LOS ANGELES (CN) – A former employee of the Los Angeles Unified School District claims retired superintendent Ramon Cortines sexually assaulted him on a weekend visit to Cortines’ ranch, and the incident was never investigated due to the district’s “culture of sexual abuse, stealth and secrecy.”
In his lawsuit in Superior Court, Scot Graham claims Cortines “had targeted other LAUSD employees for refusing to submit to his sexual advances, and had a reputation of being persistent and abusing his authority.”
Graham says that “just days” after Cortines, 80, recruited him to be the district’s director of real estate, Cortines propositioned him and tried to grab his penis. Years later, the former superintendent allegedly invited Graham to his ranch, where he entered Graham’s room naked and masturbated in front of him.
Graham is suing Cortines for alleged sexual battery, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Two months ago, the school district announced that it had agreed to pay Graham $200,000 plus $300,000 in benefits to settle his sexual harassment claims. But Graham claims the district violated the terms of the settlement by failing to protect his anonymity. The district publicly identified Graham in a news release, according to Graham’s attorneys.
Cortines has maintained that the encounters with Graham were consensual. He retired as superintendent last year.
According to the 13-page lawsuit, Graham began working for the district in 2000 “through the direct efforts and at the personal request of Cortines,” who suggested the job would give Graham a “sense of purpose.”
“It was only later that Cortines’ intentions – masked under the guise of providing Graham a more meaningful career opportunity – were revealed,” the lawsuit states.
Graham says Cortines “violated a myriad of LAUSD policies to hire him,” including bypassing the interview process and allowing Graham to skirt the prerequisites for working there.
Days after he started the job, Graham claims, Cortines invited him to dinner at a restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. After dinner, the two men allegedly returned to LAUSD headquarters, where Cortines “attempted to grab Scot’s penis and proposed that the two men go to the superintendent’s office to have sex.”
When Graham refused, Cortines said “‘it was the least [Graham] could do’ in exchange for the job that Cortines lured him into,” the lawsuit states.
Graham says Cortines suggested they go to another building to have sex, and that it was “‘harmless’ for them to have a ‘little fun.'”
Graham says he rebuffed Cortines’ advances, but thereafter worked “in fear of a man at the helm of a $6.5 billion government entity” who had the power to fire him at any time.
Cortines left LAUSD in June 2000 but returned as superintendent in 2009, bringing an “abrupt halt to Scot’s period of relative normalcy at LAUSD,” according to the lawsuit.
In July 2010, Cortines allegedly invited Graham to his Sierra Mountains Ranch during a mandatory administrative furlough.
Graham says he “reluctantly accepted” Cortines’ offer to drive him to the ranch and left his car at Cortines’ house. During a walk at the ranch, Cortines “made several inappropriate verbal and physical sexual advances towards Graham, attempting to grab and grope him,” the lawsuit states.
“Cortines attempted to grab Scot’s hand and make contact with Scot’s body, including his torso, groin area and penis,” the complaint says. “Graham turned Cortines down at every such attempt.”
Graham says Cortines then tried to kiss him on the mouth.
“When Graham refused to be kissed, Cortines stated that he would ‘visit’ Scot’s bedroom later that evening,” the lawsuit states.
“Upon entering his separate bedroom to sleep, Scot noticed that his door did not have a
lock on it, and that Cortines could enter at any time. Plaintiff attempted to call his husband, but noticed that his mobile phone was not getting reception and that the only land line was in the communal area of the ranch, which Cortines would guard vigilantly. Scot was unable to sleep and grew fearful for his safety,” the lawsuit says.
“Shortly thereafter, Graham observed the door to his bedroom open. Cortines entered plaintiff’s room and was completely nude, with his penis erect. Graham noticed that Cortines’ penis had a sideways curve while erect. Cortines then entered Scot’s bed, and proceeded to masturbate beside him. Frozen from fear and shock, plaintiff laid idle as Cortines masturbated and appeared to ejaculate on himself and near plaintiff. Cortines then grabbed plaintiff’s penis over his pajamas and stated ‘you’re not getting hard.’ Plaintiff was speechless, and Cortines exited the room.”
Graham says he was “forced to spend another evening trapped at the ranch” because he did not have his car. He claims Cortines entered his room the following night, got into his bed “completely nude and masturbated beside him.”
He says he reported the incidents to his supervisors and to the district’s general counsel, David Holmquist, but no action was taken.
Holmquist, a nonparty, told him to “‘forget’ about the incident with Cortines,” Graham says.
“What is the point of ruining a man’s career … what are you going to accomplish by complaining?” Holmquist allegedly asked.
About a month after reporting the incident, Cortines called Graham at home and made sexually suggestive remarks while “speaking in an amorous tone,” according to the lawsuit.
Graham says he again complained to his supervisor, but nothing was done. As a result, Graham claims he was “lulled into thinking that his complaints were unworthy of mention and that protecting Cortines’ name and reputation was more important than investigating Cortines’ unlawful conduct.”
“It appeared that Cortines had an inner circle of individuals whom he had appointed to positions of authority in order to insulate himself from the consequences of his sexual exploits,” Graham claims.
“Plaintiff, a victim of LAUSD’s culture of sexual abuse, stealth and secrecy, still fears the wrath of a man who, despite his retirement, still yields significant influence within the LAUSD,” the lawsuit says.
Graham seeks unspecified general and punitive damages, and is represented by Arnold Peter of Beverly Hills, Calif.