On Monday, Oct. 21, Judge Jacqueline Stern declared a mistrial in the case of Allyn vs. Fallbrook Union Elementary School District (FUESD) at Vista Superior Court, citing that the proceeds would exceed the time limit previously established for the trial. The trial had just begun its seventh day out of the 10 days slated for it. Allyn, the district’s former information technology director and an employee of 18 years, claimed she was wrongfully terminated by administrators in 2012 in an act of retaliation and that the district violated public policy by misusing public funds.
“The jury in this case had been scheduled through Thursday, Oct. 24, and the court determined that the case would not conclude until Nov. 7, resulting in the judge declaring a mistrial,” said FUESD defense attorney Gil Abed of Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz, APC.
Allyn’s attorney Michael Curran, of Curran & Curran Law, posted the blame for the mistrial firmly on the defense counsel.
“I think it is reprehensible the way they wasted everyone’s time and resources,” said Curran, who claimed FUESD attorneys “intentionally” prolonged examination of their defendants in order to effect a mistrial. Curran said he “repeatedly objected to the defense counsel’s undue consumption of time.”
FUESD’s defendants, Dennis Bixler, Candace Singh, Bob Price, and associate superintendent Raymond Proctor were the individuals under fire by the plaintiff’s counsel. In an earlier interview, Curran said, “This case is really about an abuse of power, a breach of public trust, and a cover up that included retaliation by [Allyn’s] bosses.”
Curran cited examples of what he called the “excessive” time used in the early days of the trial. “We examined Bixler for 2.5 hours, compared to their 6.5 hours; we examined superintendent Singh for 2 hours, compared to their 6 hours; and we questioned the district’s investigator Price for 2.5 hours, compared to their 7.5 hours,” he said.
“Then the district and their counsel claimed they need another two weeks to put on their defense case,” said Curran. “The judge was forced to declare mistrial after jurors indicated they could not stay longer then the court originally cleared.”
“Two jurors would have encountered problems with their jobs; one had to report for military duty on a certain date,” Curran explained.
Prior to the mistrial being declared, Curran said in his opinion, “The case was going along very well and we were demonstrating that Ms. Allyn’s termination was wrongful and retaliatory; the evidence was unfolding just as we had planned.”
Conversely, Abed said “As officers of the court, neither Mr. Shinoff (law firm partner) nor I will try a case in the press and will only litigate our cases before the court. We are very disappointed that we were not able to complete this trial and show the jury the abundance of evidence justifying the dismissal of a management employee in the district.”
Judge Stern ordered a judicial settlement conference be set for Dec. 12 in the case, which will be presided over by Judge Thomas Nugent, to see if the parties can be assisted in resolving the case before scheduling a new trial.
“[The district] could settle with Ms. Allyn and they should,” said Curran. “If an acceptable settlement is not reached, then a case management conference will be set for January, after which a new trial date will be ordered.”
Following the dismissal of the jurors, Curran said he had an opportunity to speak with 11 of the 12 to gauge their opinion of the case.
“Ten of the 11 jurors said they felt like it was looking like a case of retaliation (against Allyn),” said Curran. “They said they felt Bixler and Singh were not credible, and that Singh also came across as rehearsed. They said they felt Price wasn’t believable and they hadn’t seen anything that proved [Allyn] had violated any processes.”
Curran claimed one significant incident during the proceedings was noted by the jurors. “Bixler impeached himself dozens of times by changing his testimony on a critical issue in the trial.” The matter involved whether or not Allyn had complained to Bixler that she was being asked to delete district archives.
“That is smoking gun evidence and we knew he was being told to change his testimony,” said Curran. “We showed him what was in his notes and he had to go back to his original testimony.”
Abed said his respect continues for the jury trial process. “A trial is a pursuit of the truth to a jury. We look forward to a complete vindication of all the allegations made against the district.”
Curran said he felt the situation leading to the mistrial was disrespectful.
“It is a terrible, continued injustice to Ms. Allyn and 12 very conscientious jurors who listened to the evidence/case for seven days only to have their time wasted by the district and their lawyers,” he said.
Curran said other matters have come to light during his handling of Allyn’s case that he feels should be investigated.
“We intend on providing a complete report and demanding the San Diego Office of Education and California Office of Education investigate these matters,” said Curran.