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Ex-PUSD superintendent was accused of inappropriate conduct before firing

'I have never had someone of this stature be this disrespectful,' female district employee says in email

A female PUSD employee accused Rick Rubino of inappropriate behavior before he was fired as the district’s superintendent, according to documents the Pleasanton Weekly has obtained from the district.

Emails show the employee reported feeling “uncomfortable and awkward” after interacting with Rubino — a report made three days before Rubino was placed on administrative leave and nearly two months after the district contacted Rubino in writing as part of an investigation into separate allegations of “inappropriate conduct.”

The documents provided by PUSD do not specify the nature of the October allegations or if Rubino was the subject of the inquiry. Nor do they specify why the school board chose to fire Rubino in January, just over six months after he started as superintendent.

The Weekly received the documentation Friday in response to a California Public Records Act request submitted in January. The district withheld some records and information it argues are exempt under the act, citing attorney work product and deliberative process privilege, among other provisions.

In a half-page email dated Dec. 16, an employee describes Rubino’s demeanor as “disappointing” after meeting him at an event. The names of the sender and recipient were redacted by the district.

“Mr. Rubino approached me and said hello,” the PUSD employee wrote. “I thought it would be nice to have a conversation with him and let him know what I do for the district. I let him know how long I had worked for the district and how I started and how my duties and responsibilities had evolved.”

She continues, “He said he couldn’t believe that I was that old. I couldn’t possibly be old enough etc, During our conversation in a subtle manner Mr. Rubino looked me up and down multiple times as we spoke and focused on my chest instead of having a conversation looking me in the face.”

“I was very disappointed by this. In (redacted by PUSD) years with the district and working with five superintendents, I have never had someone of this stature be this disrespectful. Obviously Dr. Mary Frances-Callan and Ms. Parvin Ahmadi as women never acted this way but most importantly neither did Dr. John Casey or Mr. Jim Hansen.”

Three days after that email was sent, the school board held a closed-session meeting and voted to place Rubino on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into an unspecified personnel matter — an inquiry that ultimately was not completed.

To date, the district has declined to comment on the personnel matter that led the board to place Rubino on leave. Attempts to reach Rubino have been unsuccessful.

In another document, Rubino was informed in October that PUSD officials needed to interview him as part of a confidential investigation into allegations of inappropriate conduct. The notice does not specify who made the allegations or who they are against.

Dated Oct. 26 and with the sender’s name redacted, it informed him “complaints have been received from district employees in which allegations of inappropriate conduct have been made, and that you will be interviewed in an investigation regarding these allegations.”

Neither the email to Rubino nor any of the documents provided by PUSD specify the nature of the allegations that prompted the investigation. The email only states, “The complaints allege misconduct and violation of district policies and procedures,” and that, “The district takes this type of complaint seriously.”

PUSD retained independent investigators from the law firm Meyers Nave Riback Silver and Wilson to conduct the investigation, according to the email. Rubino was directed to participate in “a fact-finding investigatory interview” the following afternoon in his office.

He was asked to answer any questions honestly and not withhold any information, according to the notice.

The outcome of that investigation is unknown.

About one month later, Rubino expressed concern when news of an unspecified investigation apparently leaked, according to an email exchange between Rubino and assistant superintendent of human resources Dianne Howell dated Nov. 20.

“I’m deeply disturbed by this email from (name redacted by PUSD),” Rubino said to Howell. “The fact that a disgruntled former employee of the district has information regarding a pending district personnel investigation, which should have been conducted under the strictest confidentiality, is profoundly concerning.”

She replied via email almost two hours later, “I feel the same way you do. I have no idea how a former employee became aware of a confidential personnel investigation. I am also profoundly concerned.”

The board fired Rubino without cause Jan. 6, in doing so paying him a year’s salary of $256,000 along with health benefits, reimbursement for six months of a life insurance policy and four vacation days. School board president Joan Laursen said afterward the board’s decision “was based on our strong belief that this was not a good fit.”

Since Rubino’s firing, the school board has appointed deputy superintendent of business services Micaela Ochoa interim superintendent through June 30 and hired a new firm to lead the search for PUSD’s next leader.

