A Decade Later, Former Superintendent Murphy Remains Tied to Total School Solutions

David Murphy

The Vanguard has received material relating to County Board of Education Candidate David Murphy and his still ongoing relationship with Total School Solutions.  In his conflict of interest filing, Form 700, he discloses his work for Total School Solutions located in Fairfield as a “consultant” for the amount of less than $10,000.

David Murphy is running for the Yolo County Board of Education, Area 2, against challenger Melissa Moreno.  Under state law, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) requires a Form 700 to disclose economic interests.

The document also shows his spouse making over $100,000 in salary for Dignity Health, while he has a position as Adjunct Faculty at Santa Clara University where he makes between $10 and $100,000, and a position as “coach” for the Foundation for Education Administration where he earns less than $10,000.

However, the ties to Total School Solutions raise red flags for those who recall the controversy in the school district during his tenure as superintendent.

Documents attached show that in March 2018, Mr. Murphy hosted a half-day session on “Situational Leadership” where Mr. David Murphy is listed as the presenter for the workshop.

The program describes, “Participants will use the principles of this theory to confidentially assess their own areas of strengths and weaknesses in order to develop an informed plan for their own professional development after the workshop.”

The disclosure to the Vanguard also shows a copy of the publication EdBrief.  It notes: “EdBrief was developed in order to provide educators and their public with a one-stop Internet site for education news and resources they can use to inform their academic, business management and research efforts.”

Importantly, “EdBrief is published by the California-based education consulting firm, Total School Solutions (TSS).”

The editor-in-chief of publication is listed as Jeff Hudson, described as a veteran journalist – who, as many locally know, is the Davis Enterprise education beat reporter.  Mr. Hudson recently published articles on both David Murphy as well as his opponent, Melissa Moreno.  The Davis Enterprise recently endorsed Mr. Murphy over Melissa Moreno.

“Solveig Monson is the Publisher and Arturo Cosio is the Associate Editor for EdBrief.”  Ms. Monson is also a former DJUSD employee.

In 2008, the Vanguard in a series of articles highlighted the creation of the private education consulting company, Total School Solutions, by Associate Superintendent for Business Services, Tahir Ahad.  The Vanguard documented that Mr. Ahad created the company while working at the school district and used district personnel, presumably working on their own time, to start up the company.

VANGUARD INVESTIGATION Uncovers Evidence of Wrongdoing and Corruption in DJUSD Business Office Under Tahir Ahad

The Vanguard’s article noted that language was specifically written into Mr. Ahad’s contract that enabled him to seek outside professional activities.

The language read: “This Agreement shall not be construed to preclude the Deputy Superintendent-Business Services from undertaking outside professional activities for compensation, including consulting, speaking, and writing…”

This was arranged and approved at the time by Superintendent David Murphy.  A decade later, the board would clean up conflict of interest language to preclude such arrangements.

According to former Board Member Gina Daleiden, California Education Code already prohibits some of the practices that the Vanguard has found to have occurred under Tahir Ahad.

She told the Vanguard in 2008, “My understanding of the government code is that employees should not employ other district employees in outside businesses.”

California Government Code section 1126 (a) reads: “The officer or employee shall not perform any work, service, or counsel for compensation outside of his or her local agency employment where any part of his or her efforts will be subject to approval by any other officer, employee, board, or commission of his or her employing body.”

This happened under Superintendent David Murphy’s leadership.

The Vanguard reported that consequences for this arrangement were that deadlines for funding and matching grant applications were missed that led to money, expected to go for King High renovations, ending up backfilling other funding needs – unbeknownst to the school board at the time.

That Time When Former Superintendent Murphy Couldn’t Explain What Happened to $5 Million in Facilities Money

This came to light at the November 2, 2006, school board meeting.  Board member Gina Daleiden summed up the revelation, “We learned just a few minutes ago that more than fifty percent of the [King High] project is unpaid unless we make a decision about COPs. That is news to me.”

On December 7, 2006, Superintendent David Murphy gave what amounted to an apology to the school board.  “On November 2, it was clear that five board members were surprised to learn that the complete funding of the financing project had not already been approved by a board decision and would be dependent on a current or a future board decision,” he said.

Three months later, David Murphy would announce his “retirement” effective July 31, 2007.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Jim Hoch

    Thank you David,


    I was at the farmers market yesterday and it occurred to me that The Vanguard had only smeared Murphy once when the usual process is a series of repetitive articles. Guess I should be more patient.

  2. Jim Frame

    After the King High and Tahir Ahad episodes — plus the adding-insult-to-injury situation in which he drew multiple public salaries while not having to report to work — I can’t support Mr. Murphy for office again.  Shed no tears for him, though; given his CalSTRS pension of $177K, I think he’ll be able to put food on the table without another public job.

