LA Unified’s General Counsel David Holmquist says he believes every one of the 63 settlements to date in the Miramonte sex abuse scandal was “absolutely the right decision.”
Speaking one-on-one with NBC4’s John Cadiz Klemack, Holmquist, who has been in his post with the district since 2009, said he felt it respected the needs of the students and “the fiscal responsibility we have to not spend any more than we need to.”
The settlements were announced Feb. 14, 2013. Since then, there has been at least one more attempt to settle additional cases to no avail. The first round of trials is expected to begin in April.
Local news from across Southern California
“We can say absolutely that these are proper and appropriate settlements under the circumstances,” Holmquist said.
But NBC4 has learned through a source that some of the settlements may not have been necessary under the California Education Code.
NBC4 has reached out to each member of the LAUSD School Board and their staff for comment but thus far have received no comment. We want to find out if the board members have investigated the allegations the district may have overpaid “inexperienced” lawyers for what is the biggest sex abuse case it has ever faced.
Homquist said the hiring decision was his alone to make.
“I did tell them who was representing us but that’s not a decision they make, that’s delegated to me. If they’re not happy with that decision then they need to take that out on me,” he said.
Holmquist has repeatedly said the two main law firms handling the Miramonte cases – Thomas Delaney of the Sedgwick Law Firm and Sean Andrade of Andrade and Gonzalez (formerly of the Baute Law Firm) – have the capacity and experience to handle the 100-plus cases. But in speaking with NBC4, Holmquist could not give any specific examples of experience in child abuse cases.
“I cannot,” Homquist said, “but I don't think that's relevant to the selection of him.”
Holmquist refers to Andrade as being hired to handle any insurance issues stemming from Miramonte.
The first four of the 60 remaining civil cases against the district go to trial in April. NBC4 Legal Analyst Royal Oakes said if allegations of inexperience in child abuse cases are true, the forthcoming trials could be a tough battle.
“If in fact the district hired lawyers that didn't have the specific qualifications or charged more than they should every single hour,” Oakes said. “That's the basis for taxpayers to be very angry with what the school district did."
NBC4 has filed a public records request for more information from the district as to the hiring of the law firms involved but has yet to receive any additional details. By law the school board has 10 days to respond, that deadline is Feb. 18.