SPUSD Trustees resolves lawsuit against joint powers authority
By Brian D. Wilson
Santa Paula News
Published: August 21, 2013
By Brian D. Wilson
Santa Paula Times
On a 3-2 vote, the Santa Paula Unified School District (SPUSD) board has approved a settlement with the Ventura County Schools Self-Funding Authority. The Authority is the joint powers agency that provides insurance for 20 school districts in Ventura County.
The SPESD filed the suit because they claim the Authority refused to honor a claim it was legally bound to do. The original lawsuit was dropped in 2007 so the two sides could attempt to resolve the dispute outside the courtroom. The lawsuit was reinstated in 2009.
The whole dispute goes back to a lawsuit filed against SPESD in 2004. A construction company filed suit against the district for alleged breach of contract. The district ended up settling that suit for $750,000. When attorney’s fees and other costs were added in the total bill was over $1 million. The school district claimed the authority refused to pay defense costs over $350,000.
A statement out of the board’s closed session last Thursday said the agreement amicably resolved all pending claims and cross-claims without any monetary payment. Former SPESD trustees Michelle Kolbeck and Kelsey Stewart reportedly cast the two no votes on the settlement.
Before last week’s closed session, a statement by Kevin Kolbeck, Michelle’s husband, was read to the board. He asked that approval of the agreement be postponed.
His statement said, in part, “My wife received the proposed settlement less than 24 hours before the SPUSD Board was to take action. I thought my plea to have a little more time to consider the proposed settlement of 10 years of litigation was reasonable, especially since my wife is named specifically in the lawsuit.”
Kolbeck said he was neither for nor against the settlement. He just wanted time for he and his wife to review it and to seek legal counsel about it, if they had questions. He said he was stunned that the board ended the matter in this manner. He noted that because of the Brown Act his wife is not permitted to talk to him about what happened in closed session.
After the SPUSD was formed, merging the former elementary and high school district, the new board told their attorney to negotiate a settlement with the joint powers authority.