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Behrens Denied Access to Memo That Helped Demote Him

Judge Says District Still Must Provide More Complete Accounting of Job-Performance Issues

Ed Behrens
Paul Wellman (file)

Former San Marcos High School principal Ed Behrens was not granted access to the memo that aided members of the Santa Barbara Unified School District School Board in their decision to demote him. However, the courts did find the Statement of Reasons given to Behrens by Superintendent Cary Matsuoka to be incomplete. Behrens was demoted from San Marcos principal to Santa Barbara Junior High social studies teacher in March. Behrens is challenging the decision and suing the district for reinstatement and punitive damages.

Behrens alleged that the memo presented to school boardmembers contained information that was not in his personnel file. Behrens has access to the more than 200-page personnel file. The memo was authored by attorneys Craig Price and Joseph Sholder for Matsuoka. It was intended to summarize the finding of his file and was presented to the school board.

On February 7, after reviewing the memo in private, the court found that “[t]he Memo purports to contain only information that was available to Plaintiff from his personnel file. It does not appear to the Court to contain any information that would have been difficult for Plaintiff to ascertain as a fact relied upon by the Board.”

However, the courts found that the Statement of Reason provided to Behrens, which lists nine specific examples of his job performance on which the demotion was based, is incomplete. “There is also an issue of the completeness of the response in its reference to the personnel file and by its statement of a list with the qualifications. The interrogatory requests a complete statement of employment job performance that played a role in the employment action,” wrote the court. The district must complete the response by including a full list of the job-performance issues the boardmembers relied on to make their demotion vote.

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