LAUSD and UTLA Collude to End Collective Bargaining for Teachers Part 2
As somebody who went to law school and taught constitutional law at both the secondary and university levels, I had always operated under the delusion that one was innocent until proven guilty by a preponderance of the evidence in a civil case and beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal case. In the corrupt world created by the Los Angeles Unifed School District (LAUSD) and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), nothing could be further from the truth.
From the moment you are targeted for removal from teaching for what quickly becomes a never ending sequence of fabricated charges based on untrue reasons mentioned in Part 1 of this article, you are presumed guilty by virtually everybody you deal with. And even those few people who see clearly that you are being railroaded by LAUSD and UTLA, nothing is done to intervene on your behalf, because they are terrified of losing their own jobs...or privileges While there are some pretty awful teachers within LAUSD, ironically, they will be the last to be harassed, attacked, and removed, because they play ball with corrupt LAUSD or UTLA administrations.
None of this could take place if UTLA did its job and their law firm of Trygstad, Schwab & Trygstad didn't help in facilitating your removal from teaching by LAUSD. Here is the way it is done:
- Once LAUSD has fabricated what they think is enough "evidence" against you and there has been a Skelley Hearing, the Chief Education Officer for LAUSD will invariably recommend your dismissal from teaching to the LAUSD Board. You will not be allowed to speak before the Board before they rubber stamp your dismissal, which will become final within 30 days, if you do nothing.
- At this point, UTLA will supply $2500 to the law firm of Trygstad, Schwab & Trygstad and no other law firm to walk you through the process of being dismissed. In my case Richard Schwab, a partner in this firm emphatically stated that he was not my attorney and told me that he had been hired by UTLA to "just walking me through the process," When he went through the file I gave him with the charges and my answers, he assumed that all bogus allegations fabricated by LAUSD were true, after which he keeps hammering on the fact that I had a weak case and that I should settle. Of course, at this point he said that with the writing of a form letter asking for a hearing before the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), the $2500 UTLA had given him had been consumed. At this point, I wondered if I might have walked into the wrong office by mistake and was talking to an LAUSD attorney, instead of somebody recommend/chosen by UTLA that you have been paying $57 monthly dues to for 15 years. I tried to console myself that at least my looming dismissal from LAUSD had been temporarily stopped.
- Now the game becomes about getting you to take a settlement, so that both LAUSD and UTLA can get rid of you. Attorney Schwab tells you that although you have been put on unpaid administrative leave as of the LAUSD Board's vote for your dismissal,
Attorney Richard Schwab tell you that "You are not entitled to collect unemployment benefits nor will UTLA come up with any more money for your defense." Both of these statement turned out to be completely false.
- The way that LAUSD leapfrogs over your LAUSD/UTLA Collective Bargaining Rights to arbitration- which UTLA had already asked for in my case- is by alleging that you are guilty of a morals charge under Education Code Section 44939. In a blatant violation of due process of law, they will refuse to authenticate any evidence of this charge that they have in fact fabricated against you under this statute. Richard Schwab and UTLA will do nothing to seek injunctive relief in Superior Court to stop this from taking place on your behalf or on behalf of the hundreds of teachers this is being done to throughout LAUSD. Again Schwab willing falsely assert, "This would be a separate action."
- Now Schwab offers you a deal- being that your $2500 from UTLA has been consumed after he spent a weekend reviewing your file. He agrees to negotiate on your behalf to get a settlement from LAUSD, which he will only charge you $2500 for- $1500 down. He also tells you that he will take 40% of any settlement he gets for you from LAUSD- he has asked as much as 60% of the settlement from other LAUSD teachers he has proposed this to, so I guess I should have felt lucky. Schwab continues to pressure me with the fact that going to OAH will cost a minimum of $30,000 and that doesn't include court costs if I lose. Schwab also stresses the fact that this offer to negotiate a settlement is in no way an offer to represent me in an OAH procedure.
So now you have no job, a mortgage to pay, a kid in college, and a wife who is pissed off and the possibility of spending well over $30,000 to prove that you are innocent, something that you always thought was presumed until the other side showed otherwise.
