Report Suggests Brandman Misused School District Resources for Election Campaign

Adam Elmahrek/Voice of OC

Anaheim City Councilman Jordan Brandman at a council meeting.

An investigative report commissioned by the Anaheim Union High School District found evidence that former board trustee and current Anaheim Councilman Jordan Brandman used district resources for personal business — possibly for work on his city council campaign. It also raises questions about the Orange County District Attorney’s probe of the allegations.

The report, by attorney Daniel Shinoff of Los Angeles-based Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz, quotes a district employee as saying Brandman used a school district office during his 2012 campaign for council and directed her to “print things for him” that had nothing to do with district business. The witness said the material Brandman told her to print led her to believe that he was preparing for his campaign.

(For a full copy of the report, click here.)

A district office became “Brandman’s working office,” for a few weeks while it was hot and he had no air conditioning at home, according to testimony from another witness in the report.

Former Superintendent Elizabeth Novack had at first allowed Brandman – who is also a candidate for the seat in the U.S. Congress that Loretta Sanchez is vacating in order to run for the U.S. Senate — to use the office, according a witness quoted in the December 2014 report obtained by Voice of OC. But she eventually had enough and instructed an employee to tell Brandman not to use the office anymore, according to the witness.

The report also contains witness testimony that Novack misused a district fund, verbally abused district employees and found that her termination in late 2013 was warranted.

Brandman didn’t return a phone call seeking comment and Novack couldn’t be reached for comment. All witnesses quoted in the report are district employees. Voice of OC is withholding their names to protect them from retaliation.

Misusing public resources for personal gain is punishable by a $1,000 fine and can result in criminal prosecution. In 1976, former county Supervisor Robert Battin was convicted and served jail time for directing county staff to work on his campaign for lieutenant governor.

In 2012, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ office said it had opened an investigation into the allegations against Brandman.

However, the report raises questions about the DA’s investigation, with testimony revealing that a DA investigator made no attempt to keep witness interviews confidential during the course of the investigation, leaving a key witness fearful that her testimony would be relayed back to Novack, who was a Brandman ally.

As a result, the witness said she “was vague with the investigator during the interview,” the report states.

According to witness testimony in the report, DA investigator Paul Carvo setup witness interviews through the school district bureaucracy. Carvo then conducted the interviews at district headquarters and in the presence of school district attorneys, according to the report. That left the impression on witnesses that everything said would go back to Novack.

The witness who said Brandman directed her to print material for him unrelated to the district said the DA’s approach left her feeling “intimidated.” She added that the scheduling of the interview by an attorney for the school district was “weird.”

Another witness said she also felt she couldn’t “speak openly” to the DA investigator because of the way the interview was setup. This witness dismissed the DA investigation as “simply to go through the motions.”

If the witness testimony is true, Carvo ignored the most basic tenets of conducting a corruption investigation, said Retired FBI agent James Wedick in an interview with Voice of OC. Every investigator knows that, to obtain the forthright answers, witnesses are to be contacted directly and confidentially, he said. No witness would feel comfortable otherwise.

“It’s bizarre,” Wedick said when told about the DA’s handling of the investigation. “Introducing a bureaucracy, you kill the case before it’s even started.”

According to the United Nations manual on public corruption investigations, protecting the confidentiality of witnesses should be among investigators highest priorities.

The DA’s investigative tactics during corruption probes have also come under fire in the past. During the DA’s recent investigation of Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido’s questionable land swap with a city contractor, key City Hall witnesses weren’t contracted for months, which Wedick said could have allowed their memories to fade.

The DA’s office eventually cleared Pulido of any criminal wrongdoing.

And in an investigation of potential wrongdoing by members of the Orange County Fair Board who tried to sell off the public asset, DA investigators also failed to interview key witnesses in their initial investigation.

The status of the DA investigation into Brandman’s alleged wrongdoing is unclear. DA spokeswoman Roxi Fyad didn’t return a phone call seeking comment.

However, correspondence from Shinoff obtained by Voice of OC states that the report was shared with the FBI and federal Department of Education.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek

  • tedamudgett


  • Paul Lucas

    Id sure like to hear more about Joe Dunn running ion this race.

    • Vern Pat Nelson

      Last good Democrat this county had!

    • James Dean

      I would support Joe Dunn over any of these guys. Brandman looks creepy as heck too!

  • Jason Sumague-Young

    I was telling people years ago that Brandman was a corrupt piece of ^#%$.

