LAUSD candidate under district investigation, removed from school counseling job during probation

(Michael Blackshire/Los Angeles Times)

LAUSD candidate under district investigation, removed from school counseling job during probation

Education, LA Politics, 2024 Elections

Howard Blume

February 24, 2024

Los Angeles school board candidate Graciela Ortiz has been fired from her job as an administrator at LA Unified Counseling pending a confidential investigation, school district officials confirmed


leading a school employee union to withdraw its endorsement for the March 5 election.

The investigation was launched after a civil lawsuit was filed alleging that Ortiz and a political ally are liable for the actions of a campaign worker, who

proposed no contest

sexual misconduct with a minor volunteer. Both the perpetrator and the victim were involved in campaign work for Ortiz and Efren Martinez in 2021, according to the indictment filed Jan. 9 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Martinez is running for the 57th State Assembly district, which includes parts of downtown LA, South LA and southeastern LA County. Ortiz is a Huntington Park City Council member running for District 5, which runs north-south along an eastern stretch of the Los Angeles Unified School District, including Eagle Rock and


towns including Maywood and Bell.

In the criminal case, Billy Valdivia, the campaign worker,


has entered no contest to a weapons charge, according to court records. He is also a defendant in the civil proceedings.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for the female sexual assault victim, identified as “BA.”

An attorney for Ortiz and Martinez, Robert P. Sievers, demanded the case be dismissed in a letter to the plaintiff’s attorney, calling the allegations “malicious and defamatory” as well as a carefully timed political “slander.”

Neither Ortiz nor Martinez answered questions posed to them via email from The Times. They also did not agree to be interviewed. Neither Sievers nor attorneys from Lyfe Law, either

has been

representing Ortiz and Martinez, responded


to ask


Political consultant Mike Trujillo provided a general statement to detailed questions by text message and email.

Just like Taylor Swift’s song ‘Shake It Off’, the court will dismiss this politically motivated lawsuit. “Also, every major public safety organization, like our own LAUSD school police officers, has endorsed Council Member Graciela Ortiz because they know she will make our schools safer,” Trujillo said.


who added that he is also pushing for candidates in the three other board races.

“This is our response/comment to every question you asked,” he added in a text message.

Ortiz, 43, lost a previous bid for the school board in 2019 to Jackie Goldberg, who is retiring. Ortiz’s council position is part-time. Her full-time job was as a school support administrator and supervising counselors. But during the events related to the lawsuit, she was a school counselor

as she had been for most of her district career, which began in 2006


LA Unified confirmed that Ortiz has been removed from her position “pending the outcome of a formal investigation,” a district spokesperson said. The province declined to provide additional information.

Citing the issues raised in the lawsuit and the ongoing investigation, one union, Chapter 500 of California School Employees Assn., has withdrawn its support of Ortiz. That union represents approximately 4,000 employees, including library workers and administrative and business service providers at schools.

Ortiz is supported by the campaign’s largest donor: Local 99 of Service Employees International Union, which represents approximately 30,000 workers, including cafeteria workers, custodians, teacher aides, security guards and bus drivers.

Local 99


$708,191 spent

$650,000 so far through Friday

on behalf of Ortiz, and has also provided members with door-to-door campaigns.

Ortiz “has consistently demonstrated a deep commitment to supporting children and families,”


Local 99 spokesperson Blanca Gallegos said Thursday. “It is our understanding that it was Graciela’s cooperation in the investigation of the incident that led to”

Valdivia’s no contest plea. the perpetrator.//Should we change ‘the perpetrator’ to simply ‘Valdivia’?// A campaign volunteer

During the 2018-2019 school year, BA attended Marquez High School in Huntington Park. She got to know Ortiz, an advisor and the faculty

advisor advisor

to the Key Club,


to which the student belonged, the lawsuit said.

Ortiz recruited BA and other students to work on her failed 2019 school board campaign, a special election to fill an open seat, the lawsuit said. The COVID-19 pandemic

silently closed

schools in March 2020, but BA reconnected with Ortiz later that year during a Christmas toy drive, the lawsuit said.

