My question involves defamation in the state of: CA
I am an employee of a large metropolitan school district in California. In 2009, there was a significant theft of 15k+ dollars from a finance office at the school I was assigned to. I had been at that particular site for 2 years, and had received nothing but glowing, positive reviews from all my administrators. I was very well liked and respected by a large staff and student body. Shortly following the theft, I was asked by an administrator to meet with him in his office, at which time he demanded I take a polygraph test. I declined. He then contacted my now ex-wife and asked her to take a polygraph as well, and she declined. She did, however, come to the school and speak with him. This all comes together in a moment. Over the next few months, I notice the administration not speaking to me, staff treating me "oddly", and even my wife acting strange. After about 6 months my wife leaves me, and 2 weeks after that, I am called to the district office and told I'm being reassigned to a school 30 miles away. With my wife completely out of the picture, I am now left as a single father of 3 small children, and a job 30 miles away instead of a mile away. I ask my superiors why the move was necessary, and their answer is benign and generic. Fast forward about 1.5 years to today...
After meeting with a psychiatrist for the first time in my life, ulcers and anti-depressants, I am told by the district that they are recommending me for termination due to the fact that some "years of employment" didn't match up on my application for employment (that I submitted over 4 years ago) and that I was ineffective (although every review I'd ever had was 100% positive). About this time, I am contacted by a district police officer who tells me he has something to share with me. I meet with him and learn that shortly after the previously mentioned theft had occurred, district administrators held a meeting with every suspect present but myself (there were only 5 of us who had keys/access) and remarked "We know that (my name here) stole the money, and we're taking care of it". This officer was present at this meeting, and afterward told his superior about the comment and was told to "stay out of it". Stunned at this fact alone, I further learn that my now ex-wife was told the same thing during her meeting. I confronted her about this and she confirmed that this was indeed true, and that it was the catalyst in her decision to leave. Dumbfounded, I ask why she didn't tell me all of this when it happened, and her answer was simply because she was scared. Unfortunately, I can attest to the fact that this woman is not the brightest in the class, however, this should not be of any matter in this regard in my opinion.
I have now completely lost the trust of literally hundreds of staff members, thousands of students, parents, the public, etc. My question is this: Do I have a case for defamation against the district? To add to the confusion, this administration (at the school site) was wholly sacked. They are all gone now. I understand there are time limits for these types of cases, although, from what I understand it is from the time the victim becomes aware of the damage, which was not long ago at all. I will be unable to obtain a job locally, and have suffered both physically and emotionally from this fiasco.
Your professional advice is much appreciated, thank you.