San Diego Superior Court judge Eddie Sturgeon on October 20 denied a legal request from former Coronado High School water-polo coach Randy Burgess to return to his job as a teacher.
Sturgeon ruled that the Coronado Union School District has the authority to place Burgess on paid administrative leave while the district investigates allegations that he sexually assaulted an eighth-grader in 2011.
As reported by the Reader, Burgess, who led Coronado High School to 755 wins as its water polo coach, was banned from campus in April of this year. Burgess then filed a writ of mandate asking that a judge allow him back on campus.
In a subsequent legal filing, the Reader first learned of the investigation into alleged sexual abuse.
During oral argument, Burgess’s attorney said the district committed an "act of tyranny" by forcing him to stay away from the high school.
"This is some dark place that I have never been before," said attorney Matthew Herron. "Granting this [writ of mandate] will benefit the community by putting a master teacher back in the classroom."
But judge Sturgeon said the district has the right to conduct an investigation.
"There's no evidence that [Coronado Unified School District] violated the education code or the Collective Bargaining Agreement," Sturgeon said during the hearing.
And while Sturgeon urged the district to expedite their investigation, he said that a recent court declaration given by Coronado Unified School District assistant superintendent Rita Beyer reveals that new evidence has come to light and the investigation has been progressing.
According to documents obtained by the Reader, the alleged victim has hired attorney Irwin Zalkin to represent him. Zalkin specializes in sex-abuse cases. He and his firm have taken on the Catholic church sex-abuse scandal, abuse by Jehovah's Witness elders, and major universities such as Harvard for botching sexual assault investigations.
In the Burgess case, Zalkin's involvement is revealed in a September court filing. In the filing, Zalkin objected to a request from Burgess’s attorney to depose his private investigator, who was looking into the allegations against the coach.
Reads a declaration from Zalkin, "The Zalkin Law Firm retained private investigator Efrain Garcia to assist in the investigation of the facts and circumstances surrounding our client's sexual abuse in anticipation of litigation."
No lawsuit has yet been filed in the case. As the Reader previously reported, the Coronado Police Department stated that no report has been filed against Burgess. The district attorney's office has not filed any criminal charges.
Sturgeon's ruling, absent an appeal, ends the case. Burgess will have to wait until the investigation is over to return to work.