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Sexual harassment claim against L.A. Unified Supt. Cortines refiled

A subordinate tries again to sue over alleged harassment by L.A. Unified Supt. Cortines

A school district manager has filed a new sexual harassment lawsuit against Supt. Ramon C. Cortines and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The suit, filed Wednesday in L.A. County Superior Court, repeats and expands on previous claims made by Scot Graham. An earlier lawsuit had been dismissed in 2013 because his attorneys failed to file it in time.

Graham’s new legal team asserts the harassment claims have new standing with the return of Cortines to the helm of the nation’s second-largest school system. Cortines, 82, came out of retirement after John Deasy resigned under pressure last October.

When Cortines was in retirement, he was beyond the reach of possible discipline from L.A. Unified, but his return obligates the district to conduct a thorough, independent probe, according to Graham’s attorneys.

“Scot is working in an environment, not simply with someone who harassed him, but with someone who sexually assaulted him,” said Herndon Graddick, a spokesman for Graham, who is on medical leave. “What more would have needed to have happened to trigger an actual investigation? And if the [school] board believes that nothing improper happened, why at this point wouldn't they consent to it?”

The district characterized its handling of the original allegations as “consistent with our policy and the law” and called the new filing “frivolous.”

“The details included in this complaint are intended to do nothing more than generate sensational headlines, and needlessly subject current and former leaders at the district to baseless personal attacks,” said General Counsel David Holmquist. “The district will vigorously defend against these claims.”

Graham is the district’s director of leasing and asset management.

The allegations stem largely from Graham's visit to Cortines' Kern County ranch in July 2010. Cortines has said that he and Graham engaged in an act of consensual "adult behavior," which Cortines characterized as bad judgment on his part.

Graham, 58, alleges that, over the course of two days, Cortines repeatedly tried to engage him in unwanted sexual behavior, and that he felt trapped.

Graham also alleges that later, two supervisors failed to report the matter for several weeks after Graham confided in them. Subsequently, Holmquist allegedly urged him to drop the matter, according to legal filings.

The district contends that Graham insisted to his supervisors that the alleged incident should not be acted on, and that officials respected his wishes, while also directing him to report any future misconduct.

Twitter: @howardblume

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