- You are now between a rock and a hard place, but before you can respond, UTLA's Joshua Pechthault says that the union has decided to authorize $15,000 for your defense, "But only if you use the law firm of Trygstad, Schwab & Trygstad." When you ask if you can take the money to an attorney of your own choosing, Josh emphatically say no. When I insist that there is a potential conflict of interest in Schwab representing me and representing UTLA, both Schwab and Pechthault deny this. Ironically, UTLA's refusal to let me pick my own attorney is the best evidence of the fact that a conflict of interest exists. Although Joshua Pechthault promises to take my claim of conflict of interest to the UTLA Legal Committee that deals with such matters, as of this writing I have heard nothing from him and he does not respond to my phone calls- it's been 7 months. I guess he is already on to his next job as President of UTLA/AFT Local 1021.
As for Schwab, he has told other teachers in the past who wanted to sue UTLA for bad actss that he cannot do it, because it would be a conflict of interest, given the fact that they are his major client. So which is it Richard?
It is worth mentioning that at no time do I sign an agreement with any member of the law firm of Trygstad, Schwab & Trygstad, but that doesn't stop Schwab from proceeding without authority to do everything I have specifically told him not to do, while ignoring what I have asked him to do:
- In derogation of my right under California Education Code 44944 to a hearing within 60 days, Schwab sets my OAH trial 10 months later on September 12, 2011 and then proceeds to lie as to why he has done it. Among other excuses, he cites budget problems in the state and the unavailability of witnesses during the summer, which is 7 months away.
- LAUSD does not comply with discovery and yet Schwab gives them two extensions, instead of going into Superior Court and asking for sanctions, adverse findings or fact, and maybe even dismissal of the OAH proceedings on fundamental notions of no due process. When LAUSD finally delivers its discovery, it offers few, if any of the documents requested by Schwab for discovery. Schwab does nothing about this. My specific discovery requests had already been edited down to very little by Schwab's associate Deborah Esaghian.
- I ask Schwab to hire an investigator to memorialize witnesses testimony and evidence, before LAUSD has a chance to fabricate more evidence, which everyone who proceeded me in this process tells me LAUSD will do. He refuses saying there is not enough money, which is strange, since he was going to settle this matter for $2,500, but now $15,000 isn't enough.
- I ask him to ask UTLA to adequately fund my defense, if it is not adequate as he claims. He never gets around to this.
LAUSD's main tactic in getting rid of teachers by harassment and falsified charges is to use delay tactics to try and starve the teacher into accepting a settlement based on accepting culpability for something that the vast majority of them are not guilty of. For those teachers who continue to seek justice, LAUSD raises the financial pressure by filling motion after motion that the teacher now has to pay Trygstad, Schwab & Trygstad to answer or collaterally attack in Superior Court- a rather expensive process also designed to bleed the teacher without salary.
LAUSD never fights on the merits of a case, since it clearly knows it will lose. Therefore, it uses every procedural dilatory tactic to prolong the harassed teacher's agony. Whether it's teachers that have been sitting in "rubber rooms" for 4 years or more or a teacher whose hearing date before the OAH gets continued to a later date at the last minute, LAUSD's game plan is to use procedure to force the teacher out of their job without ever having to deal with the merits of the case. LAUSD's legal approach is one of using procedure to delay, while avoiding a substantive case base on the merits at any cost, since there are no merits to most of the cases they bring. They know it. UTLA know it. Trygstad, Schwab & Trygstad know it, and even the OAH administrative law judges know it, because they see this going on all the time, but nobody does anything to protect the teacher.
With the departure of Superintendent Ramon Cortines, his Chief of Staff Jim Morris, Staff Relations David Vidaurrazaga, and others continues, even if the teacher is able to ultimately succeed, LAUSD will be left holding the bag of liability, while the corrupt LAUSD or UTLA administrator is either off to another job, retirement, or both. Ah, the joys of double dipping a phenomenon common at both LAUSD and UTLA. Isn't outgoing UTLA President A.J. Duffy going to work for LAUSD as the head of pilot schools?
If Trygstad, Schwab & Trygstad and UTLA functioned as advocates and fiduciaries of the teachers they have sworn to defend, LAUSD could not get away with this. Maybe I should take up my complaints with Richard Schwab's wife Coleen, who sits on the Board of Directors of UTLA, I'm sure she will be sympathetic to my case- not
I remember in law school that we were told to "avoid even the appearance of impropriety." But Schwab told me when I first met with him on November 17, 2010 that what I learned in law school had nothing to do with reality. Was he right?