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LAUSD employee to seek further damages in Cortines settlement

Attorneys for Scot Graham, who accused former Supt. Ramon Cortines of sexual harassment, say the district's handling of the settlement invaded his privacy.

June 05, 2012|By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
  • Former LAUSD Supt. Ramon C. Cortines in 2010.
Former LAUSD Supt. Ramon C. Cortines in 2010. (Anne Cusack, Los Angeles…)

A senior L.A. school district official who accused former Supt. Ramon C. Cortines of sexual harassment will seek additional damages because the school system publicly disclosed details about the allegations and a settlement approved by the Board of Education.

Attorneys representing Scot Graham, 55, also assert that they now want to negotiate directly with current Supt. John Deasy, who has been largely uninvolved in the matter.

In a statement, the L.A. Unified School District said that the school board Tuesday "voted unanimously to reject a new counter settlement proposal." A spokesman added that Deasy would remain on the sidelines and that the board "intends to handle this matter directly."

In a letter dated June 4, obtained by The Times, Graham's attorneys contend that a "public-relations campaign" by L.A. Unified "was a clear invasion of Mr. Graham's privacy and placed him in a false light."

The district has defended its actions.

The school system announced May 23 that the school board had approved paying $200,000 and providing lifetime benefits to Graham, a senior manager for 12 years in the facilities division who earned about $150,000 a year. In exchange, Graham agreed to resign as of May 31, the district said at a media briefing managed by the public-relations firm Cerrell Associates.

The harassment allegations arose from an encounter between Graham and Cortines at the superintendent's ranch in Kern County in July 2010. In a statement distributed by L.A. Unified, Cortines described what happened as an episode of consensual, "adult behavior."

Graham contended, through his attorneys, that Cortines had made inappropriate, unwanted sexual advances. Cortines, 79, retired in April 2011.

At the time of the district's disclosure, Graham had not yet signed the settlement. For at least a week, the district asserted that the agreement was binding. On Tuesday, the district said Graham should resume work if the settlement is off.

But Graham has been "constructively terminated," according to his lawyers.

"The LAUSD knew or should have known that its actions were likely to humiliate Mr. Graham, make the prospect of returning to work at LAUSD intolerable, and greatly diminish his ability to secure new employment," wrote attorney Maurice D. Pessah.

howard.blume@latimes.com

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