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No Pact or Pay, but She Stays on the Job : Education: Head of occupational program refuses to call it quits. The board that hired and fired her is deadlocked.

August 05, 1993|PHILIP P. PAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LA PUENTE — It has been more than a month since her contract expired and she is not getting paid, but Adrianne Hakes refuses to give up her position as superintendent of the La Puente Valley Regional Occupational Program.

Hakes is in an awkward position because members of the board that hired and fired her are stubbornly deadlocked: Two want her to stay, two want her to leave, and none will budge.

"It's hopeless, I believe," said Anna Aguilar, president of the program's Joint Board of Management. "I find it very sad that a public agency is in this state."

The program provides job training for high school students and adults in the Bassett, Hacienda La Puente, Rowland and Walnut school districts. It is governed by a joint board with one delegate from each district's board of education.

Hakes, 55, continues to head the agency despite a 3-1 board vote last November to allow her two-year contract to terminate on June 30. She decided to challenge her dismissal after picking up one vote of support when new board members were appointed in December. Hakes still does not have enough votes to renew her contract, but her opponents do not have the votes to hire a successor either.

The ROP board, it seems, is in its own limbo. And it is this unusual twist of governmental gridlock that has prompted a flurry of accusations on both sides and provoked a fight pitting the four school districts against one another.

The La Puente Valley ROP is one of 13 such state-funded job training programs in the county. It has an annual budget of about $5 million and provides training classes to nearly 2,000 full-time students and more than 18,000 part-time students.

Hakes acknowledged that she is still serving as the program's top official, even though she is not formally employed. She said her lawyers have assured her that she is not breaking any laws.

"I'm trying to make this the best ROP that it can be, despite the controversy over my contract," Hakes said. "And it's in the best interest of the ROP that I do stay."

Hakes said she hopes the board will eventually renew her $72,000-a-year contract and pay her for her services during the past month.

Rolland Boceta, who represents the Rowland Unified School District on the ROP board, said Hakes seems to have hired herself. Boceta voted to dismiss Hakes in November and has blocked attempts to renew her contract in the past four board meetings. He described her actions as an "illegal takeover."

"Her contract terminated June 30, and she is acting without valid authority," Boceta said. "I consider her an intruder, a trespasser, a usurper of that position."

Boceta declined to comment on why he opposes Hakes, saying it is a personnel issue. But he said the board's original 3-1 vote to terminate made it clear that they had lost confidence in her.

Yvonne Garcia, delegate from the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District, joined Boceta in opposing Hakes.

The other members, Aguilar of the Bassett Unified School District and Larry L. Redinger of the Walnut Valley Unified School District, endorse Hakes completely.

"Someone has to run the place, and I have a lot of faith in her. I have no problem with it," said Redinger, who argued that Hakes has improved the ROP curriculum, raised morale and kept the budget in the black.

Hakes and her supporters think the administrator was not evaluated fairly and suspect she was fired for political reasons.

"I really don't believe that it was (job performance)," Hakes said. "If I had been doing a poor job, I would have expected some indication, and I got no indication that the board was not happy."

Hakes' backers suggested that she was dismissed because the Rowland, and perhaps the Hacienda La Puente district, want to see the joint ROP collapse so they can run their own programs, or join another ROP. The Rowland district tried unsuccessfully to withdraw from the joint ROP two years ago.

In addition, Hakes said, the La Puente Valley ROP has a $1.5-million reserve, which might be attractive to school districts with budget problems.

"I feel the superintendent is a pawn in all this, that she's a scapegoat. I am 100% convinced that this isn't about Dr. Hakes, that it's about something else," Redinger said.

Neither Hakes nor the board members see a resolution any time soon. They said the impasse might continue until after school board elections in November, when all four ROP board members are up for reelection. The case may also end up in court.

The board has had many motions fail on 2-2 votes in the past, and previous ROP superintendents have sometimes found it difficult to deal with such splits. But officials said a prolonged stalemate like this one is unprecedented.

"This kind of deadlock is an aberration," Boceta said. "But this is such a critical issue that if you have one of these every 10 years, it's devastating. Nobody wins here. It's a loss-loss proposition."

The board considered adding a fifth seat about a year ago, but could not agree on how that seat would be filled. So the proposal died--on a 2-2 vote.

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