INSIDER REPORT--This is the story of what happens when someone reports wrong doing by an employer. This story probably plays out daily in an office near you. This is why most go along to get along; but I’m not built that way. (Photo above: Author Cheryl Dorsey)
The Office of the Inspector General within the Los Angeles Unified School District is an independent investigatory body responsible for investigating fraud, waste and abuse. So, what would you say if the very entity responsible for those investigations was itself engaged in behavior that appeared fraudulent, wasteful and abusive? And what would you say if an employee of the Office of the Inspector General reported what appeared to be abuse only to become the subject of bullying and retaliation? You’d say “that’s wrong”. Then- what would you say if those in a position of authority tasked with preventing retaliation failed to act? You’d say, “That’s outrageous”.
Welcome to my world.
The Los Angeles Unified School District’s Whistleblower Policy reads in part, “If the report alleges that the OIG or the General Superintendent interfered or took the retaliatory action, the OIG shall not investigate the report. The file shall be directly provided to the President of the Board who shall investigate the matter or designate someone to investigate the retaliation.”
I guess the Los Angeles Unified School District administrators are (above the law) not required to follow or enforce whistle blower complaints with mandated investigations.
The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest school district in the nation; an untouchable super power, seemingly. Right now, the highest authority figures on the Los Angeles Unified School District are burying their heads to allegations of possible criminal activity and actively circling the wagons around an out of control Office of the Inspector General.
I have for the better part of a year, been publicly silent and fighting this battle alone.
In March 2015, I reported what I believed to be potentially criminal behavior and acts of retaliation and disparate treatment to the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Equal Opportunity Supervisor Cheryl Broussard.
Ms. Broussard works in the Office of the General Council, Labor and Employment Legal Services under the direction of David Holmquist, General Counsel. This is important because months later, in September 2015, after not getting any relief from the bully behavior directed against me, I met with (then) Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines and Deputy Superintendent Michelle King.
After months of not hearing from Cheryl Broussard regarding my complaint, in June 2015, I met with Earl Perkins, Deputy Superintendent, Los Angeles Unified School District. This meeting generated a telephone call to me from Ms. Broussard in approximately August 2015.
Ms. Broussard eventually prepared a report of her "findings" in a September 2015 report. After reviewing the report, I concluded that Ms. Broussard’s “findings” appeared to be lifted whole cloth from Frank Cabibi, Deputy Inspector General- Investigations and Jorge Urquijo, Supervisory Investigator. Broussard’s report was little more than a regurgitation of their responses and their statements included inaccuracies which lacked verifiable support.
One such inaccuracy in Ms. Broussard's findings was that my laptop had been confiscated by Cabibi and replaced with another district laptop that had software programs installed necessary for the completion of my assigned investigations; this is not an accurate depiction of the facts. I assert that had Cheryl Broussard conducted a thorough investigation, inaccuracies would have been uncovered and correctly reported. Instead, Ms. Broussard’s report simply appears to restate and therefore co-sign Frank Cabibi's version.
It should be noted that between June 26, 2015 and December 2, 2015, Frank Cabibi and Jorge Urquijo have confiscated my district issued lap top computer from my work space in excess of 85 working days. Having my lap top taken seemed like a clear attempt to thwart my ability to complete assigned work; yet I have managed to complete my investigations in a timely manner in spite of their actions.
The reason given for removing my laptop was “security concerns”. I have asked and waited for a reasonable explanation as to how I might “secure” a transportable lap top on my desk top to no avail. While this was happening to me every other investigator in the Office of the Inspector General has been allowed to keep their district issued lap top computer on their desk top work space unmolested.
I submitted my complaint of discrimination, bullying and harassment to Ms. Broussard expecting a full investigation. However, Ms. Broussard’s “findings” lacked evidence of a thorough, unbiased investigation. Ms. Broussard's handling of my complaint should give pause to other District employees who've had her “investigate” their complaints as her “findings” may not be reliable, in my opinion. It is my belief, with regard to my complaint, that Cheryl Broussard lacks credibility as a fact finder/reporter.
Here's one example of how the campaign of retaliation against me intensified after I made my initial report to the Equal Opportunity Supervisor, Ms. Broussard; In April 2015, during a staff training session, I discretely exited the room for a restroom break only to return to the room where Frank Cabibi had interrupted the training and then made a proclamation that, “we can begin now, she’s back.”
