Attorneys for a Los Angeles Unified facilities executive filed a motion Wednesday to keep alive his lawsuit claiming the district defamed him and invaded his privacy while trying to settle sexual-harassment allegations involving retired Superintendent Ramon Cortines.
The documents filed on behalf of Scot Graham, director of leasing and asset management, ask a judge to deny the school district's request to dismiss his suit. The district filed a so-called anti-SLAPP motion that falls under a California law designed to prevent people from using lawsuits to stifle coverage of public issues.
In its motion, the district said it was acting in the public's interest when it disclosed Graham as the recipient of a school board-approved $250,000 payout to settle sexual harassment allegations against Cortines. Graham argues the anti-SLAPP action is frivolous, and that he was harmed by the district's premature announcement of a tentative settlement.
He also said he's been the target of anonymous phone and text threats, which he believes are directly related to the district's release of his identity to the public.
A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Oct. 23.
Graham's attorneys did not respond to a request for comment. Los Angeles Unified spokesman Sean Rossall said district officials are confident the judge will consider the arguments detailed in their motion for dismissal.
This is the second lawsuit Graham has filed related to alleged sexual harassment by Cortines, who headed the district briefly in 2000 and again from 2008-2011.
In February, a judge dismissed Graham's suit against Cortines because he hadn't filed a claim, which is the initial step in the legal process.
The current suit, filed in April, claims that district officials invaded his privacy and defamed him during a May 2012 news conference to announce the Cortines deal. During that event, officials also released a statement in which Cortines said he and Graham had engaged in consensual sex.
Graham was caught by surprise by the public announcement, including the disclosure that he is gay, and the settlement -- which wasn't finalized -- unraveled. Graham had intended to resign as part of the deal but now remains employed by the district.
In court documents and interviews, Graham has denied having a sexual relationship with Cortines, whom he first met in San Francisco in the 1980s.
According to his lawsuit, Cortines got Graham a job at Los Angeles Unified in 2000, then sought sexual favors in return. Graham said he rebuffed Cortines, and the superintendent left the district a short time later.
Then in July 2010, when Cortines was back as superintendent, Graham accompanied him on a weekend trip to the school chief's vacation cabin in Tulare County. According to the suit, Cortines made sexual advances that Graham again rejected.
The suit claimed that Graham reported Cortines' alleged harassment to his supervisors at least three times but that they failed to protect him.
However, officials have said they followed the district's sexual-harassment policy when Graham complained to his bosses about Cortines' behavior. They also said that Graham had insisted that he didn't want any action taken against Cortines, who was planning to retire in April 2011. ___