LAUSD Official Says He'll Refile Sex Harassment Suit Against Superintendent Ray Cortines
Scot Graham, the LAUSD employee who sued Superintendent Ray Cortines in 2012 for sexual harassment, says he will refile that suit now that the elected seven-member LAUSD School Board has rehired Cortines.
"Last week, the board of the LAUSD announced the re-hire of Ramon Cortines and sent a clear message to its employees and to its students: sexual harassment at the highest levels of education in Los Angeles is tolerated and even rewarded," said Graham in a press release. A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge threw out the lawsuit in 2013 on the grounds that the statue of limitations had expired.
In the plainest terms, Graham claims Cortines grabbed his penis as a payoff for getting him a good school district job.
“The issues raised in Mr. Graham’s statement have been ruled in Mr. Cortines’ and the school district’s favor repeatedly by the court," said district spokesman Sean Rossall. "This matter has been investigated fully on multiple occasions. We have fulfilled our ethical and legal obligation to address these allegations. In our opinion, this matter is over."
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Kind of an uncomfortable situation here. Graham is an official at LAUSD, director of leasing and asset management (when third parties want to lease LAUSD property, they talk to him). He alleges that Cortines made his first unwanted advance shortly after Graham was hired in 2000.
According to a document prepared by Graham and his PR team:
Upon their return, Cortines attempted to grab Scot’s penis and proposed that the two men go to the Superintendent’s office to have sex. When Graham refused, Cortines stated that “it was the least he could do” in exchange for the job that Cortines recruited him for. Graham again rebuffed Cortines’ offer, but Cortines insisted that the two men would go undetected if they entered the building at 450 N. Grand Avenue, and that it was “harmless” for them to have a “little fun.” After multiple attempts to make contact with Plaintiff’s body, including his penis, Cortines finally relented, and the two men parted ways. Graham tells L.A. Weekly that he never filed any complaints at the time: "We were living in the world of 'don’t ask, don’t tell.' I did not report or say anything."
Cortines was an interim superintendent for several months many years ago, then got rehired in 2009. In 2010, Cortines invited Graham and Graham's husband to Cortines' ranch in the Sierra Mountains. Graham's husband, who was in graduate school, couldn't attend, so Graham agreed to drive up the mountain with Cortines.
Graham says Cortines tried to kiss and touch Graham a few times the first day. But things got really crazy that night, according to the Graham document:
Upon entering his separate bedroom to sleep, Graham noticed that the door to his bedroom could not be locked. Graham attempted to call his husband, but noticed that his mobile phone was not getting reception and that the only land-line was in the communal area of the Ranch, which Cortines would supervise. Graham was unable to sleep and grew fearful for his safety. Shortly thereafter, Graham observed the door to his bedroom open, and Cortines enter the room. Graham quickly realized that Cortines was completely nude and that Cortines’ penis was erect. Cortines then climbed into Graham’s bed, and proceeded to masturbate beside him. Frozen with fear and shock, Graham laid idle as Cortines masturbated and appeared to ejaculate on himself and near Graham. Cortines then grabbed Graham’s penis over his pajamas and stated “you’re not getting hard.” Graham was speechless, and Cortines exited the room.
This time, Graham says, he did file a complaint, which he says was ignored by his superiors and by LAUSD General Counsel David Holmquist.
"His words were, 'Do you really want to destroy his career? He’s leaving anyway,'" says Graham.
It was part of my investigation that caused me to speak to Mr. Graham, not because he came to me independently. He begged me not to divulge any of this information. He said he would withdraw his complaint – he never filed a complaint. And our policy says we will respect the confidentially of those who come forward, and we don’t bring things forward that would compromise their confidentiality...
He told me he wanted to forget about it. He told me that he was seeing a therapist and he had spoken to his husband, and that everything was OK, and he did not want to pursue this. He told me it was a private matter between he and his friend Ray Cortines.
In May of 2012, Graham and the district were close to settling the matter. But before everything was formally agreed to, the district announced a settlement — and divulged Graham's identity, which was quickly reported by news outlets such as NBC-LA.
Things escalated from there, and Graham filed suit against both the district and Cortines. A judge ruled that he had no standing to sue the district, and that the statute of limitations had run out on the sexual harassment lawsuit.
Now that Cortines has been rehired for a third time, Graham is bringing the matter up again. It's not clear what legal justification he has, but he's clearly infuriated that the seven-member school board would choose to ignore his accusations – as well as what he views are hard-nosed tactics to defeat his case.
"They’ve treated me in the most awful, cruel ways," Graham tells the Weekly. "They've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to berate and diminish me to the point where I am destroyed."
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