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Ratliff asking for review of LAUSD litigation costs over last 5 years

Vanessa Romo | November 13, 2014

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Monica Ratliff 2013-11-12

LA Unified Board Member Monica Ratliff

Building on her success investigating LA Unified’s controversial iPad program, Board Member Monica Ratliff is now asking for an overall examination into how the district allocates support for legal matters as a way to find added funding for improving school safety.

In two resolutions set to come before the board next Tuesday, Ratliff is calling for a report on litigation expenses, awards and settlements over the last five years arising out of child abuse accusations against district employees and in cases where criminal actions occur on school campuses.

The idea, according to Ratliff, is to redirect these funds toward boosting school police or other security measures and adding a second adult to all classrooms.

“Both resolutions call for analyses and plans to be done with all deliberate speed so that the Board and Superintendent can determine what, if any, logical and effective next steps in school security and safety need to be implemented as quickly as possible,” Ratliff said in a statement.

In recent years the district has paid out millions of dollars in child abuse or molestation settlements, some of which are still ongoing. The Miramonte Elementary School case in which a veteran teacher, Mark Berndt, was found guilty of lewd acts on 23 children, sending him to prison, is still in civil court, after $30 million in settlements for 65 victims. More plaintiffs are waiting their turn.

Although the district employs 41 attorneys in house, all of the Miramonte cases were outsourced to two high-level law firms, Andrade Gonzalez, LLP and Sedgwick LLP.

“Cases are outsourced when there is a capacity issue and/or specific legal expertise is required,” Chief General Counsel David Holmquist explained in an email to LA School Report.

“The vast majority of legal work is handled in-house, and the General Counsel’s office is continually increasing that amount. That said, outside counsel will always be needed,” he added.

If the resolutions are approved, Ratliff expects the reports to be completed by Jan. 16.

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