Imagine my humiliation when I realized that an entire room of my peers had been waiting for my return.
As a woman, this was particularly distressing and embarrassing. This was not just any supervisor who humiliated and degraded me in this way; Frank Cabibi is second in command to the Inspector General, Ken Bramlett. Cabibi had actually stopped his presentation just because I left the room momentarily for a restroom break and then announced that fact to my peers. Public humiliation just joined bullying and harassment. The disparate treatment continued on an almost daily basis.
As of this writing and during my nine-year tenure with the Los Angeles Unified School District, I have never been counselled, received any written reprimand, received documented corrective action to improve my work performance nor have I been the subject of disciplinary administrative action; yet I am bullied by my supervisors.
Believe me, if Office of the Inspector General administrators had cause to discipline me in the past year; they would have done so.
Prior to April 2014 and the hire of Frank Cabibi, I was the “go to” investigator on matters of high importance and sensitivity. I have enjoyed a professional and amicable relationship with everyone I encountered.
In September 2015, after I met with (former Superintendent) Ramon Cortines and recently promoted Superintendent Michelle King regarding possible misappropriation of public funds, malfeasance, payroll fraud and a litany of other egregious behavior being perpetrated by those whom I affectionately refer to as the “unholy trinity”; the Inspector General, Ken Bramlett Deputy Inspector General, Frank Cabibi and Supervisory Investigator, Jorge Urquijo the retaliation campaign again intensified. I informed Mr. Cortines that he should be concerned regarding the prosecutorial viability of investigations that Cabibi and Urquijo have touched.
A lack of credibility by those involved in investigations, whether administrative or criminal, jeopardizes the outcome of those proceedings. It should be noted that there are several high-profile investigations currently sitting in the Los Angeles County District Attorney, Public Integrity Unit awaiting criminal prosecutorial consideration; which have been, in my opinion, tainted by Frank Cabibi and Jorge Urquijo. It might be helpful if the head deputy of the public integrity unit review the viability of those cases before many more work hours are wasted.
I provided documentary evidence to Mr. Cortines and Ms. King regarding what I believe were lies told by Cabibi regarding the Office of the Inspector General’s inability to assist Charter Schools Division with requested investigations. Documented evidence of the delayed investigations was presented. As of this writing there has been no investigation into this matter.
I communicated the same concerns with Ricardo Soto, General Counsel, California Charter Schools Association; something that I suspected may get back to the unholy trinity. I am waiting for public, tax payer outrage over my revelations and an investigation by an outside agency with jurisdiction and oversight of the Office of the Inspector General.
I also asked Mr. Cortines for whistle-blower protection from retribution; none was given. I knew once the unholy trinity became aware of my meeting with Cortines and King; retaliation would intensify. I was right.
In November 2015, Frank Cabibi and Jorge Urquijo decided to deny my use of entitled sick leave benefits and docked my pay in violation of Education code 45160, 45166 and District Contract Article 13. Why? Because they can. I’ve reported the illegal declination of pay to Elvie Espinoza, Director, Payroll and Gifty Beets Director, Labor Relations to no avail.
My California School Employees Association representative has attempted to intervene; those contacted acknowledge I am entitled to sick leave benefits and that the District is supposed to reinstate my pay however, as of this writing I am still owed pay. Why? Because they can.
Currently, Inspector General Ken Bramlett has not provided me with a W2 for 2015 and has failed to respond responded to my email requesting my W2 for 2015. Why would the Office of the Inspector General fail to provide me with my W2 as required by law? Why? Because he can.
Currently, Inspector General Ken Bramlett is threatening me with "disciplinary action which could lead to suspension or termination" if I do not return three case files which I investigated and submitted upon completion to Supervisory Investigator Jorge Urquijo for review and distribution. According to Bramlett, these files are now "missing" and if I don't "return them" I face disciplinary action.
Bramlett's threat of "discipline which could lead to [my] termination" is telling because these so-called "missing" files are easily duplicated. Every written report and document germane to any investigation conducted has been saved and stored in the Office's internal reporting system; called Time Matters.
I believe this is an attempt by Inspector General Ken Bramlett, his Deputy Inspector Frank Cabibi and Supervisory Investigator Jorge Urquijo to manufacture cause to fire me. Why? Because they can. I will then have to fight the wrongful termination later. THIS is how (some) within a super power like the Los Angeles Unified School District grinds down a single employee who has the temerity to challenge their retaliatory, discriminatory behavior and the demonstrated belief that those in positions of authority can act with impunity while seeking the shelter of a large organization that is seemingly willing to circle the wagons around them.
Office of the Inspector General administrators seemingly are non-compliant with the District’s Code of Ethics, which reads in part, …To succeed, we must have the same expectations about how we will practice our commitment to excellence, integrity and responsibility in our everyday work …Keep colleagues safe from retaliation. We are committed to creating a work environment where problems can be reported and solved. We are prohibited from threatening, harassing, punishing or retaliating against employees who make good faith complaints...
I have not gone away quietly in the night. I have and will continue to speak out against their campaign of retaliation.
Before Mr. Cortines retired, he told me he did not have jurisdiction over the Office of the Inspector General and referred me to Steven Zimmer, President, LAUSD Board of Education.
I met with Mr. Zimmer, provided him with documented evidence of possible malfeasance by the Office of the Inspector General administrators. Mr. Zimmer accepted my documents and has had no more contact with me. I believe Mr. Zimmer his in cahoots with Bramlett and Cabibi and has turned over the documents that I had given him regarding their perceived bad acts.
After my meeting with Mr. Zimmer, I arrived at work one day to find a 8x11 sized paper prominently plastered to my work space monitor with a communication from Urquijo; a communication that can best be described as a public flogging.
The sheet of paper contained what should have been a confidential communique between a supervisor and subordinate – yet this was placed prominently on my desk for everyone in the office to view. This was not the first time that I had been humiliated in this way by administrators.
For anyone who has ever complained about a supervisor, been bullied and tried to follow company protocol in seeking an administrative remedy only to have your supervisor(s) conspire against you – you feel my angst.
By the way, Ken Bramlett has not spoken one word to me – even though I “cc” him on emails with regard to the retaliation and harassment that I have been subjected to by Urquijo.
So, when I speak as an expert regarding the problems that exist within police agencies, the code of silence and going along to get along; some ask me “why don’t the “good” police officers tell on the “bad” ones”; fear of retaliation and the lack of real protection as a whistle-blower is the reason.
To illustrate how frustrating this fight has been and how difficult it is to get ANYONE to listen and help; I have, over these past few months, reached out via email and through telephone conversations to the Jerry Brown, California Governor; Kamala Harris, California State Attorney General; Department of Fair Employment and Housing; Tom Torlakson, California State Superintendent; President Obama, The White House; Department of Labor Relations and probably others I have forgotten because this is exhausting; all to no avail. Eventually, some organization is going to take notice, investigate my allegations, and prevent the bullying and retaliation.
I will press on in my efforts to identify the organization which has investigatory jurisdiction over Offices of the Inspector General. Everybody reports to somebody, right? If anyone knows I would love to hear from you.
The Los Angeles Unified School District is circling the wagons and attempting to grind me down and wear me down.
My hope is that anyone who reads this and finds themselves similarly situated will find the strength to hold on; remain determined. I know that I am not the only one nor am I the last one to take on a super power (employer). I know that there is someone else out there who is also exhausted in the struggle. Stay strong. This has been a very trying time but I am resolute in my position.
So, I will end this blog as I have every email that I have written to the unholy trinity and those who I thought would have an interest in doing right by the students of the Los Angeles Unified School District by saying this.
Should I befall any hurt, harm or danger, I am requesting my friends and family to begin their investigation at the steps of the Los Angeles Unified School District more importantly in the Office of the Inspector General, Investigations.
(Cheryl Dorsey is a retired LAPD sergeant, speaker, and much sought after police expert on important issues making national headlines; as such she has appeared as a guest expert on the Dr. Phil Show , and is a frequent commentator on CNN, HLN, MSNBC and KPCC. She is the author of The Creation of a Manifesto, Black & Blue; an autobiography that pulls the covers of the LAPD and provides an unfiltered look into the department’s internal processes. Visit Cheryl’s website www.cheryldorsey.net. Reach her at: @sgtcheryldorsey