Orange : District Funds Rejected for Trustees' Defense

The Board of Education of the Orange Unified School District has voted against spending district funds for the legal expenses of three school board members accused of non-criminal "willful misconduct" in a bid-rigging scandal.

Supt. John Ikerd said the three board members not accused in the scheme voted Monday night against spending the money to pay for the legal defense of trustees Joe C. Cherry, Ruth C. Evans and Robert James Elliott. For the measure to have passed, all three of the trustees not accused of wrongdoing--William Steiner, Russell Barrios and Sandy Englander--would have had to vote for it. None did, Ikerd said.

Cherry, Evans, Elliott and former trustee Eleanore Pleines, who resigned in July, were indicted in June by the Orange County Grand Jury under a little-used law to remove elected officials from office for willful misconduct.

They were accused of failing to follow bidding and construction procedures required by state law, enabling a former maintenance supervisor to award business contracts in exchange for gifts or services in 1981-84.

It is not alleged that the trustees personally benefited from any crime, or had any part in one, but rather that they performed their duties so poorly that the grand jury decided that their inattention was willful, Deputy Dist. Atty. Martin G. Enquist said.

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