Soulvine Column in the LA Wave By BETTY PLEASANT, Contributing Editor
Feb 18, 2010 -- Why isn’t LAUSD school Superintendent Ramon Cortines under arrest? Why is Cortines’ prolonged, blatant and lucrative conflict of interest activity being ignored? Where is the district attorney when you need one? My friend Howard Blume reported in last Friday’s Times that Cortines, head of the second largest school district in the U.S., was paid $150,000 last year for serving on the board of Scholastic Inc., the country’s leading educational publishing company which sells its books to LAUSD. It seems Cortines has been on Scholastic’s board for several years and Scholastic has sold LAUSD $16 million worth of educational reading material over the past five years.
Why is nobody except my next door neighbor and I outraged by this textbook example of a conflict of interest? Cortines is paid $250,000 a year to head the school district and he’s paid $150,000 a year by the company that sells the school district its books! Cortines works for two masters and that is in direct violation of sections 1090 and 87100 of the Government Code. Any other public official would be under the jail for this kind of operation. So why not Cortines?
The superintendent maintains that he recuses himself from any school district business relating to Scholastic. That’s unacceptable. He cannot recuse himself from being the superintendent of schools, as he is responsible for everything that goes on in it, including the acquisition of textbooks and toilet paper. He also he says he works for Scholastic after his school district working hours, on the weekends and on his vacation time. What planet is he on?! He’s the head of the school district all the time, 24/7. We’re not paying him by the hour, and being LAUSD superintendent is not “day work.” Both of his excuses for his conflict of interest are ridiculous.
What bothers me is that the school board members and district officials don’t see anything wrong with what Cortines is doing either. They must all be crooks! But I’ll tell you one thing, if Cortines’ predecessor, David Brewer, had done such a thing, his Black butt would have been out of there faster than it ultimately was. Yes, I’m playing the race card because it’s a high trump in this game. District Attorney Steve Cooley went to some extraordinary lengths to remove Roosevelt Dorn from his mayor’s job in Inglewood on a conflict of interest charge for having committed an act the state Supreme Court ruled was not a conflict of interest at all. Cooley et al. have made their bones ruining Black public (and private) citizens on trumped-up charges and here he is letting Cortines walk around unindicted and trying to raise my property tax. Why? I suspect it’s because Cortines is a high-profile Latino and Cooley wants to be California’s next attorney general and he believes that if he bags the highly respected Cortines, he’ll lose Latino votes. Cooley figures he’ll gain votes by doing Dorn, but will lose votes if he did Cortines. I told you Cooley is a bad piece of work, and evidently, so is Cortines.