Carmel Valley High School

Carmel Valley High School, Fri., Feb. 19, 2021.

A Monterey County Superior Court judge has issued a temporary injunction preventing the Carmel Unified School District from fulfilling a Public Records Act request and releasing disciplinary records of a now-retired principal.

Attorney Joseph Cisneros, who represents former Carmel Valley High School principal Tom Stewart, says the next step in the case will be to ask Judge Tom Wills, who issued the temporary injunction on Feb. 18, to make the order  permanent.

Cisneros filed what's known as a reverse PRA action in response to the records request from someone using the pseudonym "Sine Nomine"—Latin for "without name." The request, filed Jan. 16, asked CUSD to find and release "any and all disciplinary records, emails and any other complaints of any form of misconduct associated with Tom Stewart… the scope for the search of these complaints shall span the duration of this time as an employee of CUSD [Carmel Unified School District]."

Stewart retired in 2017 after 30 years in education, the last 20 of which were at Carmel Valley High on Schulte Road. CUSD found some relevant records and planned on turning them over on Feb. 19.

The record at issue, according to a writ filed by Cisneros, is a letter of warning regarding a complaint made to the district in 2016. It doesn’t involve anything to do with a student, nor any sexual impropriety, but instead involves an interaction with a teacher, Cisneros writes.

He’s asking a judge to issue a restraining order and a permanent injunction against CUSD preventing release of Stewart’s records.

“There is a substantial likelihood that public disclosure of the document to Sine Nomine will negatively affect the environment of the local education system,” the complaint states.

Cisneros says the long-retired Stewart wants to maintain his privacy.

“Carmel Unified’s position is that they’re neutral and not going to contest it,” Cisneros says. “They have no dog in this fight and their position is that unless they get a court order that says, ‘don’t turn it over,’ they’re going to turn it over.”

Cisneros says the anonymous requestor Sine Nomine did not file any papers for the temporary injunction hearing and that nobody appeared in court to represent the requestor either. 

The next hearing will be held on March 5. 

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