The PUSD has long relied upon the tactics of stalling and evasion in its hopes of avoiding difficult situations. If anyone has looked at recent Board of Education closed session items regarding current litigation, you will quickly notice an increase in settlements being paid out. Why? Obviously they have gotten themselves into more messes than they can otherwise handle. Any how, you might also ask, do they manage to get themselves into such situations?
Well, one answer is that the Pasadena Unified School District has assumed that rather than honoring agreements and following the law, it's better to just avoid dealing with matters. Done in the hope that people will just forget. A possible reason for this is that by engaging in endless stalling the applicable statutes of limitations will be reached. Another is that legal fees for private families will become so outrageously unaffordable that they'll be forced to just give up. The PUSD's legal resources, on the other hand, being as deep as the taxpayer's pocketbook.
Yet another possibility is that the staff involved in these legal infractions may get a promotion, leave the district, or even retire. And therefore are no longer the PUSD's responsibility.
The Board of Education invariably focuses more upon ceremonial resolutions and other fluff. They do certainly like to put on a show of being effective. Something they far prefer to working together and effectively governing on such minor matters as their apparently permanent financial crisis. There are certain members of the Board who do call into question the hypocrisy, the waste, the nepotism, and lack of transparency, but they are in no way the dominant faction.
The Board majority apparently has aligned itself with the actions of rogue member Ed Honowitz. We’ll see where our censure request goes, but I’m not holding my breath on that. Perhaps it is their hope that by throwing up such smokescreens it will deflect away all of the negative press and violations Honowitz is racking up in his quest for political supremacy. These people do need to remember, however, that by aligning with Honowitz, they are exposing the entire Board to the possibility of litigation.
Here are some questions that we've sent to various PUSD staff, and which invariably remain unanswered. We’ve had to come up with our own conclusions, and we’ve actually been able to dig up some interesting information.
- Given there is no PUSD Board policy regarding investigating the actions of individual community members while on district campuses, why has this District-wide school student security and safety issue still not been resolved? When will a Board policy be adopted to address this?
Steve Miller, the PUSD Director of Human Resources, informed me via a January 7th, 2011 letter that "The District has no process to investigate the actions of members of the community..." Following that stunning statement, especially in the wake of the whole Matheson debacle in Sierra Madre, I started asking the Board of Ed why there wasn't a policy. Still waiting to hear the answer ...
- How can a School District conduct a fair and unbiased internal investigation of a UCP (Uniform Complaint Procedure) case (involving discrimination, harassment, etc.)?
Consider the ineffectiveness of such an investigation, especially if those investigating the complaint are directly involved in the issues. Also, remember that it's not in the District's best interest to investigate a violation as it could cause them to be legally liable. Especially if pertinent documents are "unavailable" or "destroyed." Or, in Mr. Honowitz's unfortunate case, "forgotten." As in not giving them to the District complaint investigator. The result being there's conveniently “not enough evidence” to determine non-compliance.
Voila! It must be that the complainants are not telling the truth, right Mr. Honowitz?
- Why are documents requested through the Public Records Act (PRA) altered? Who does the altering? Is it OK to destroy documents requested through a PRA? Is that within the law?
It is one thing to redact information that can potentially violate confidentiality, but it's quite another to purposefully remove sections without reason or explanation. I have seen this personally, and when I've asked why it was done, and who was responsible, invariably there is no reply. I'm still waiting for an answer. My assumption is that this was a big no-no, they had hoped that we wouldn't notice, and that it could potentially be grounds for further action.
- If a Board member does not represent the interests of a family, and publicly defames them in the process, how do you get an alternate member to represent that family at a school?
Nobody seems to know. We've tried email requests to the Board of Ed President Renatta Cooper. We've tried emailing Ed Honowitz, who ignores us. At least until he can take the opportunity to publicly use that information and sway opinion against us. We've tried displaying posters and making public requests at Board meetings, but nothing seems to happen. Does anyone know of another way to get heard by these people?
- Why does the PUSD retain so many law firms? Why are they still associated with the law firm of Lozano Smith, who apparently has been sanctioned by a Federal Judge for ethics violations? How much in School District funds are spent on the legal maneuverings necessary to keep PUSD staff out of hot water? Why don’t they just do what they’re supposed to?
During our work on the PUSD Special Ed Task Force, we tried to figure out exactly how much money was being wasted on lawyers through discovering the amounts spent on legal fees, rather than on ensuring compliance. I filed a Public Records Act request and finally got a minimal amount information from John Pappalardo (Finance Chief), but it certainly did not account for all of the settlements I’ve seen coming out of closed sessions, nor the monthly purchase orders.
This also does not explain why the PUSD continues to work with the associates of Lozano Smith. It seems very clear from PUSD monthly purchase orders that they have maintained that connection.
Here is a link to an excellent article dealing with Lozano Smith and their delicate ethical condition. It is also a poor reflection upon the PUSD's record in matters of ethics, public records, and special education. Click here.