    1. Howard P

      There is more to the King High episode.  The district, under Murphy, encroached on City property for the new building and b-ball court, without City knowledge nor permission.  City staff had to sort that out.  Despite requests that the district reimburse staff costs, and value for the lost from Civic Park, Murphy declined.   They designed the building without disclosing a City drainage line ran under the site.  Murphy claimed that was the City’s problem.  An alternate facility was built, but District did not pay near 100% of the cost.  There is much more.

  3. Don Shor


    This is pathetic.

    David Murphy would bring a number of skill sets to the Board of Education position that he is seeking. The expansion of DSIS and the provision of a permanent physical location for King happened on his watch as Superintendent. The consulting gig you describe above is a trivial amount of income and I believe reflects some of his work in retirement at training and development of education administrators.

    I am unaware of the skill sets his opponent brings to this race. I am unaware of them because the Vanguard has not published anything about the subject of which candidate would make a better County Board of Education member.

    With the election just a few weeks away, I suggest you do a better job of explaining the role of the county board, the actual backgrounds of the two candidates, and how their experiences and skill sets would serve them and us in that role. I know Dave Murphy would be an excellent county board member. I know this because I know him personally and interacted him at many levels during my kids’ tenures in DJUSD.

    I don’t know if Dr. Moreno would be an excellent county board member. I don’t know why she is running or what she seeks to accomplish in the role. Better reporting might elucidate that. Do you need some help with questions for the candidates that might help to educate the voters better? Or do you plan to just run negative pieces about Murphy right up until election day?

    1. Craig Ross

      I’m a little confused by your comment Don.  If the man behaved unethically as a superintendent, looked the other way as Ahmad misused his position for personal gain and is now profiting from it, isn’t that something we should know about?

      Also the behavior of the Enterprise reporter is more than a bit concerning to me?

      Or do you believe these are false allegations?

      I wasn’t here when this happened, but it definitely weighs on my decision.  I’m shocked at your response Don.  It doesn’t seem like you.

      1. Don Shor

        I am getting very tired of the way negative campaigning has taken hold in Davis. When I read

        The Vanguard has received material relating to County Board of Education Candidate David Murphy

        I am going to assume someone from the Moreno campaign has sent that to David Greenwald. With ballots arriving in the mail shortly, I assume they believed this was a good time to rehash the old stories about David Murphy, and the Vanguard obliged them. He, of course, will not reveal his sources on this. If he denies it is from the Moreno campaign, I will take his reply at face value. But it’s time to push back against negative campaigning.

        David Murphy is not seeking to be superintendent again. He’s seeking to be on the County Board of Education. Because of my interactions with that board when my kids were here in DJUSD, I am familiar with what it does. Most people probably don’t even know that a county board of education exists, much less what its role is here. That’s not the reporting I’m seeing here. The Vanguard appears to be just acting as a cipher for a hit piece which tells us (shock!) that a consultant was being paid to consult.

        If you want to know about the issues from his tenure as superintendent, the links are there. Murphy did not “behave unethically as superintendent.” Jeff Hudson, who has been doing an outstanding job reporting education issues for the Enterprise for a couple of decades now, has had a separate job writing and editing for TSS for at least a decade, a fact that has been a matter of public record all that time.

        I was here when it happened. I interacted a great deal with David Murphy and Jeff Hudson. My personal opinion is that most of the fault for what happened with respect to the issues David reported on in 2007 lies with two other individuals. But you can read the articles yourself to figure out who they were. I am suggesting that David Greenwald do a better job of covering a race that requires a good bit of explanation to make it relevant to voters, and that so far he has not done that job.


        1. Ken A

          I think most of us can agree with Don when he says “But it’s time to push back against negative campaigning.”  it is scary how more an more good people won’t even think about running for office today since it is not worth it to have to deal with someone telling a lie about having to run away from you chasing them while naked in college (or take responsibility for every bad thing every high school pal, fraternity brother, co-worker or employee ever did).

          I also think it is sad that someone running any organization should have to take responsibility for things that they knew nothing about.  If Murphy had an undergrad degree in civil engineering and Howard knows he was out on the site and gave the OK to encroach on city land we should call him out on it but to complain that “The district, under Murphy, encroached on City property” without having any idea that the guy with a masters in Education from Stanford even reviewed the site plans or gave the OK is sad.

          It would be like calling out former Mayor Davis for bad behavior of a police officer (or any city employee) working “under” him did when he had nothing to do with it.  When this piece writes about things “under Superintendent David Murphy’s leadership” it really needs to show some connection to him since (sadly) even under the best leadership people do bad things.

