Not one, but two United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union endorsed candidates for the upcoming March 8 Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board elections have had that endorsement snatched away after background checks.

Hey, A.J. Duffy, you're the president of UTLA, why not background check your candidates before endorsing them? (You're from Brooklyn – how'd you get to be such a trusting guy?)

This embarrassing knock illustrates the waning power of UTLA. Louis Pugliese is a candidate for the LAUSD Board in District 3, and has taught in L.A. Schools for over 20 years. Of the ailing union, he tells L.A. Weekly:

“The union has not thought about political strategy. They are all muscle and no mind. At this point, the muscle is not working. They think 'If we just put a candidate up, we will win. If we have a candidate and a bunch of money, we will win.' … They need charismatic candidates who will help them.”

In response to the background check debacle?

“Yes, I think Duffy is responsible,” Pugliese tells the Weekly. “However, Duffy is merely a reflection … in the union, the tail wags the dog … I could name names, but I won't name names right now.”

He sites UTLA's unsuccessful backing of a terminally ill incumbent, Jon Lauritzen, as the beginning of the end of UTLA superpower. That was in 2007.

This election is not the first time that a simple background check could have helped UTLA scan candidates. Three most recent cases:

1) In 2006 UTLA backed LAUSD board candidate Christopher Arellano kicked off the disturbing trend. His two USC masters degrees: do not exist. His two shoplifting convictions circa 1990s: do exist.

Background check? Yeah, that might have been a good idea.

2 and 3) For the upcoming March 8 LAUSD board elections, UTLA has taken back its endorsement for District 7 candidate Jesus Escandon AND District 5 candidate John Fernandez.

Escandon forgot to mention a 1997 DUI conviction and an arrest for street fighting. He also forgot to appear in court for the latter.

Fernandez isn't so good at taxes. He had federal and state tax liens, according to records. He also has a past bankruptcy. In his defense: that could explain why he ended up arrested after being linked to two friends who were shoplifting. For the record: No prosecution was pursued for the shoplifting link.

Contact Mars Melnicoff at / follow @marsmelnicoff

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