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L.A. Unified’s Vladovic cleared in handling of teacher inquiry

Richard Vladovic did not act improperly in an investigation of sexual misconduct allegations against a teacher, the inquiry found.
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Board of Education President Richard Vladovic has been cleared of wrongdoing after an internal investigation into whether he acted improperly in connection with sexual misconduct allegations against a teacher at a Wilmington school.

A separate inquiry into whether Vladovic verbally abused employees or engaged in any other misconduct has not concluded.

The investigations, conducted separately by outside attorneys, were authorized by school Supt. John Deasy.

In recent months, Vladovic, 68, had voluntarily removed himself from board discussions about the case of Robert Pimentel, who formerly taught at De La Torre Elementary. Such a precaution will no longer be necessary, said L.A. Unified General Counsel David Holmquist.

Pimentel, 57, has pleaded not guilty to sexual misconduct charges involving 12 children younger than 14 and remains in jail in lieu of $14-million bail. Fourteen felony counts involve alleged abuse between September 2011 and March 2012. Two additional counts date to earlier years.

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Pimentel was arrested in January, well after senior administrators apparently became aware of concerns raised by parents in 2009.

A coordinator, Holly Priebe-Diaz, reported those allegations to police, satisfying that legal obligation, according to the district. But the recent inquiry also examined how the case was handled internally. A teacher can be removed for inappropriate conduct or as a potential risk even if no charges are filed. And other employees can be fired for failing to handle such situations properly.

David Kooper, a senior aide to Vladovic at the time, fell under a cloud on these grounds, based on what he might have learned about parents’ allegations. Kooper also was exonerated in the internal inquiry and has returned to his current job as principal at Gulf Elementary.

Former De La Torre Principal Irene Hinojosa was also caught up in the case and retired before she could be fired. Even before the recent investigation, Deasy concluded that she had neither reported nor followed up on accusations against Pimentel.

Vladovic knew Hinojosa — she had worked for him as a principal during two separate periods when he was a senior administrator in the region. Pimentel, in turn, had worked for Hinojosa at two different schools, according to district records. But there was apparently no evidence connecting any knowledge of concerns about Pimentel to Vladovic.

Vladovic was traveling and could not be reached for comment, but he had predicted that he would be exonerated.

Other administrators or officials touched by the case include Linda Del Cueto, the senior administrator in the Harbor area in 2009, when parents complained to district officials about Pimentel. Most recently, Del Cueto was the top official over instruction in the San Fernando Valley. She has been demoted to an administrative position in the instruction office at district headquarters.

Similarly, Mike Romero and Valerie Moses also had been in the chain of command in the Harbor area.

Romero has been demoted from executive director of adult and alternative education to a job as an administrator in operations at district headquarters.

Moses has elected to retire. She had been principal at Los Angeles Elementary. Romero and Del Cueto face substantial reductions in pay — at least $50,000 a year.

The district won’t comment on Moses, Romero and Del Cueto, citing confidentiality rules governing personnel issues.

The Pimentel inquiry resulted in a decision to open the ongoing investigation into whether Vladovic engaged in other misconduct. Vladovic has acknowledged an occasional bad temper, and some employees have accused him of verbal abuse.

Deasy had threatened to resign if Vladovic became president of the board, but the superintendent backed off from that threat after Vladovic was chosen last week.

howard.blume@latimes.com


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