San Juan Unified trustees to consider censure of member who ignored complaints about superintendent

San Juan school trustees Tuesday night will consider censuring board member Larry Masuoka as a result of findings that he had acted improperly by failing to take action after learning of allegations involving the superintendent’s treatment of some employees.

Trustees in December accepted Superintendent Glynn Thompson’s resignation – in lieu of trying to fire him – after a district-financed investigation substantiated employee claims of bullying and retaliation. Investigators found that Thompson had elicited fear in those who challenged him.

The nearly seven-month investigation by Van Dermyden Maddux Law Corp. found also that Masuoka, after learning of the allegations as early as November 2012, “failed to initiate a prompt, impartial and thorough investigation when he knew or should have known that ... the district had an obligation to respond.”

San Juan Unified board member Greg Paulo sounded the alarm last May after two women brought complaints to him. He also sought to have a censure resolution brought before the board this week, a staff report shows. The resolution describes the censure as a “judgment of stern condemnation.”

“We spent a considerable amount of money to have an impartial investigation conducted,” Paulo said in an interview Sunday. “We took action on Superintendent Thompson based on the findings.

“I think basically all I’m asking the board to do is consider the motion for censure based on findings regarding Masuoka.”

The law firm, as of Dec. 10, had been paid $178,000 for the work, although its contract allowed for up to $200,000.

Early last year, close to a dozen current and former district employees filed formal complaints with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing about their treatment. Then last fall, 10 of the women filed claims with the district seeking a combined $17 million in damages. The claims lay the groundwork for potential litigation.

Masuoka, who is up for re-election in November, said Sunday that he regretted “the distraction this has caused the this district.”

“The key question,” he said, “is how do we repair the damage? How do we heal the feelings? How do we move forward? I’m looking forward as much as I can, learning from this and applying that learning going forward.”

Asked what he hoped might occur Tuesday night, he said, “I’d like to see us head down the road of how we reconnect to our students and our community. If that’s the guiding voice that we use, whatever the outcome is will be helpful.”

The investigators said in their report, made public in December, that Masuoka “sent an email reasonably understood to interfere with (one woman’s) complaint about Mr. Thompson’s inappropriate behavior.” In that email, Masuoka sent a parable to the former head of the San Juan Administrators’ Association about a bird in a pile of cow dung.

“When you’re in deep s---, it’s best to keep your mouth shut!” the closing line said.

Board President Lucinda Luttgen said in an interview that her vote “will be partly formed by the deliberations that we have” on Tuesday.

She noted that while the district has a code of ethics, there is no policy in place for what should occur when there are violations.