.Fired Coach Drops Out of Cabrillo College Race to Avoid Records Release

Bob Kittle will still be on the Nov. 8 ballot for Governing Board in Area II

A former Cabrillo College baseball coach who filed to run for a seat on the school’s Governing Board weeks after he was fired by its trustees has dropped out of the upcoming Nov. 8 election.

The decision, fired coach Bob Kittle tells GT via email, came days after he was notified by Cabrillo administrators that this publication had filed a public records request to obtain the termination letter the school sent to him, and the results of Cabrillo’s investigation into his conduct.

Kittle, a longtime figure in Santa Cruz County’s baseball and sports landscape, also informed GT that on Oct. 14 he filed an injunction in Santa Cruz County Superior Court to stop Cabrillo from releasing the documents.

In the filing obtained by GT, Kittle claims that Cabrillo “wrongfully and unlawfully” began the process of releasing confidential files, an act that would cause “irreparable personal and professional damage … for no benefit other than for requestor’s personal professional gain.”

The injunction was granted, and a judge is set to hear the case on Jan. 10.

secure document shredding

It is unclear what led to Kittle’s ouster. Cabrillo President Matt Wetstein says that he cannot comment on the college’s decision to terminate Kittle’s employment at a June 13 Governing Board meeting.

“We do not comment on personnel matters,” Wetstein says, adding that they’ll await the order from the judge as to whether or not the school can release the records requested by GT.

Kittle was running against Trustee Adam Spickler for Area II—which encompasses portions of Live Oak and the Eastside of Santa Cruz—in next month’s election, but he told GT that on Oct. 12, five days after administrators told him the public records request was being processed, he contacted his opponent via email to tell him he was withdrawing from the race. 

Because his name will still be on the ballot for Area II voters, Kittle told Spickler that if he wins the election he will “resign immediately and/or never assume office (whatever the official act requires).”

Kittle did not answer questions about his dismissal or his decision to run for the Governing Board before press time Tuesday.

Typically, personnel records are not disclosed under the California Public Records Act unless the public interest in disclosing those documents outweighs the private interest in withholding them.

Wetstein says the school’s legal counsel found precedent to approve GT’s request because Kittle had become a public figure by entering the election. Now a judge will have the final say on whether the release of those documents is still in the public’s interest.

Spickler became the first transgender man to hold elected office in California when he was appointed to the Governing Board in 2018 and has since made a name for himself in Santa Cruz County politics—he was one of the strongest voices against Measure D in the June primary and he sits on various regional boards. 

Even before Kittle’s recent move, Spickler was considered the favorite heading to November after securing dozens of key endorsements, including the Cabrillo College Federation of Teachers.

He tells GT that Kittle’s decision to bow out of the election is not surprising when considering the public records request into his firing. Spickler says he cannot elaborate further about the matter but adds that Kittle’s departure from the race does not change much for his campaign.

“I mean this genuinely: I feel I’m the best candidate for this seat, for Cabrillo College, for moving the college forward, for supporting students, faculty and staff,” Spickler says. “Regardless of what the story might be behind [Kittle’s] lack of employment with the college and decision to run, what’s always been true for the staff and faculty of Cabrillo who have endorsed me is that I should be re-elected, regardless of what’s going on with Mr. Kittle.”

Before Kittle took the reins at Cabrillo, he guided the Santa Cruz High School team through one of its best 13-year stretches in the program’s storied history. Between 1997-2009, the Cardinals won eight league titles, and had three appearances in the section championship, winning one. Impressively, 47 players went on to play college baseball, with a dozen earning NCAA Division I scholarships.

At Cabrillo, he paced the Seahawks to three conference titles and helped them advance to the prestigious super regional round of the state championship on five occasions. Under his leadership, the school became a popular stop for raw players looking to catapult themselves into a four-year program. He also sent a handful of players to the major leagues.

Kittle, who is listed as a physical education teacher at Santa Cruz High, in 2018 was named the commissioner of the county’s high school athletics league, the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League. He took over at a time in which the league had seen an exodus of schools as competitive balance in several sports tilted too far in other directions. Several media outlets reported that it was Kittle’s job to “save” the league from going under. 

The league’s president, Harbor High School Principal Tracey Runeare, says the SCCAL’s Board of Managers was not notified by Cabrillo that Kittle had been let go. She says she cannot comment on whether the league will conduct its own investigation into Kittle’s firing.

1 COMMENT

  1. This is NOT journalism. Tony and GT should be ashamed, you’re worse than a sewing circle. I’m in disbelief that this is a published article.

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Tony Nuñez
Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor of The Pajaronian for five years and three years as Managing Editor. He is a Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus.
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