  • Cynthia Ward

    Tip of the iceberg. How many staff hours have been sucked through in Anaheim without any official “policy” behind their personal agendas? We’ve got Gail Eastman using an APD helicopter to fly in her corporate sponsor for a non-profit event already using the public resources of the school district for questionable value (and creating photo ops for her campaign) we have Eastman and Murray using City staff and CM’s office to meet with Register owners to complain about/shut down paid political speech, Heck we have a pic of Murray’s campaign website telling donors to send checks to CITY HALL! Was Kring in Closed Session (and possibly voting? we don’t know since the City Attorney didn’t report out, the “settlement” of a “not really a claim” just spontaneously created itself?) giving the Gardenwalk mall half the sales tax on the shopping center, when it looks like she stiffed them and/or may still owe them (anyone know?) and we are excited about Jordan using air conditioning? he shouldn’t have done it, and REALLY should not have used the printer, but how much self-promoting public funding does it take to get the attention of law enforcement? How much of the DA’s look-the-other-way behavior does it take to get attention applied to HIM? Where is the Grand Jury?

  • Vern Pat Nelson

    Yeah, only secondarily a story about Brandman’s casual corruption, and
    primarily number 71 in a series about the (probably intentional)
    incompetence of Rackauckas.

    Seeing Olquin’s comment below made
    me smile; it sure was a motley group gathered at Kathryn Smith’s house a
    month or two before the election, trying to figure out WHAT we could do
    to keep Brandman off the Council. Not only Amin and Kathryn, there was
    also me, Jason Young (who is gay and whose blog was then called “No
    Jordan Brandman”) and the senile, raving homophobe preacher Lou Sheldon, whose biggest beef against Brandman was “I’ve heard all the rumors about his … special male friends.”

    When Jason told me we were gonna be meeting with Sheldon (whose Traditional Values Coalition e-mail list I had somehow gotten onto years ago) I said “I’m only going if you hold hands with me the whole time.” It was worth it. It made the old buzzard so uncomfortable.

    But… back to our main themes, the tawdry existences and tragic success of people like Brandman and Rackauckas… what is wrong with our County?

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  • David Zenger

    And all that scrilla he brings home for the Kleptocrats and they couldn’t even buy him some air conditioning?

  • Debby Bodkin

    As far as Jordan Brandman using a school district office to campaign, I
    personally know of many more serious public corruption crimes committed
    within the AUHSD before Superintendent Joseph Farley jumped ship to the Capistrano Unified that were never addressed– and since Mr. Shinoff’s law firm regularly represents the Anaheim Union HS District in ongoing litigation, nailing Brandman for using a school district office now seems somewhat odd and years late.

    Potential public corruption crimes regarding the Anaheim Union High School District, ASTA (Anaheim’s CTA-union) and the Anaheim PD were brought to the attention of the OC Sheriff and OCDA years ago (2008), just ask Craig Hunter, DA Rackauckas’ Chief Investigator. However, as always, failures to investigate and/or act as it relates to politically-connected individuals is the norm in the OC–and .OC GOP POLITICS AND MONEY rules the OC! DA Rackauckas is the master of squashing any ethical investigation if there is some type of political light or benefit for him.

    To Mr Shinoff…. please use whatever legal resources are available to educate the children attending schools in the Anaheim Union HS District — someone needs to act on behalf of the children’s best interests. Who cares if Brandman used a district office… did he harm anyone? As it relates to former Superintendent Elizabeth Novack, the district terminated her and defamed her in the press….. what more do you want from her? It is important to note that former Superintendent Farley received the highest praises from the AUHSD Board when he jumped ship to the Capistrano Valley Unified School District in May 2010…. something that was shocking in my personal opinion.

    If the FBI and USDOJ continue to ignore the ongoing public corruption
    crimes in the OC, then the federal government should be ready, wiling
    and able to accept ALL financial, economic and intentional emotional
    distress damages that are created because of public corruption crimes.

  • A Richard Olquin

    Adam- You should give me a call. I have the Strategy Paper commissioned by friends of yours who at the time were exploring funding a Recall of Jordan from AUHSD in order to taint his Council bid. The ‘Usual Suspects’ of our mutual friends from that time were also heavily involved with wanting to take him out. This DA report barely scratched the surface of all that Jordan was guilty of and it instead focuses on the fact Novack was a manipulator, dictator and shrew to all in what she considered to be her personal realm. She was extremely difficult to work with and often simply rude to parents and community leaders whose concerns were on the students, not the glory unto themselves for certain members of the Board of Trustees for the District. BTW, the report names Katherine Smith and Amin David as asking the DA to investigate….how does a top Democratic Party leader and an equally formidable Conservative Republican IN ORANGE COUNTY come together about anything??? Well, I guess Jordan Brandman is just that special…

  • David Zenger

    Not sure who this story is about – Brandman or the Good As No DA, DA.

    Brandman’s got bigger problems than this – like the phony $25,000 “report” he was supposed to produce for Tom Daly. The report was paid for but never “done” until the scandal was uncovered by Adam E. Then it became clear that the self-styled “Mr. Procedure” had copy pasted the thing from wikipedia – and that makes him a double thief, even if you don’t count the theft of the public’s trust.

    Then there is his obscene prostitution of himself for the Anaheim Kleptocracy and the consequent end-runs around the City Charter and State law regarding taxes and bond issuance.

    What a guy.