One of the original whistle-blowers behind alleged wrongdoing inside the school police force at the Twin Rivers Unified School District has been awarded his job back with more than $50,000 in back pay.
Twin Rivers Unified trustees approved the settlement Tuesday with Frank Spino, a former sergeant in the school district Police Department. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny ruled last month that Spino should be reinstated and awarded back pay after he successfully proved his October 2009 resignation was coerced.
"I've spent 19 years of my career dedicated to (the north Sacramento) area," Spino said Wednesday. "I love that area. I've been part of raising families out there. I can't wait to get back and serve those families again."
Spino said the final award in back pay has not yet been finalized. Spino, who earned $90,295 a year, could receive more than $200,000 if awarded his full salary for the 32 months he was out from his job.
Spino, 49, filed a civil suit in 2010 against the school district, Twin Rivers Police Department and Police Chief Christopher Breck, who is currently on administrative leave.
Spino said soon after he took the sergeant position in July 2008, he began questioning the school Police Department's mission and whether it was operating outside its legal authority. He said he questioned the department's towing policies and "call jumping," or responding to calls initially directed to other police agencies.
"I was reprimanded for bringing things up the call jumping and tows," Spino said Wednesday. "The police administration knew it was wrong. I pointed it out. There is no way people can say they didn't know."
Last year, the Twin Rivers Police Department came under intense scrutiny for its aggressive practices of towing vehicles with expired tags or other violations and using the penalty fees to supplement its budget.
The towing issue was followed by additional allegations and a myriad of investigations including into whether district officials ordered school police to conduct illegal background checks on hundreds of adult education students, as well as middle school and high school students.
The district is the subject of a Sacramento County grand jury probe for the second consecutive year. The panel issued a series of subpoenas seeking information on allegations of mishandling and theft of district property, as well as the temporary misplacement of an automatic weapon, sources familiar with the investigation told The Bee.
The grand jury report is expected to be released later this month.
"Everyone is being exposed," Spino said. "I think it's great."
Spino said he was forced to resign in 2009, which he felt had to do with an internal affairs investigation he conducted into an incident involving Breck's wife, who was a Twin Rivers officer.
Margueritte Dias-Breck was "orally counseled" for employee misconduct for an Oct. 23, 2008, incident, according to redacted documents filed in Spino's civil suit.
Folsom City Attorney Bruce C. Cline said there is a police investigative report for Dias-Breck from Oct. 23, 2008, but it did not result in an arrest or prosecution.
Cline said no other details would be made public because the record is exempt from disclosure.
In April, Dias-Breck filed a tort claim against the school district, Twin Rivers Police Department and Porter alleging the district "unlawfully and maliciously" retaliated against her for testifying before the grand jury.
Christopher Breck has been on paid administrative leave since allegations first surfaced in November. In Breck's declaration filed in Spino's civil suit, he said Spino did not perform his job well during his probationary period and was involved in three accidents with his department-issued vehicles.
Twin Rivers Acting Police Chief Scott LaCosse will meet with Spino today for the first time to discuss when his start date will be. LaCosse said he was shown an email dating back to 2009 in which Spino told an officer to spend more time on campuses, not towing cars.
"Based on that, I think he may be a good fit," LaCosse said.
LaCosse said Breck is one of two employees in the Police Department who remain on paid administrative leave. A third person in the department is on a medical leave and a fourth is on military leave, LaCosse said.
Twin Rivers Sgt. David Lugo, who was on an extended administrative leave, returned to the department in March, LaCosse said.