LAUSD Alleged to Have Destroyed Key Evidence in Child Abuse Cases - NBC Southern California

Complete coverage of the sexual abuse scandal at a South Los Angeles elementary school

LAUSD Alleged to Have Destroyed Key Evidence in Child Abuse Cases



    The one-time chief risk officer for LAUSD spoke exclusively to NBC4 about apparent efforts by the school district to hide witness accounts of the Miramonte sex scandal. John Cádiz Klemack reports from downtown LA for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 24, 2014. (Published Thursday, April 24, 2014)

    Gregg Breed, once the chief risk officer for LA Unified until his contract was not renewed, says he was questioned under oath about what he knew regarding the Miramonte child abuse cases.

    And one item surprised even him, brought to his attention by one of the attorneys representing Miramonte victims.

    "There were documents removed from that office when it was closed down and they went down to the General Counsel's office and he went further on to state those documents were then shredded," Breed said in an exclusive interview with NBC4.

    Breed says one of his duties was to ensure the district remained insured for liability claims.

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    The accusations stem from the investigation involving former Miramonte Elementary School teacher Mark Berndt, charged with 23 counts of lewd acts on 23 children age 7 to 10. He pleaded no-contest to the charges in November 2013.

    Inappropriate or indecent behavior, Breed says, is a risk the office of risk management should know about.

    A document NBC4 found on the district's website points to an office of child abuse prevention, an office the plaintiff's attorneys say existed from 1988 to 2002.

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    Sometime after that, sworn testimony claims the records disappeared.

    "The public has a right to know exactly what happened," said Vince Finaldi, an attorney for Miramonte victims.

    Finaldi is one of eight attorneys representing dozens of child victims in the Miramonte case.

    He says the district has requested to seal some 40 of 50 sworn depositions so far, including Breed's.

    "We've taken issue with that fact that they've been designating all these transcripts as confidential and we've brought the issue to the attention of the court," Finaldi said.

    In a prepared statement, Sean Rossall of Cerrell Associates, which was hired by the attorneys representing LAUSD to handle all Miramonte media requests, said the district is attempting to protect students.

    “We find the recent release of this testimony very troubling because the Court is currently working on a process to provide all parties the information they need while protecting the privacy and confidentiality of potential victims and witnesses," Rossall said. "While we can’t comment on specifics, and will not litigate these issues in the media—without regard for the well-being of those it might hurt—we have full trust and faith in a jury’s ability to distinguish fact from fiction. As we litigate, we will continue to fight to protect students and potential victims from further unwarranted intrusions and publicity. It is simply unfair to them, damaging to the legal process, and a disservice to the community.”

    As for what benefit the district may have for allegedly destroying documents, Breed says it could've been for a cheaper insurance policy.

    "You could be lying to the insurance carriers," Breed said.