Official who accused ex-LAUSD Supt. Cortines of sexual harassment settles for $93,000 and resigns

The man who accused former Los Angeles schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines of sexually harassing him has resigned from his job at the school district in exchange for $93,000.

Scot Graham, 59, had filed four lawsuits against the L.A. Unified School District and against Cortines, a widely respected educator who also headed four other districts, including the New York City system, the nation’s largest.

Graham never prevailed in litigation — the courts never ruled on the merits of his claims. The district spent an estimated $266,000 on the lawsuits.

Cortines could not be reached for comment Wednesday; Graham called the settlement a “mutual decision,” adding that, under its terms, he had agreed to limit his public comments.

The school district provided what it called the "separation agreement" and other documents in response to a request for public records.

Under the agreement, Graham also agreed to drop a pending workers' compensation claim and further pursuit of damages through any past, currently active or future claims and lawsuits.

Cortines had admitted to a sexual liaison in 2010, when he was superintendent and Graham was a midlevel manager. Cortines classified the encounter as one incident of consensual “adult behavior” and bad judgment on his part.

Graham claimed Cortines made unwanted advances after he accepted an invitation to spend the weekend at Cortines’ Kern County ranch. Graham said he felt trapped and he tolerated the alleged abuse and other alleged inappropriate conduct at other times for fear of losing his job.

The accusations came to light in May 2012, a year after Cortines retired from his second stint leading L.A. Unified. The school district called a news conference to announce that it had agreed to pay Graham $200,000 plus lifetime health benefits. In return, Graham would leave his $150,000-a-year job as director of leasing and asset management.

But Graham had yet to sign the agreement, and he and his attorney were furious that it had been made public — along with only the district’s version of events.

They brought forward additional allegations and accused the district of trying to improperly discourage Graham from filing a claim. The settlement fell through and Graham returned to his district job.

Graham subsequently pursued a lawsuit, but it was rejected for not meeting a filing deadline.

Other legal skirmishes followed. According to court papers, Graham suffered a stroke and other health problems, which, for a time, limited his ability to work.

Then, an unlikely chain of events resulted in Cortines’ return to L.A. Unified. When John Deasy resigned as superintendent under pressure in Oct. 2014, the Board of Education unanimously turned to Cortines as best suited to manage the crisis.

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In court papers, Graham described trying to develop an arrangement to avoid Cortines, who worked one floor below him. He characterized the situation as stressful and untenable.

Cortines, 83, retired again in December.

Graham’s departure quickly followed, with an agreement dated Jan. 15.

He has a new job, as a senior team member with a Bay Area company that installs prefabricated buildings.

Twitter: @howardblume 


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