Law & Courts

Calif. Ed. Dept. Faulted In Whistle-Blower Case

By Joetta L. Sack — February 19, 2003 3 min read

A California judge last week upheld a $4 million verdict against the state department of education, but dismissed $150,000 in punitive damages against former schools chief Delaine Eastin in a case alleging discrimination against a whistle-blower.

In December, a jury found that James Lindberg, a former consultant in the state agency’s adult education department, had been harassed and moved to another job within the agency for reporting irregularities and potential abuses in the state’s handling of federal and state funds.

Total fines assessed against the California Department of Education in Sacramento Superior Court now stand at just over $4 million, but the department will appeal the judgment, according to agency lawyer Joanne Lowe.

Gaspar Garcia II, the lawyer for Mr. Lindberg, said that his client had worked for 18 years in the adult education department, and during the course of his job found that some state contractors were abusing the system by inflating student enrollments, overstating their duties, and not providing sites to house the educational programs for which they were receiving funding.

But after he tried to bring the problems to the attention of higher-ranking state and federal officials, he was demoted to another department within the agency, Mr. Garcia said.

Mr. Lindberg was also denied access to internal files that would prove his case, professional development and training, and chances to interview for other jobs within the department, his lawyer said. The verdict includes awards for back pay and loss of pension funds, Mr. Garcia said.

Further, he said, Mr. Lindberg was humiliated and teased by colleagues because of his claims. Mr. Garcia said the subsequent stress exacerbated Mr. Lindberg’s existing health problems, which include congestive heart failure and diabetes. Mr. Lindberg, 63, has suffered two heart attacks since filing the lawsuit in 2001, Mr. Garcia said.

Malice Claim Fails

The jury found that Ms. Eastin, then the state superintendent of public instruction, had intentionally retaliated against Mr. Lindberg for reporting the offenses. Some witnesses in the December trial speculated that Ms. Eastin was under pressure from Latino members of the state legislature to provide funding for English-language and citizenship classes for adult immigrants.

But Judge Brian R. Van Camp, in the ruling last week, said that Mr. Lindberg’s claims could not meet the burden of proof for malice. Judge Van Camp wrote that Ms. Eastin’s “failures may have been unprofessional, ill-founded, unresponsive, or even rude, but the law imposes a high burden to find malice.”

Ms. Eastin left office last month after being ineligible to run for re- election to a third term because of term limits. She could not be reached last week for comment.

Ms. Lowe said Ms. Eastin should be completely exonerated because Mr. Lindberg’s claims were unfounded. For instance, she said, his change of job came during a reorganization of the adult education department, and his new job was not a demotion.

Ms. Lowe said the times he did find that contractors were falling short, the claims were investigated and action was taken.

Further, she said, Ms. Eastin did not know who Mr. Lindberg was, as the education department has thousands of employees. Ms. Lowe said that Mr. Lindberg had approached the schools chief only at inopportune times, such as during a holiday party and on a street corner.

“These were not arranged meetings; he never, ever detailed to her in any conversation what he had found, why it was fraudulent, or who he was,” Ms. Lowe maintained. “When he says, ‘You’re retaliating against me,’ what does that mean? There’s not a shred of evidence that that ever happened.”

Lawyers for the education department had asked Judge Van Camp to set aside the entire judgment, but he declined to do so.

Related Tags:


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Measuring & Supporting Student Well-Being: A Researcher and District Leader Roundtable
Students’ social-emotional well-being matters. The positive and negative emotions students feel are essential characteristics of their psychology, indicators of their well-being, and mediators of their success in school and life. Supportive relationships with peers, school
Content provided by Panorama Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Making Digital Literacy a Priority: An Administrator’s Perspective
Join us as we delve into the efforts of our panelists and their initiatives to make digital skills a “must have” for their district. We’ll discuss with district leadership how they have kept digital literacy
Content provided by
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
How Schools Can Implement Safe In-Person Learning
In order for in-person schooling to resume, it will be necessary to instill a sense of confidence that it is safe to return. BD is hosting a virtual panel discussing the benefits of asymptomatic screening
Content provided by BD

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Law & Courts Justice Department Memo Could Stoke State-Federal Fights Over Transgender Students' Rights
Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, a Justice Department memo says.
3 min read
Stephanie Marty demonstrates against a proposed ban on transgender girls and women from female sports leagues outside the South Dakota governor's mansion in Pierre, S.D. on March 11, 2021.
Stephanie Marty demonstrates against a proposed ban on allowing transgender girls and women to play in female sports leagues outside the South Dakota governor's mansion in Pierre, S.D.
Stephen Groves/AP
Law & Courts Diverse Array of Groups Back Student in Supreme Court Case on Off-Campus Speech
John and Mary Beth Tinker, central to the landmark speech case that bears their name, argue that even offensive speech merits protection.
5 min read
In this photo taken Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, Mary Beth Tinker, 61, shows an old photograph of her with her brother John Tinker to the Associated Press during an interview in Washington. Tinker was just 13 when she spoke out against the Vietnam War by wearing a black armband to her Iowa school in 1965. When the school suspended her, she took her free speech case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. Her message: Students should take action on issues important to them. "It's better for our whole society when kids have a voice," she says.
In this 2013 photo, Mary Beth Tinker shows a 1968 Associated Press photograph of her with her brother John Tinker displaying the armbands they had worn in school to protest the Vietnam War. (The peace symbols were added after the school protest). The Tinkers have filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting a Pennsylvania student who was disciplined for an offensive message on Snapchat.
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Law & Courts Supreme Court Sympathetic to College Athletes' Challenge to NCAA Rules on Education Aid
The justices weighed a case about the definition of amateurism in college athletics that may trickle down to high school and youth sports.
6 min read
Law & Courts High School Sports World Watching U.S. Supreme Court Case on NCAA Compensation Rules
The body that sets high school sports rules worries that any change on amateurism in college athletics would trickle down to K-12.
5 min read