Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Evidence against Mr. Ben Austin of LA City and Green Dot Public [sic] Schools Part One

"It would force the district to learn how to run great schools by forcing them to COMPETE." -- Ben Austin (Executive Director LAPU/PR)

"There's nothing the matter with teachers that a little less unionization and more COMPETITION couldn't cure." -- Ann Coulter (racist reactionary right wing pundit)

Report Green Dot's Ben Austin on the City Ethics Commission Complaint Form OnlineNovember 9, 2009

Attn: Investigator currently assigned to Mr. Ben Austin Case # 2010-36

Enc: PDF file with scans of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's official blog

I reported Mr. Austin of the City Attorney's office, for what I perceived as possible violations of the City's Code of Ethics, around mid-July of this year. While I finally received a response from the Ethics Commission in August, I have never once been contacted regarding evidence, nor asked why I reported Mr. Austin to begin with. While I find this highly irregular, I understand your department is probably understaffed and overwhelmed.

In light of this, I will begin sending evidence against Mr. Austin on a frequent basis, as my schedule permits. Some of this information I will republish publicly. Some information is sensitive in nature, so I will only send it to the Commission and select persons on the CC list. Given the breadth of my readership in the various publications I'm published in, the ones made public will find a large audience.

The first thing I want to submit is the enclosed attachment. It is a print out of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's official blog from September 1, 2009. The post in question dates from August 12, which was the third page of the print out. I also have paper copies available for viewing.

Ben Austin being given carte blanche to post on the Mayor's blog is problematic on several levels. First off, the biography for Mr. Austin under the post makes no mention of Mr. Austin being a city employee. Many taxpayers would be furious to learn they subsidize Mr. Austin's efforts to privatize education, when he is really supposed to be working at his city job. However, it's more telling that Mr. Austin choose not to reveal his city employment since many would want to know if he used his connections to the Mayor as a member of the City Attorney's Office to press his political agenda on the Mayor's high profile blog. It's not as if Mayor Villaraigosa invited school privatization opponents to post their thoughts on his official blog, I know that neither I, nor any public school advocates were asked to contribute.

Another problem with Mr. Austin being able to shamelessly promote the organization he moonlights for on a public venue like the Mayor's official blog, is that Mr. Austin stands to gain financially from the outcome. His bonuses and continued employment with Green Dot (LAPU/PR) is entirely contingent on his ability to press through the political agenda of the CMOs and the wealthy benefactors that subsidize the CMO/charter/voucher establishment. Mr. