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Renewal Sought for School Aide's $138,000 Job

Internal probe says L.A. Unified sidestepped policy to hire an under-qualified man.

June 07, 2005|Ralph Frammolino | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Board of Education members are scheduled to vote today to renew a $138,000-a-year contract for a former Democratic consultant less than a year after an internal investigation concluded that his superiors "circumvented" school district rules to land him a higher-paying position for which he was not qualified.

As director of external relations for L.A. Unified's construction program, Daniel W. Kreinbring is in charge of networking with local political offices and conducting a public communications campaign to help sell the school district's ambitious $14.4-billion new construction and renovation program.

His two-year contract is among those of 38 senior school aides the board is being asked to approve in closed session.

Last August, in a confidential report that has never been made public, the district's inspector general concluded that Kreinbring's boss, facilities chief James McConnell, and others violated personnel procedures to hire Kreinbring in 2003 at a salary more than $30,000 in excess of what was recommended at the time.

The investigation also alleged that Kreinbring submitted a resume that was inaccurate and misleading.

"Mr. Kreinbring's resume contained an artificial job title and was structured in a manner that could easily mislead an evaluator," the report said.

Kreinbring didn't return repeated calls Monday.

McConnell said that he attempted to follow regular personnel procedures but was not bound to follow them because he has discretion to choose his senior managers. He also estimated that putting Kreinbring on the L.A. Unified payroll has saved the district nearly $275,000 to date because his salary is lower than what L.A. Unified had been paying him as a public relations consultant.

"He's the right guy, we saved money, we did it through the public process and it's worked out fine," said McConnell.

But Board President Jose Huizar said he considered the way in which McConnell hired Kreinbring to be "unacceptable."

"It sets a bad example if the top administrators at the district are bending the rules," said Huizar, adding that he and his board colleagues questioned McConnell in closed session over the hiring when the inspector general's report was issued last year.

Prior to his work for the school district, Kreinbring had been employed as an aide to Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, an official of the 2001-2002 Gray Davis campaign and as comptroller of the 2000 Democratic National Convention Committee, where his tenure briefly overlapped that of Supt. Roy Romer, then the party's national chairman.

A school district spokesman said the two did not know each other at the time.

In hiring Kreinbring, McConnell's staff sent several requests to the personnel commission for a "chief of staff" or "public information director" position, but they terminated their efforts when commission staffers decided the salary for the position should be about $105,000.

The job title was then changed to "associate general counsel" as a means of boosting Kreinbring's salary after McConnell told the district's personnel director that Kreinbring would be "providing him with legal advice concerning Facilities Division construction projects" in the new job, even though he would not officially be working as a legal counsel.

In any event, the inspector general concluded that Kreinbring wasn't qualified for an "associate general counsel" position because he didn't have the required six years of legal experience.

McConnell's staff submitted a request for the new position on May 6, 2003, then filed a request to hire Kreinbring for it the next day. On May 8, the personnel director signed an approval and "the new position was official," the report says.

Meanwhile, Kreinbring had a hand in the process. He wrote a list of 10 job duties as part of the May 6 request.

He also submitted a resume that investigators said was vague and had the effect of overstating his legal experience, which they said was a year short of the six-year requirement.

The report also noted Kreinbring used an "artificial title" of "General Council (sic), Office of the Chief Facilities Executive" for the work he did for the district as a consultant, even though the job did not entail providing legal advice and he was not an active member of the bar at that time.

The report quotes Kreinbring as saying that using the title was "in retrospect ... not the best of choices." Both he and McConnell agreed that Kreinbring gave the facilities chief no legal advice during his work as a public relations consultant.

Since then, the report found, Kreinbring has "offered little legal advice" while dealing with the public and other political entities about the school construction program. Late Monday, McConnell's office released a memo refuting the inspector general's report by asserting that Kreinbring's legal background had met the minimum requirements for the job.

It also said that the resume investigators found to be misleading was actually put together by Kreinbring after he took the job and placed in his file, not the original resume he submitted for the job.

During the inspector general's investigation, the personnel department took action to downgrade Kreinbring's job title to "director of external affairs." But by district personnel rules, they were allowed only to freeze his salary at the lowest level of the attorney's pay grade -- nearly $18,000 a year more than he could earn in his new, downgraded position.

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