L.A. Uni­fied re­hires a watch­dog

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Howard Blume howard.blume@latimes.com

A re­tired district lawyer and ad­min­is­tra­tor will re­turn to serve as the Los An­ge­les Uni­fied School District’s inspector gen­eral af­ter the board failed to re­new his pre­de­ces­sor’s con­tract.

Jess Wo­mack served as inspector gen­eral for 18 months at the na­tion’s se­cond-largest school sys­tem, bridg­ing the gap be­tween longer-term ap­point­ments.

This time he’s re­plac­ing Ken Bram­lett, who served for five years as the district’s chief in­ter­nal watch­dog and whose con­tract ex­pired. The board dead­locked 3 to 3 in June over re­hir­ing him; the sev­enth board mem­ber, Ref Ro­driguez, did not vote be­cause he is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the inspector gen­eral’s of­fice.

Af­ter a long le­gal ca­reer in pri­vate in­dus­try, Wo­mack be­gan work­ing as a lawyer for L.A. Uni­fied in 2002. He was named inspector gen­eral in 2011.

The board voted 6 to 0 this week to bring back Wo­mack. Board mem­ber Kelly Gonez, who is on ma­ter­nity leave, did not vote. Wo­mack will be paid $14,995 a month on a con­tract that runs through De­cem­ber.

The de­bate over BramFrank lett took place al­most en­tirely out of pub­lic view, in closed ses­sion, but some board mem­bers and other sources have de­scribed what took place. Three board mem­bers had praised Bram­lett’s work, while three oth­ers ques­tioned his per­for­mance or raised con­cerns about whether Bram­lett had al­lowed his top deputy, Cabibi, to make in­ap­pro­pri­ate com­ments about women and mi­nori­ties. Cabibi agreed to re­sign this year with­out ad­mit­ting any wrong­do­ing.

The board mem­bers who were crit­i­cal of Bram­lett, who has strongly de­nied any wrong­do­ing, are mem­bers of a ma­jor­ity, in­clud­ing Ro­driguez, elected with fi­nan­cial sup­port from back­ers of char­ter schools. Char­ters are au­tho­rized by L.A. Uni­fied, but in­de­pen­dently man­aged and ex­empt from some rules that ap­ply to schools run by the district. Char­ter lead­ers have sought to limit the role of the inspector gen­eral in in­ves­ti­gat­ing those schools.

Wo­mack has de­fended the im­por­tance of hav­ing an inspector gen­eral when, in the past, district lead­ers or oth­ers sought to elim­i­nate it.

Erik Skin­drud Hos­pi­tal Assn. of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia

L.A. UNI­FIED board mem­bers voted 6 to 0 this week to re­hire Jess Wo­mack, a re­tired district lawyer and ad­min­is­tra­tor, as in­terim inspector gen­eral.

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