EDITOR'S NOTE: Updated at 4:09 p.m. to include quotes from John Pappalardo, the candidate who turned down Capo Unified's offer.
At first he said yes, then no. In between came a union complaint that the salary being offered for Capo Unified's new finance director was too high in the midst of trimming next year's budget.
“Paying more for a management position during this fiscal crisis sends the wrong message,” wrote Ronda Walen, president of the California School Employee Association’s local Chapter 224 in an email to the seven Capo school board members. (District officials have said .)
Specifically, Walen objected to the district offering more money than predecessor made and to a provision that would have made the salary offer immune to budget cutbacks.
On March 12, the school board trustees met in closed session and agreed to offer John Pappalardo, currently the chief financial officer for Pasadena Unified, the job of Capo’s deputy superintendent of business and support services.
The next day, Pasadena-area newspapers reported that , and CUSD issued its own press release March 15.
But on Wednesday, Superintendent Joseph Farley that Pappalardo – who had already accepted one revision to the offer – was experiencing “second thoughts” and had declined the offer.
Pappalardo told Patch that a number of concerns went into his decision, but in the end, the money wasn't enough to make the move worthwhile.
"While it is true that a mutual agreement was not able to be reached, my final decision was based on a number of factors, including financial, personal, and timing issues in consultation with my family," Pappalardo said. "In the end, the financial benefit of changing jobs was not significant enough to warrant a move."
Walen’s March 23 letter to the trustees said Pappalardo was offered $23,000 more a year than Lebs made. According to a contract included in Wednesday's trustee packet, the district was set to spend $198,000 a year for Pappalardo's salary.
Walen said it was especially unfair that Pappalardo’s new job wouldn’t be subject to cuts other employees may have to make in the coming years.
“If he is to be a leader in this district he should lead by example and accept a contract that subjects him to all the same cut every other CUSD employee will be asked to accept,” Walen wrote.
Three days later, Monday, Farley emailed trustees to say Walen’s points were “valid,” and he had adjusted the district’s offer accordingly.
Walen and district spokesman Marcus Walton did not respond to requests for comment on this story. Farley said Wednesday that although there were several issues that gave Pappalardo pause, the primary reason for rejecting the offer was salary.
Pappalardo did initially agree to the changes and to "accept any cost-of-living increases or decreases [emphasis in original] given to other members of the Capistrano Unified management, anytime after June 30, 3012 [sic]," Farley told trustees in his Monday email to trustees.
“Since we are anticipating that a reduction will be made for management, this language has the potential to reduce his salary by at least 4.7 percent, or higher, depending on what is actually done with management salaries,” Farley wrote, adding that he too would take any management decrease the board decides is necessary.
Walen indicated in her email that union members encouraged her to contact the trustees.
“While CSEA understands the magnitude of the impending fiscal disaster that is happening due to the irresponsible actions of politicians in Sacramento, members don’t believe that every measure is being taken locally to control unnecessary spending,” the email states.
“While we all may never agree on exactly what ‘essential’ spending really means, the continued approval of higher priced management and other non-essential items makes it difficult for me to convince my members that the threat is real and that CUSD has no other option than to ask them to sacrifice again.”
The district is currently employing two consultants to fill the role of deputy superintendent of business and support services. The temporary contracts for Robyn Phillips and Tim Holcomb are set to expire Saturday, although they can be extended by mutual agreement.
Phillips is being paid $2,500 a week; Holcomb $215 an hour.
For his part, Pappalardo said it was an honor to receive an offer from Capo Unified.
"Everyone I met in Capistrano USD was professional, positive and friendly," he said. "The efficiency I found in Capistrano USD reminded me of the small districts I have dealt with over the years, and very atypical of larger district bureaucracies.
"I was very impressed with the leadership and staff that I encountered, and I can see the positive trajectory that Capistrano Unified School District is on under the excellent leadership of Dr. Farley and his team," Pappalardo said.