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You Know I'm Right | Commentary by Betty Arenson
| Friday, Mar 25, 2016

bettyarensonLast week I wrote about the obscene tuition costs to parents and students at such name-brand colleges as Berkeley and UCLA and the UC system in general.

More obscene is where too much of the money is going. That would be to pay lots of money as a result of the outrageous behavior of college professors and administrators who moonlight and double- and triple-dip to aggregate their already cushy salaries and benefits.

According to the Los Angeles Times (March 24, 2015), the UC system isn’t the only place where taxpayers are getting ripped off.

Roy Cortines, who will be 84 years old at some point this year, has an impressive resume as an “educator.”

He has headed five major school districts around the country. He’s been a senior advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Education. He caught the eye of former President Bill Clinton who nominated him for Assistant Secretary of Education (Cortines later withdrew his name). He served a post with former L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa and has been a go-to guy to serve repeatedly as L.A. Unified School District Superintendent.

In recent years, each time an LAUSD superintendent fails or leaves the post, Cortines is tapped to step back in.

I’m not alone in not knowing the revered Cortines had his own scandal brewing that would effectuate one more bill for taxpayers. Whatever publicity there might have been, I missed.

The Times reports that a man named Scot Graham had a “midlevel management” position with LAUSD.

In 2010, Graham accompanied Cortines to Cortines’ ranch in Kern County. Two years later, Graham accused Cortines of “abuse and other inappropriate conduct” multiple times which he “tolerated … for fear of losing his job.”

Amazingly, in 2010 Cortines admitted to “one incident of consensual ‘adult behavior’ and bad judgment on his part.” Cortines was superintendent at the time.

Graham filed multiple lawsuits that cost the district about $266,000 to entertain, and oddly, the courts never ruled on the validity of the claims.

No fear. There’s always a way out with the taxpayers’ checkbook.

Cortines retired in 2011, and there was a 2012 agreement with the district to make Graham go away from his then-$150,000 per year job.

Of course, the agreement was tasty: $200,000 plus lifetime health benefits. But Graham didn’t ink the deal, and when the district made it public with a news conference, Graham and his attorney were angry, and the deal fell through.

Graham remained working at LAUSD, and a longer list of allegations followed.

Irrespective of this hanging taint, Cortines was asked to return in 2014 as superintendent when John Deasy had his own wasteful billion-dollar-plus iPad debacle and departed.

The cloud of the sexual harassment matter remained, but apparently the LAUSD was unfazed.

Graham filed another suit in February 2015, and it was settled in January 2016 with Graham getting $93,000 and tendering his resignation.

There was no other information as to whether any additional perks were part of the deal.

The true costs of these antics are nearly incalculable. It isn’t only the $266,000 in legal costs on the first go-around or the $93,000. It’s the additional legal time and money on the final settlement; the cost of paying Graham a few more years of salary and benefits while he claimed ill health that limited his work abilities but surely not his paycheck; the man hours spent, and so on.

Most astounding is hiring Cortines again, knowing of the liability and exposing the district, thus the taxpayers, in spite of a known propensity.

The antics didn’t cost Cortines a dime. The only ones held accountable were and are the taxpayers. The real evil doers are merrily on their way with all of their perks.

L.A. residents should think about things like Cortines-Graham and the expensive iPad scandal when they look at their property tax bill, get their rent increased or see another pricey bond on the ballot.

 

 

Betty Arenson has lived in the SCV since 1968 and describes herself as a conservative who’s concerned about progressives’ politics and their impacts on the country, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She says she is unashamed to own a gun or a Bible, couldn’t care less about the color of the president’s skin, and demands that he uphold his oath to protect and follow the Constitution of the United States in its entirety.

 

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