At Ortiz’s urging, BA joined a new campaign to help in early 2021


According to the indictment, Martinez wins election to the local Democratic Party Executive Committee.

Also involved in the 2021 effort for Martinez was Valdivia, described in the lawsuit as a “personal friend” of Martinez who shot videos and ads for the campaign office and drove throngs of volunteers around as they conducted campaign work.

The lawsuit alleges that Ortiz “was the primary person in charge of the campaign, organizing the volunteers and giving daily lectures at campaign headquarters to instruct the volunteers on what to do, including interactions with Billy Valdivia.” , who helped drive the campaign. efforts of the young volunteers.

Valdivia, who was 44 at the time, socialized with underage students, buying them alcohol and driving them around

the lawsuit said

. He would drop BA off last, gradually enticing the 16-year-old into a sexual relationship and sometimes taking her to his apartment, the lawsuit alleges.

BA told her family about the physical contact and they notified Huntington Park police, who set up a sting, according to the complaint. BA requested a one-on-one meeting with Valdivia, and when he arrived, he was arrested in a car borrowed from Martinez, the lawsuit said.

According to the lawsuit, agents found photos and videos on Valdivia’s phone that supported BA’s account. At the time of his arrest he was carrying an unregistered firearm. At least one other gun was found in his home, the lawsuit said.

Valdivia was charged with three crimes related to


and one misdemeanor count of annoying or harassing a victim under 18 years of age. He pleaded no contest to two charges: improperly carrying a loaded firearm in public and annoyance/abuse count, according to criminal court records.

He received a two-year suspended sentence, including a 46-day jail term, and was required to register as a sex offender, court records show.

Questions about lawsuits

The civil lawsuit against Martinez and Ortiz centers on whether they were negligent in hiring and supervising Valdivia and allowing

Valdivia him

to deal with minors


The lawsuit alleges that Ortiz and Martinez should have conducted a background check on Valdivia


and that if they had, they would have found court documents proving it

Valdivia hey

what a potential risk.

A review of limited court documents, which include a name and case number, show that a person named Billy Valdivia faced gun charges in the 1990s. The Times could not verify if it is the same person because the files, which would have included a date of birth, have been destroyed.

The court

Records also show that there is a domestic dispute

a person named Billy Valdivia with the same date of birth as the campaign worker. In this


According to court documents, Valdivia’s then-wife claimed he was violent and she requested a restraining order against him. The restraining order was in effect for a short time. There are no indications that a report has been filed.

The domestic case involves an individual named Billy Valdivia, with the same date of birth as the convicted campaign worker. In this domestic dispute, Valdivia’s then-wife claimed he was violent and requested a restraining order against him, court documents show. The restraining order was in effect for a short time. There is no indication that charges have been filed.//Should this count be dropped? It sounds almost identical to the previous graph.//

Both the gun cases and the domestic dispute took place more than twenty years ago.

Valdivia and his attorney in the criminal case, Albert Robles, did not respond to emails and phone calls from The Times.

In his letter sent to The Times by BA’s lawyer, Sievers denied a link between BA and the Ortiz and Martinez campaigns


“This claim is also untrue as BA was never a volunteer or part of the 2020 campaigns and no one in the campaign knows her.”

However, Mike Navia, a former Huntington Park police detective who oversaw the case, said BA was a campaign volunteer during the relevant period and was in regular contact with Ortiz, Martinez and Valdivia.

Navia no longer works for the city after losing his job in the aftermath of a public dispute when, as leader of the police union, he criticized city officials, including Ortiz.

Thomas Scully, BA’s attorney, produced a letter of recommendation that Ortiz wrote praising BA’s 2019 campaign assistance.

He added that it is standard practice for a victim to sue an employer because the perpetrator typically has no assets to recover in damages.

“The duty of care is heightened in this case because the victim was a minor,” Scully said. “She was lured from a school environment where there was a special relationship between herself and a former school counselor that led her to reasonably believe that she would be cared for as a volunteer.”


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