That firm has just begun the process with a goal of finding a candidate for the board to consider appointing at its June 13 meeting.

Comments

83 people like this
Posted by Profoundly disappointed
a resident of Del Prado
on Mar 19, 2017 at 9:48 pm

Firing a superintendent for supposedly asking someone for actually saying something positive in an offhand comment at what sounds like a public even (like how they could possibly be that old) and supposedly not maintaining eye contact is absurd. The employee then says in a subtle manner Rubino did not maintain a "face" contact, but his eyes wandered. And the employee makes a presumption that while he is looking around, he in a subtle manner is sometimes looking in the direction of her chest?

Sounds exactly like another political hatchet job brought to you by the union(s).

If at first you succeed at Walnut Grove, the next step is the Superintendent's office.

Absolutely pathetic.


68 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Mar 19, 2017 at 11:02 pm

I've read the email (thank you for posting it) and what she ("the victim") says contradicts her story. First, she states that MANY TIMES she has been the subject of verbal assaults / inappropriate comments and disrespectful stares and glances. Then she discusses her beef with being in a "male dominated" work place.

She states she has been at PUSD since Callan was superintendent which puts this back at least to the 1990s and early 2000 period. Given she says she has had inappropriate comments subjected toward her for years along with many disrespectful stares and glances, so exactly how many HR complaints and emails of a similar nature has she filed at PUSD in the last 20 or 30 years or so?

I think the Pleasanton Weekly needs to do yet another Public Records Act request.

Given this person seems to have an entire amazing history of having to put up with inappropriate comments and stares from males, how many complaints has she filed against all the District male employees who have done this to her?

If his person in the PUSD workplace has been subjected to an entire set of continuous verbal and staring assaults by males over two decades, where are her complaints over the last two decades?

The email makes no sense to me. It is completely contradictory. I hope Rubino pursues legal action.

And given that most of the public events that there is a table where you have to write out your name and put on a name tag on your chest, don't you think it is a little nuts that someone would complain about being looked at in that area which is the location of the name tag?


68 people like this
Posted by Female perspective
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2017 at 8:27 am

So I gather this man blinked a few times and the woman the Pleasanton Weekly quoted, who says she is routinely subjected to something called "disrespectful glances" on a regular basis (????) interpreted the blinking while the woman was reciting her 20 or so year employment history and duties and responsibilities as "During our conversation in a subtle manner Mr. Rubino looked me up and down multiple times as we spoke."

If this were April 1 and not March 20, I would think this would be some sort of joke. This is grounds for dismissal? Also, this sounds like something out of one of the S.E.E.D. meetings where the entire planet is abused by white, male supremacy and their so-called "transgressions." (Rolling eyes).

This narrative of being exploited by disrespectful glances, disrespectful stares, whatever "disrespectful" means and so-called inappropriate comments is becoming as old and stale as a five year old loaf of bread.

I used the word "old." Oops, must be a transgression.

I think the Board is way over their head, and has no clue what they are doing.


54 people like this
Posted by FrequentWalkerMiles
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2017 at 9:55 am

"He said he couldn’t believe that I was that old. I couldn’t possibly be old enough etc, During our conversation in a subtle manner Mr. Rubino looked me up and down multiple times as we spoke and focused on my chest instead of having a conversation looking me in the face"

There you go folks, Mr. Rubino's attempt at engaging colleagues in small talk, and potentially looking down at the ground in an subtly offensive manner, is definitive proof that he was a predator on the prowl. Now the school board can get back to their real job of coming up with resolutions and declarations on subjects ranging from nuclear proliferation to creating a safe environment for users of intravenous drugs. Can't wait to see what this new and enlightened group of "leaders" can achieve.

All the male employees of PUSD should probably all just voluntarily resign now before their next walk across the parking lot lands them in jail for looking at a female colleague wrong.


42 people like this
Posted by Lessismore
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Mar 20, 2017 at 10:57 am

Good luck on hiring the next superintendent!

Who would want this job!

