4, 2015 at 5:50 pm

      The award comes from a JPA, or “Joint Powers Authority”, which is essentially insurance for school districts. Nothing will come out of school programs and salaries. However, the taxpayers do pay for the districts to pay into the JPA. But the 1.2 million won’t come out of the school district, the JPA pays it. So, yeah, it’s justice when someone who went through what she went through gets her day in court and wins. I wonder if you’d have the same attitude if what happened to her happened to you. If you think vouchers are the answer, you clearly haven’t done your homework. You’re as deluded about vouchers as you were about where the money for the jury award would come from.

      Reply
  18. PSL   March 3, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Believe me, it is justice! FUESD has been hijacked by cruel, arrogant,dictatorial and incompetent district office administrators. The fact that they were proven guilty in a court of law is justified.
    I disagree that school vouchers are the answer. You must be unfamiliar with what happens in school offices for there are more problems with the “public” than with public schools.

    Reply
  19. Concerned Parent   March 3, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    The award to Ms. Allyn will likely be covered by insurance and not come from the education budget. It’s time for change and if these administrators go, then it is the board who should go next. Fallbrook voters–these are elected positions. You have the power to choose wisely at election time.

    Reply
  20. Bill Leach   March 4, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    It’s funny, some of the commenters voted for these board members. Vote them out if you are tired of these actions. I spent 6 months speaking about the corruption in the district and the rampant waste of taxpayer funds.

    Most people it seems dont really care that much. I have gone to board meetings where literally no one shows up. The board does their thing and no one even knows.

    This isn’t just about this million dollar verdict. This trial brought out evidence of the waste of tax dollars, horrible treatment of employees, and a cover up to hide the evidence.

    During such time the board refused to hold the administration accountable. In fact during the trial they actually extended the contracts of the superintendent and her cabinet staff.

    The board should all resign. The community needs to go in another direction, one with actual parent representation on the board and with members who respect their duty to the students, their employees, and their responsibility to the tax payers.

    I would urge all of you to go to the next few board meetings and demand change. I would also urge anyone who is fed up to run for a board position yourself.

    Reply
    • BRB   March 5, 2015 at 7:39 am

      Thank you for reminding us that we actually have a role to play in the community.

      Reply
    • Victoria   March 17, 2015 at 3:03 pm

      I went to the board meeting last night. Two concerned parents spoke and it was a step in the right direction. More members of the community need to attend and speak. Also, let’s write letters to the editor of the Village news and get the word out there that we are unhappy with how our district is being run and how the board is handling things. We do NOT want this to disappear and be forgotten.

      Reply
  21. Ray Carney   March 5, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    We lost and we must pay this judgment.

    Reply
  22. Concerned Citizen   March 14, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Enough IS enough! The FUESD board needs to read this article on THEIR attorney: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2015/mar/13/san-ysidro-schools-accuse-lawyers-of-malpractice/
    They need to ask themselves WHEN are they going to STOP listening to this shady attorney and their administrators who have been found guilty of an ILLEGAL act! They need to find out if settlement offers (and how many) were offered that they NEVER received. Even during the trial, information came out that Ms. Allyn and her attorney’s supplied much needed information for the board through their attorney that was NEVER presented to them! STOP the madness, STOP the spending of tax payer dollars on an attorney (and firm) who wants nothing more than to make another $1 million of tax payer dollars from FUESD families! Do NOT pursue an appeal to a unanimous verdict of wrong-doing and start the process of fixing what is wrong, clean house or discipline the Administration and begin the FUESD healing process!! The employees, taxpayers, schoolchildren and their families certainly deserve it. If the Board turns a blind eye, and continues down the current path, they themselves will be guilty of financial irresponsibility and mismanagement of taxpayer money, as well as failure to discipline an Administration in their wrongdoing, and they would be subject to a recall! I know there are rumors of groups already looking into that process.

    Reply
  23. Mia Reed   January 17, 2016 at 12:39 am

    Does anyone know who the attorney was/is? Is there going to be a recall of the board? How do you go about doing that?

    Reply

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