Ex-Pleasanton Unified 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.


Like this comment
Posted by Skooter
a resident of Alamo
on Mar 21, 2017 at 9:46 am

It never ceases to amaze me how bad behavior is always rewarded. Not a good lesson for our kids.

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