If we were to hire a female superintendent things would be okay. Now I have no issue with a man or any other superintendent we hire we just need o hire the best candidate. However, if I were a male candidate, I would pass on this opportunity. PUSD appears to be a hostile work environment men. Maybe it's time for a house cleaning and some new blood at PUSD. Having so many employees at the district office of 15+ years work for PUSD is not a good thing. They only want to do things one way there way and fight change.

To be clear, a female candidate would be fine we just need to hire the best candidate for our kids.


64 people like this
Posted by Disgusted parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2017 at 11:09 am

Thank you, PW, for pursuing this.

One quote from your article (taken from the email you obtained), re: the offended female PUSD employee, absolutely astounds me:

"Obviously Dr. Mary Frances-Callan and Ms. Parvin Ahmadi as women never acted this way but most importantly neither did Dr. John Casey or Mr. Jim Hansen."

"Obviously...as women never acted this way..."? Really? Nice sexist assumption that women would never ever be involved in sexual harassment, only men, right?

"...but most importantly,.." represents a feeble attempt to mask this employee's obvious prejudice against men/men in authority.

People in general hate/resist change, and this looks like a long-time employee who didn't like/want Mr. Rubino as the district's new boss decided she would claim sexual harassment against him in order to get rid of him.

The school board then decided the best way to get out of this mess was to spend $300,000 of our taxpayer dollars to get rid of the problem.

Guess what? You haven't gotten rid of the problem. The problem seems to be the rank and file of PUSD.

Cry 'sexual harassment' anytime you don't like someone at PUSD, and you can get rid of them.

Terrible precedent, and the school board allowed it.


44 people like this
Posted by Disgusted parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2017 at 11:34 am

After reading all of the documents the PW obtained (thank you again for doing what PUSD refused to do until you forced them to via legal means), I'm even MORE disgusted.

From the female PUSD employee's email to the District:

"Both industries are predominately run by men. Over years there have been times that men have made an inappropriate comment or disrespectful glance or
stare. Unfortunately it is the nature of a male dominated industry.
It was very disappointing to me to have Mr. Rubino behave in the same manner that evening."

Seems pretty clear either this long-time employee does not like men in positions of authority, or suggested/claimed sexual harassment (without providing any proof) in order to get rid of him.

Guess which sex she wants the new superintendent to be?

Guess what, school board? Go ahead and make sure you hire a female superintendent. Then be prepared to get sued for sexual discrimination by the male candidates who aren't selected.

You fired Mr. Rubino with no proof revealed that this employee's allegations are actually true, but her email is certainly proof of her prejudice against men, and preference to work for a female superintendent.

No one, female or male, should be subjected to sexual harassment, but neither should anyone be subjected to sexual discrimination based on an employee's opinions, perceptions of a certain sex, and/or unproven allegations.

This scenario could very well happen again, and cost all of us, again.


52 people like this
Posted by Oh boy. Here we go again
a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School
on Mar 20, 2017 at 11:47 am

Hmmm.....Sounds like the Walnut Grove formula of smear campaign has become the go to process in the PUSD. What a shame. I don't know if Mr. Rubino was the best candidate or not (likely not given the PUSD board history) but it sure seems like you can smell a rat. Nice to know we will have hundreds of thousands of additional legal fees coming our way again. It's very sad to know that your kids and their education are getting caught in the cross fire of educators behaving badly. Really starting to consider moving to Danville or Alamo where there seems to be a much more positive relationship between teachers and administrators. The whole myth of how great Pleasanton schools are has diminished greatly over the past 5 - 7 years.


29 people like this
Posted by FrequentWalkerMiles
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2017 at 11:48 am

I also would like to commend the PW for keeping us updated with this subject. There are many legitimate cases of harassment that should be vigorously pursued, but cases like this are a reminder that we appreciate a functional and free press to making the information available beyond just official press releases.


13 people like this
Posted by enough already
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Mar 20, 2017 at 12:03 pm

Good grief drain the swamp already and lets move forward


13 people like this
Posted by Shirley
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2017 at 12:14 pm

The email provided that everyone is discussing is dated December 2016. The investigation based in several complaints started two months earlier. Clearly, the firing wasn't based on the uncomfortableness of one woman at an event.


