A Web of Deceit

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"The public interest in withholding those records clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure."

-Law Offices of Young, Minney & Corr, LLP

On behalf of El Camino Real Charter High School

Dear LAUSD Board Members:

I have previously shared with the Charter School Division (CSD) the responses that I have received from El Camino Real Charter School's (ECRCHS) law firm after attempting to gain access to the $20,000 report that the Governing Board commissioned from Oracle Investigations Group under the California Public Records Act (PRA). Unfortunately, I have not heard back from the CSD or received the report or a copy of the contract under which it was prepared. However, in reviewing the Response to Notice of Violation that was prepared on behalf of ECRCHS states on page two that "included among ECRA Board actions taken are...contracting with an independent investigator to investigate concerns raised by the LAUSD Charter Schools Division in a Notice to Cure in October of 2015". This is contradictory to responses that I received from the same law firm claiming that "as legal counsel for ECR our firm retained the services of Oracle Investigations Group, Inc." and "there are no documents responsive to your request in the possession of ECR" in response to my request for a copy of "the contract with Oracle Investigations Group that was approved by the Governing Board on June 22, 2016."

The PRA was written to provide transparency to public agencies and ECRCHS' refusal to comply gives the impression that there is damaging information contained within the Oracle report. I, therefore, believe that is critical that the LAUSD Board insist on receiving a copy of this report as part of the discussion about the charter's Response to Notice of Violation.

Sincerely,

Carl Petersen


 On Tue, Sep 27, 2016 at 3:14 PM, Carl Petersen <changethelausd@gmail.com> wrote:

 

As listed in the minutes of the June 22, 2016, El Camino Real Alliance Board Meeting, item IVG states that "the board voted unanimously to approve the motion" that approved "contracting with Oracle to investigate issues on LAUSD's Notice to Cure and the credit card statements." However, when asked in a California Public Records Act request to produce a copy of this contract, the Law Offices of Young, Minney  & Corr, LLP states that "there are no documents responsive to your request in the possession of ECR." Once again, this seems to be a breach in compliance with the Brown Act and/or the California Records Act. After all, how can a contract not exist if it was not only approved by the governing board but was executed by Oracle Investigations Group?

As the agency in charge of enforcing El Camino's charter petition with the LAUSD, including a clause agreeing to comply with the California Public Records Act, I request your assistance in forcing the Board to make this contract public.

Sincerely,

Carl Petersen


On Fri, Sep 23, 2016 at 10:38 AM, Carl Petersen <changethelausd@gmail.com> wrote:

 

On September 12, 2016, I submitted a PRA request to Marshall Mayotte for "the report generated by Oracle Investigations Group as a result of the contract approved by the Governing Board on June 22, 2016". In response, I received the attached letter from the Law Offices of Young, Minney & Corr, LLP denying my request based in part on the assertion that "as legal counsel for ECR our firm retained the services of Oracle Investigations Group, Inc." However, the minutes from the Governing Board meeting on June 22, 2016, state  that "O. Slamon made a motion to approve contracting with Oracle to investigate issues on LAUSD's Notice to Cure and the credit card statements." This presents a discrepancy with what is being claimed by the law firm as the motion makes it clear that it is the El Camino Real Alliance were the ones entering into the contract.

The law firm also claims that "the report is also exempt from disclosure" because it is "a preliminary draft that is not retained by ECR in the ordinary course of business." However, Governing Board members have stated to the Los Angeles Daily News that this report was referenced during their closed meeting on Friday, September 16, 2016. It is important to note that this meeting fell between the date of my request and the law firm's response. Therefore, it can be proven that it was in their possession at the time of the request. Furthermore, a member of their legal team was present at this meeting.

Finally, the law firm claims that "the public interest in withholding those records clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure." However, they provide no basis for this conclusion. I would argue that since the public has paid for this report and it provides insight into how the public's education funds have been spend, there is a very strong public interest in favor of disclosure.

As you know, the LAUSD requires that all charter petitions submitted to the District require that the California Public Records Act must be followed by the petitioner. As the division in charge of enforcing compliance it, therefore, falls to the CSD to make sure that El Camino Real Charter High School is following this law.

Sincerely,

Carl Petersen


On Thu, Sep 15, 2016 at 10:49 AM, Carl Petersen <changethelausd@gmail.com> wrote:

 

With very short notice the El Camino Real Governing Board has scheduled a special meeting tomorrow morning. According to the published agenda, they are discussing "Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release". However, according to an article published in the Daily News today:

The school board recently hired an outside investigative firm, Oracle Investigations Group, for an estimated $20,000 to examine the issue of credit-card spending among administrators and school reimbursement policies. Wasser said a draft of that report has been completed, and “the board may be discussing (the) Oracle report” with the other agenda item.

Since this item is not on the agenda, it should not be discussed in the meeting. Also, as I have written to you before, this report also needs to be released in a public forum.

Sincerely,

Carl Petersen


On Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 8:03 AM, Carl Petersen <changethelausd@gmail.com> wrote:

 

Unfortunately, El Camino Real Charter High School continues to thumb its nose  at the Brown Act. As stated in a Los Angeles Daily News article published on Saturday, the Governing Board is scheduled to receive the report from Oracle Investigations Group at its September 21, meeting. Unfortunately, they are planning to retreat into closed session to do so.

According to the minutes of the June 22, 2016, Board meeting, the forensic accountant firm was hired "to investigate issues on LAUSD's Notice to Cure and the school administrators." No mention was made of this investigation being focused on "confidential employment matters".  In fact, the administration has consistently maintained that the Charter School Division's accusations were "nitpicky" and contained errors. This seems to indicate that they did not suspect any employee maleficence at the time they commissioned the report. Therefore, they should not be able to use the Brown Act's exemption for "confidential employment matters" to hear this information in a closed session. Furthermore, the use of a credit card that is paid for with public funds will not "compromise the privacy interest of employees" and should, therefore, be presented in an open session under the Brown Act. If after receiving the information the Governing Board should decide that discussion about employee discipline should take place, it would be appropriate to then move into closed session.

It should also be noted that Oracle is not employed as a law firm by the Governing Board. It, therefore, seems ludicrous for the Board to claim that a closed session is required under the guise of "attorney-client privilege". Once again, if the Governing Board has questions about this report after it is released in an open session, it would be appropriate for them move into closed session with their attorneys to receive legal advice.

The report in question was paid for with $20,000 in public funds and covers the spending of funds meant for our children's education. Therefore, it is not up to the ECRCHS Governing Board to "determine whether and when the findings of the investigation will be made public." It is the Brown Act and the California Public Records Act that makes this decision and they are both clear that the people "do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know." The LAUSD Charter School Division must ensure that this report is promptly released.

Sincerely,

Carl Petersen


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