Government Lies, Corruption and Mismanagement
Judge levies sanctions against LAUSD
A judge levied $6,000 in sanctions against Los Angeles Unified on Friday, because school officials failed to turn over more than 300 pictures of victims who were sexually abused by former Miramonte Elementary school teacher Mark Berndt. Additionally, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Wiley is leaning toward fining LAUSD an additional $8,387 after its efforts to keep former risk manager turned general counsel, Dave Holmquist, from testifying.
Judge levies sanctions against LAUSD
By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News
A judge levied $6,000 in sanctions against Los Angeles Unified on Friday, because school officials failed to turn over more than 300 pictures of victims who were sexually abused by former Miramonte Elementary school teacher Mark Berndt.
Additionally, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Wiley is leaning toward fining LAUSD an additional $8,387 after its efforts to keep former risk manager turned general counsel, Dave Holmquist, from testifying.
But that sanction, which was also requested by lawyers representing Berndt’s victims in a civil action filed against LAUSD, will remain tentative for the time being.
A Pasadena-based attorney representing 15 victims, Brian Claypool, said it’s rare for a judge to grant such sanctions.
“This is a really powerful signal to the district that they cannot continue these obstructionist tactics,” Claypool said.
The Sheriff’s Department gave LAUSD the more than 300 pictures in 2011. Taken by Berndt, some photographs depict children eating semen from spoons; their eyes and mouths were taped over in other shots, according to court documents.
But LAUSD was untruthful, indicating it didn’t have the pictures, when parents and victims requested the evidence in 2013, according to the court ruling which has yet to be finalized.
“LAUSD indeed was aware of responsive photographs. It was false and abusive for LAUSD to suggest otherwise,” according to the ruling.
LAUSD’s lawyers offered “invalid” excuses, as to why they failed to turn over the pictures, in one argument claiming they had admitted to possessing them and in another faulting “parents and children for believing LAUSD and its lawyers were trustworthy,” according to the ruling.
LAUSD’s legal team disagrees with the court.
“Consistently, the school district has and will continue to act transparently and appropriately in all matters related to this case,” spokesman Sean Rossall said.
As early as next week Wiley could finalize the additional $8,387 in sanctions, Claypool said.
According to the tentative ruling, those fines would cover legal costs incurred by the district’s efforts to keep Holmquist from being deposed.
Claypool said the district’s former risk manager needs to answer questions about what, if any, training employees received in detecting and reporting child abuse, as inadequacies may have played a role in the scandal.
Aside from the fines, LAUSD’s legal team tentatively won their efforts to keep the law enforcement files from being publicly disclosed.
Wiley was concerned disclosing the information will further harm victims, some of whom were upset when sheriff’s investigators showed them the photos of themselves, according to the tentative ruling.
It’s the right move, Rossall stated.
“Attempts by plaintiffs’ counsel to release this information publicly doesn’t serve the students or families involved,” Rossall stated.
Lawyers for Berndt’s victims wanted investigative files made public, Claypool said, because LAUSD has tried to cover up its knowledge of Berndt’s sexual abuse. LAUSD may have known about Berndt’s sexual deviancy three decades ago, he said.
“They have propagated this fiction to the community,” Claypool said. “We should be allowed then to release this information now to show the district did in fact potentially know about Berndt’s predatory behavior for 30 years leading up to Miramonte.”