        2. Howard P

          Ken… one of the architects working for the district (who did the plans) informed me a few months after that encroachment, Murphy was aware, but as the State, not the City reviewed the building plans, he instructed his firm not to show the property line… the encroachment was ~ 25 feet.

          There is also the issue that when fully brought to his attention, he left it to the City to work it out, while denying any financial responsibility for the district. That was clearly his call, not a subordinate’s.

        3. Ken A

          Howard, thanks for the update on the King High issue, any idea if the city would give a building permit today if a DJUSD school wanted to remodel (or replace a water heater) or if that would also be also be approved by the state?


        4. Howard P

          Generally, school districts get no permits from the cities or counties… State Architect’s office does the permitting.  The City does not provide building inspection for schools, so a permit would be pointless.

          Thinking that local fire agencies do review and inspect for fire suppression systems.

          Made it a lot easier for the 25 foot encroachment to occur. Only discovered after District had their approvals and was tearing up the site for construction…

          City permitting is generally limited to utility connections within public r/w.

    2. Alan Miller

      it’s time to push back against negative campaigning.

      The most effective way for you to push back would be to quit enabling the largest culprit in town by volunteering for them.

      Just sayin’ :-\

  4. Jeff M

    “Situational Leadership” is a home run for the education system as it connects with the concept of differentiation in the classroom which is the key to improving education outcomes for all.

    It should apply first to the education system employees, but also be used for the students.


    It is also good for business leaders developing staff and parents development their children to become full-functioning adults (which suffers when the parents are not yet full-functioning adults).

    If Mr. Murphy is bringing these types of ideas to the game, then he should be applauded and supported.   However, it would make sense that he would be an enemy of those resistant to change and supporting the adult jobs program side of education.

  5. PhilColeman

    Every public official having discretion in the disbursement of public funds must comply with the legal requirement in completing an annual Conflict of Interest form. The form requires disclosure of all sources of income by that public official.

    This is a public document, anybody can obtain, review, and share it. In the spirit of abolishing negative political campaigning, nobody should “assume” (at least publicly) how the Vanguard Editor received this information. Particularly, there should be no assumption this public information was maliciously transmitted by a political opponent for election advantage–unless there is demonstrated evidence showing this action. To do so is simply reinforces the pattern of “negative politics.”

    The realm of journalism has similar professed ethical standards. The standards are not legislated, as far as I know, they are standards set by the profession itself. When a journalist or entity has an economic conflict of interest in reporting a story, the molder of public opinion is obliged to reveal this potential conflict as part of the story narrative.

    This did not occur with Mr. Hudson’s financial bond with Murphy, nor by the Enterprise editorship. If this relationship has existed for well over a decade (as publicly alleged here) it should have been revealed. Now, all the previous Enterprise stories written by Hudson involving Murphy and the actions of the Board of Education are seen in a compromised light.

    To dismissively claim that Hudson’s financial conflict of interest was common knowledge, how many of you were aware?



    1. Howard P

      I affirm, for what it’s worth… Phil, like me, knows the COI stuff pretty well… likely better than moi…  as I only had to know about the requirements for me… Phil had to understand it more because some of his subordinates had to file 700’s…

  6. Howard P

    Form 700…

    Only required of those holding “public office”, and even then, many public employees are exempt from a requirement to file… only those in decision-making (or high enough in the food chain to have influence in recommendations, or execute ministerial acts) positions are required to file.



    Second cite includes “candidates”

    So, if Mr Murphy filed, perhaps he did so as a candidate, or because he still holds some “public office”… or, if very conservative, because spouse does.

    Level playing field… if Murphy filed as candidate, opponent should have one too. [not 100% sure as I’ve had to file for over 30 years, but never as a ‘candidate’]

    So, in fairness, if “candidate 700’s”, both candidates should have them filed, and if the VG publishes information from 1, should at least provide links to both, IMO.

    To be clear, I’m not clear if Form 700’s are required for candidacy for the position under discussion… but would be very transparent if all candidates file one… public record… “transparent”…

  7. David Greenwald

    Form 700 forms are publicly available.  I did not receive this information from the Moreno campaign nor did I publish this article at their behest.

    1. Cindy Pickett

      Thanks, David, for clarifying that.

      As a candidate, I filed form 700 and it is publicly available. I sit on the executive board of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and received reimbursements from them for travel to the twice-yearly board meeting as well as a gift payment to cover the cost of registration at their annual meeting. I also received modest honoraria for journal editing and reviewing for the National Science Foundation.

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