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UTLA election winners still awaiting review of challenges

Michael Janofsky | May 5, 2014

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imagesThe UTLA election winners are still waiting for the fat lady to sing.

Since Alex Caputo-Pearl was declared the winner as president and two other races were clarified though the second round of voting last week, the union’s election committee is now in the midst of hearing 15 challenges from competition for 22 positions.

Hearings were held last Tuesday and Thursday with more scheduled for today.

“A majority of them” involve challenges to winning Union Power candidates — nearly all the winners — over the possibility they used unpaid leave to campaign, said a person familiar with the cases who asked not to be identified. The other challenges, the person said, fall into the category of, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Caputo-Pearl was not challenged, but the winners for four vice president positions, secretary and treasurer were.

The challenge process allows any losing candidate to present evidence of irregularity, after which the 13-member committee decides to accept or reject the challenge. The loser of the decision has the right to post $1,000 to appeal to an independent arbitrator, initiating a process could could stretch on for several months.

The person with knowledge of the process said that to prevail, any challenger has to demonstrate that the alleged violation is valid and would change the outcome of the voting.

It’s not always so simple as it sounds. The person described a challenge from several years ago when a losing candidate charged that the winner had used a school site copying machine to make campaign fliers.

“That’s not against UTLA rules but it goes against district and state rules,” the person said before describing other  cases — a candidate accused of using the school site telephone to make campaign calls, a candidate accused of using the LA Unified email address to send out literature, a candidate calling in sick to campaign.

“How do we prove or disprove any of that?” the person said. “We’re not the NSA, tapping everybody’s phone.”

The election committee’s rulings are expected to be completed this week. Any race in which no appeal is filed with be declared official.

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