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Personnel Panel Seeks to Oust Rehired Director : Schools: Commission will begin formal action to overturn the hiring of a district maintenance chief who was implicated in thefts three years ago.

February 06, 1992|HOWARD BLUME | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LYNWOOD — The Lynwood Unified School District's Personnel Commission on Friday will begin formal action aimed at ousting maintenance director Commodore Reid, who was rehired three years after pleading no contest to charges of stealing from the school system.

The three-member commission has openly opposed the school board's 3-to-2 vote Jan. 17 to rehire Reid as director of maintenance, operations and transportation.

"They should never have considered hiring this man," commission member Emma Esparza said after the vote.

The commission normally would have been involved in the decision to hire Reid, but the school board brought him back under a rule that allows the board to rehire employees who voluntarily resign.

The board majority, led by President Joe Battle, said the district needs Reid to rehabilitate deteriorating buildings and grounds. "We were in better shape than any other school district before he left," Battle said after the Jan. 17 meeting.

Commission members believe Reid was not eligible to be rehired without commission approval, commission chairman John Beimer said. Reid would be eligible only if he resigned voluntarily and in good standing--which was not the case, Beimer said.

The Personnel Commission has the authority to stop Reid's pay if it rules that he was hired improperly, but the school board could decide to challenge the commission's ruling in court, officials said.

Board member Rachel Chavez, who voted against rehiring Reid, said she supports Personnel Commission efforts to overturn the board decision. "I said to the Personnel Commission members that if you know of any legal way you can help turn this around, do it," Chavez said, adding that Reid did not resign voluntarily.

"I saw the letter that says 'resign or be fired,' " Chavez said. "That's not resigning in good standing."

Reid, who began work Monday, did not return numerous telephone calls. Board members Battle, Cynthia Green-Geter and Thelma Calvin-Williams, who voted for Reid, also did not return numerous phone calls for further comment.

But Warren Kinsler, a lawyer for the school district, said the board majority was on strong legal footing in asking Reid back. The bottom line is that Reid was not formally fired, and a resignation could not be regarded as a dismissal, Kinsler said.

He added that the school board and Reid himself could challenge the Personnel Commission in court if it halted Reid's pay. "They've already decided how they're going to rule in the case, and that's plain-old unfair," Kinsler said of commission members. "It's almost like a personal vendetta."

The commission's role is to screen job candidates for board approval and ratify board hiring decisions. The commission normally has authority over hiring of all non-teachers except for some of the highest-ranking administrators. The school board appoints one commissioner and an employee union selects a commissioner. The two members then select the third commissioner. Such commissions were established to remove favoritism from hiring decisions.

The Lynwood commission has asked a commissioner from another school district to preside at the hearing at 10 a.m. Friday at district headquarters. The independent commissioner will make a recommendation to the Lynwood Personnel Commission, which will then make a decision.

Among the records to be reviewed is Reid's no-contest plea in March, 1989, to one felony count of grand theft and another of receiving stolen property. In a no-contest plea, the defendant neither contests the charges nor admits guilt. In exchange for the plea, the district attorney dropped nine counts of theft and one conflict-of-interest charge.

The charge of receiving stolen property related to district property found in Reid's possession, including loudspeakers, planer tools, a tape recorder, an adding machine, a steel gate, shelving and a metal cart.

At the sentencing hearing, Reid's attorney argued for leniency, saying the loss to the district was relatively small and Reid had no previous record.

Reid was fined $200, ordered to pay $2,500 in restitution, and sentenced to three years probation and 400 hours of community service. The charges were reduced to misdemeanor violations after Reid paid restitution.

Much of the investigation centered on allegations that Reid had district employees work on his property on district time, using district materials. "This defendant, in effect, subverted a lot of other employees by forcing them to work in his projects and . . . paid (them) compensatory overtime (from) the school district," Deputy Dist. Atty. Herbert Lapin said at Reid's sentencing hearing.

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