A high-ranking fired school official has filed suit against the district, the president and the schoolâ€™s legal counsel claiming wrongful termination, defamation, and sexual harassment.
Alfred Hutchings, former facilities supervisor, was fired in June after it was announced that he and former Senior Vice President Richard van Pelt, were being investigated by the Los Angeles District Attorneyâ€™s office for solicitation of bribes.
The lawsuit, filed on Feb. 6 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, is seeking damages in excess of $1 million.
In documents filed with the court, Hutchings alleges that President Mark Rocha and General Counsel Gail Cooper used the bribery scandal as pretext to fire him in retaliation for his harassment complaint.
In a statement provided to the Courier, the District said the lawsuit had been filed â€œby a former employee who was discharged upon substantial evidence of serious misconduct. Hutchings’ claims are entirely unfounded and they will be vigorously defended. Â The District will make no further comment on this matter,â€ the statement said.
In the lawsuit, Hutchings claims the reasons for his dismissal â€œwere designed to cover-up and conceal [their] retaliatory motives against [Hutchings].â€
The â€˜retaliatory motives,â€™ mentioned refer to the allegation that Cooper made numerous, unsolicited sexual advances towards Hutchings.
The range of Cooperâ€™s alleged sexual harassment includes inappropriate sexual solicitation, groping, emails, and phone calls.
â€œCooper telephoned [Hutchings] at home and harassed [him] and [his wife],â€ the suit claims.
The document also alleges that Hutchings felt threatened if he didnâ€™t respond to Cooperâ€™s sexual advances favorably. The complaint mentions Benedict Lastimado, the former vice president of human resources, who suddenly left the school last year citing â€˜family matters.â€™
â€œCooper had said to [Hutchings] that [he] â€˜had better not get on her bad side like Ben did,â€™ â€ the suit alleges. â€œCooper told [Hutchings] that she was responsible for having Dr. Lastimato [sic] terminated.â€
In the suit, Hutchings also claims that van Pelt informed him that he â€œâ€™would most likely be terminated,â€™ and that he (van Pelt) would likely be retaliated against by Cooper for reporting Cooperâ€™s sexual harassment.â€
In addition, Hutchings alleges that the school never took the necessary steps to investigate the matter fully before firing him and van Pelt.
After both men were fired in June, lawsuits aplenty have since been filed.
LED Global, a lighting firm that lost a $5 million contract, immediately launched a lawsuit against van Pelt and Hutchings, and the school itself. They claim they lost the contract after not submitting to the bribery solicitations. They also claim to be the whistleblowers that prompted the DAâ€™s investigation into Hutchings and van Pelt.
The investigation is still ongoing with no timetable for completion.