35 people like this
Posted by Sam
a resident of Oak Hill
on Mar 20, 2017 at 12:19 pm

We don't know all of the facts of this case, so it's not appropriate for us to speculate and say that Mr. Rubino is guilty or innocent.

Whether he is guilty or innocent, it doesn't make the PUSD look very good. If he is guilty of sexual harassment, it's unlikely that his behavior patterns developed all of a sudden after he was made Superintendent of PUSD. There almost certainly was a pattern of this sort of behavior in his previous job, and that behavior should have been detected by a thorough pre-employment candidate screening before he was hired by the PUSD.

If, on the other hand, Mr. Rubino is innocent, then it would appear that the school board unjustly fired him based on flimsy evidence.

The bottom line is that we don't know whether Mr. Rubino is innocent or guilty and we may never know. But regardless of whether he is innocent or guilty, this appears to be another big fumble by the PUSD school board. They failed either one way or the other.


21 people like this
Posted by Union hit job
a resident of Stoneridge
on Mar 20, 2017 at 12:39 pm

Clearly the unions were not pleased Rubino was a charter school advocate and smeared him with the December 16 email and he was immediately put on leave. The board needs to resign and admit they are completely incompetent. Innuendo that happened in a public meeting involving no witnesses or actual investigation that results in a termination letter from FF and F, the legal firm in the center of Palo Alto uni SD civil rights scandals, is absurd. No wonder the teachers are resigning and PUSD can't hire principals with experience. First they smeared Vranesh with baseless innuendo and now Rubino. And Mary Frances Callan is not a hyphenated name. The accuser probably did not even compose the email either. Anyone knows her name is not hyphenated. Who wrote the email, some Union lawyer or political party hack? Obviously PUSD will never hire anyone for supt with excellent qualifications and no developer will ever agree to build a school for this corrosive organization.


29 people like this
Posted by Alberto
a resident of Downtown
on Mar 20, 2017 at 12:43 pm

Yikes, fired for looking at a woman's bosom ? And he didn't even suggest anything beyond that ?
Somebody didn't want him there.


Like this comment
Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Mar 20, 2017 at 1:05 pm

He deserved to be fired...DISGUSTING! THANK YOU FOR SPEAKING OUT FOR ALL WOMEN.

Take good care of yourself and good riddance.

Cholo


1 person likes this
Posted by Ooppps
a resident of Apperson Ridge
on Mar 20, 2017 at 1:27 pm

Well maybe the board was protecting the Superintendent and allowing him to get out of town relatively unscathed. Not anymore.


11 people like this
Posted by Tina
a resident of Mission Park
on Mar 20, 2017 at 3:35 pm

I don't know if Mr. Rubino was guilty of the allegations or not, so I cannot speak to that. But if a female employee made a complaint against him, I would hope that it was thoroughly investigated before he was fired. Maybe these comments speak to the level of distrust we have of our School Board at this time. However, it seems wrong for people to be attacking this woman - they weren't there, they don't know what happened. But no woman should be harassed (and yes, staring at her chest instead of looking her in the eyes in harassing), and it's wrong to attack the victim. Trivializing it speaks to that "boys will be boys" philosophy which is completely wrong. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and if he did it he deserved to go. If there was a history of this behavior, it would have been nice if it was caught before he was hired.


27 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Mar 20, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Tina,
I think your "hope" is everyone's - however clearly the supporting information hasn't been released to show that - so instead we're now faced with a guilty verdict in the social court.

What we do have evidence of is:
- continued piss poor hiring decisions by a consulting firm and board
and / or
- a consistent record of employees filing complaints against their superiors and they disappear with pay.
and / or
- employees filing suit and getting paid out for being harassed
and / or
- little released detail on what actually happened

What these all have in common - students and taxpayers and bearing the brunt of this gross abuse.




43 people like this
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Mar 20, 2017 at 4:02 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.

So the ex-superintendent is guilty of the outrageous charges of flattery and not maintaining eye-to-eye contact with a woman?

I think the whole board needs to be recalled for complete and utter incompetence.

For crying out aloud.


39 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Mar 20, 2017 at 4:51 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

The superintendent possibly erred in two ways, (1) not reading the discomfort of another person and (2) not being professional. The board possibly erred in two ways, (1) not completing the investigation in order to fire the superintendent for cause and (2) allowing a newspaper to carry their water on being more transparent with the community.

