A veteran Los Angeles Unified secretary who filed harassment allegations against school board President Richard Vladovic has identified herself publicly in an exclusive interview with the Daily News, saying she's speaking out in an effort to end bullying by the district's powerful officials.
Lily Nunez is the previously unidentified staffer whose six-page complaint detailed eight incidents in which she said Vladovic made sexually inappropriate remarks, told offensive jokes and used a sexual slur to describe a gay co-worker. Redacted copies of her complaint, along with one filed by a still-unidentified LAUSD employee, were released last week under a California Public Records Act request.
"I want to be the face for all those employees who have suffered because of him," Nunez said Tuesday in a phone interview. "I can't let him do it to me again and do it to other people."
Vladovic previously denied harassing Nunez or the other employee, but did say that he's been seeking professional help to deal with a bad temper. Following a four-hour, closed-door board meeting last week, he issued a public apology for violating the panel's "civility code," saying he "occasionally used his outdoor voice indoors."
But Nunez said that Vladovic's apology doesn't address her complaint, which details alleged incidents that occurred from July 2000 through January 2003. At the time, he was a local superintendent in the South Bay and she was his secretary.
"I believe his apology was necessary because it was what the rest of the board needed to hear," she said. "But none of my complaints say anything about him using his 'outdoor voice.' That's not what I complained about."
Nunez also said investigators hired by the district to look into her complaints found that her allegations "had merit," although the incidents happened too long ago for her to pursue them. Employees have one year to file a claim about alleged abuse.
Vladovic spokesman Mike Trujillo has previously said the investigative report -- a confidential document made available only to school board members -- determined that both of the complaints against the board president were "unactionable," but he could not elaborate.
Trujillo has also said the allegations against the board member were politically motivated -- surfacing just days before he was elected board president -- and he reiterated that assertion on Tuesday.
"Our office believes this is an unfortunate situation where political players are using this person as a political pawn for their political agenda," he said.
Nunez currently works as the executive assistant to Superintendent John Deasy, a reform advocate who has a rocky relationship with Vladovic. Deasy reportedly had threatened to quit if Vladovic was elected board president.
Since then, the board has increasingly questioned decisions made by Deasy and his staff. Deputy Superintendent Jaime Aquino is resigning at the end of the year, saying the board's meddling was preventing him from doing his job.
Aquino has also said that he has been on the receiving end of two tirades by Vladovic, but never filed a formal complaint.
Asked whether Deasy had encouraged her claims or influenced her decision to speak out, Nunez said emphatically, "No."
Nunez's accusations surfaced in May, while the district was investigating the handling of sexual abuse complaints made in 2002 against a teacher at a school that Vladovic oversaw as local district superintendent. Nunez was asked about her day-to-day dealings with her former boss, which she said dredged up recollections of demeaning and offensive incidents.
"I felt the same harassment that I felt in 2000, when I first brought it to the attention of higher-level staff. I felt like, it's happening to me again."
Nunez said she was referring to a conversation she had with an LAUSD staff relations representative about several "demeaning" incidents involving Vladovic, including one in which he showed her a magazine for sexual "swingers."
"I hoped they would have some guidance for me," Nunez said. "I was told, 'He is the boss, and there's not much we can do. You can just hope that it goes away'."
According to a policy bulletin from 2001, the district's sexual harassment policy covered unwanted verbal and visual conduct, including displays of sexually suggestive written material.
Nunez said she started her Los Angeles Unified career as a clerk at a school site and worked her way up, receiving a promotion when she went to work as Vladovic's secretary at what was then the District K office.
She took the job even though another Vladovic staffer advised against it, and despite hearing the administrator referred to as "Dr. Death." And she was unable to transfer to another office because there were no other jobs at that level, so she felt she had no other alternative but to try to get along with Vladovic, she said.
Nunez said she was disheartened when Vladovic was chosen by a 5-2 vote to be president of the board -- a role that allows him to set the agenda, run the meetings and serve as a spokesman for the board.
And she was disappointed again, she said, after the board met last week for about four hours to discuss the complaints against Vladovic, but emerged without taking any action. There had been speculation that the board could have stripped him of his presidency or issued a public reprimand.
However, board member Tamar Galatzan, who represents the West San Fernando Valley, said Tuesday she plans to seek a public censure of Vladovic during their November meeting.
"I am both saddened and offended by the allegations against the board president, Dr. Richard Vladovic," Galatzan said in a statement. "No employee should be subject to sexual harassment, bullying or intimidation in the workplace.
"As board members, we must stand together to set the tone and standard for the district with our own behavior."
Nunez said she's a product of Los Angeles Unified schools and has worked for the district for half of her 42 years. She considers herself loyal to the district, with skills and a work ethic that have paid off as she's risen through the ranks.
"I am not a snitch or a whistle-blower. I am a victim of workplace harassment and a victim of the dysfunction of LAUSD, a school district where self-empowered political bullies continue to use students, parents, and staff as pawns for their personal and political gain," she wrote in a statement that accompanied her interview. ___
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