Based on that, it would have been cheaper for us if they had gotten him a coach or sent him to an ethics class or both. Excepting Mr. Maher, who was in office mere days, the board needed to push harder for the best, clearest, cheapest resolution of the concern. They could not possibly have done that without a finished report. Either the actions were multiple and egregious enough to warrant firing for cause OR there should have been an apology, acknowledgement of wrongdoing, and the addition of a contractual probationary period with training, signed by all parties. If the latter was offered and refused, it still should have been a fireable offense.

After all, we'd do that much for union members.


26 people like this
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Mar 20, 2017 at 9:24 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.

Kathleen,

"If the latter was offered and refused, it still should have been a fireable offense. "

So...no evidence required, just 'he said something to me' so he's guilty?

The email allegation from this woman is so dis-jointed and filled with alleged dirty deeds from other men I'm surprised that anyone outside of a district can't see the fake charge that's being leveled at the former superintendent.

And I'm not the least bit surprised that he took the money and got the h3ll out of this district.

What a complete embarrassment.


Like this comment
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Mar 20, 2017 at 10:27 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Hi Dan, all built on 'possibly' in the first paragraph. I am not commenting about the complainant.

Agreed this was an embarrassment.


17 people like this
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Mar 21, 2017 at 8:13 am

DKHSK is a registered user.

Kathleen,

Instead of focussing on words, how about we follow "due process". That old fashioned edict that guarantees a fair hearing.

And by embarrassment I DO NOT mean on the former superintendent. This is squarely on the boards head.


Like this comment
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Mar 21, 2017 at 9:13 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Dan, I stated the district would have done as much (due process) for a union member. And I already said I agreed this was an embarrassment (I understood you didn't mean the superintendent). There appears to be a disconnect, but I think we are in violent agreement here.


10 people like this
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Mar 21, 2017 at 10:02 am

DKHSK is a registered user.

Kathleen,

Actually no, we're not in violent agreement.

When you said, "Based on that, it would have been cheaper for us if they had gotten him a coach or sent him to an ethics class or both.", you assumed guilt on the superintendent.

Even though there are snippets of agreement, the reality is you are skirting the fence...again.

The "best, clearest, cheapest resolution" would have been for the board to ask itself: "Do we have ANY EVIDENCE of impropriety in this case?".

But the board didn't, it assumed guilt, and by you calling for educational training in this case, so did you.

You may think I'm being unnecessarily needling of you, but I pay attention to what people write, and given that (my assumption) you seem to be laying the foundation for another run on the board, I think its fair game to try and pin you down on your real beliefs.

And just so you know, I DO appreciate your input to any and all discussions, I just don't believe in beating around the bush, so to speak.

Dan


4 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Mar 21, 2017 at 2:09 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Dan, I posed four possible errors and some possible solutions. These are purely my opinion, because, even with the publishing of the email, I don't have the whole story. I have no information to prove guilt(1) or innocence.

I don't know why the board would choose not to complete the investigation and to instead spend $300K. I cannot make those dots connect. [He could be guilty . . . . .but let's just pay him to leave?] Again, given the complaint(s), someone(s) was offended, and the superintendent was willing to walk away. Yeah, he can retire; he's getting paid; but his reputation is shot. What completely innocent person agrees to that(1)? Personally, I would stand and fight to clear my name or to acknowledge I could do better. But Rubino could have decided PUSD wasn't worth that battle.

My only decision about the board after I lost was that I most definitely will be there to let them know I expect excellence from each of them. Students, who should be their first and foremost concern *without exception*, are counting on them.


18 people like this
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Mar 21, 2017 at 2:38 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.

Kathleen,

"I don't have the whole story. I have no information to prove guilt(1) or innocence."

"What completely innocent person agrees to that(1)?"

So, again, your caveat explains your real feelings.

Last I heard, in the United States you are presumed innocent until PROVEN guilty.

That he took a payout rather than fight, when it was clear that the board was going to fire him, does NOT prove guilt. It proves nothing but financial sense.

Dan


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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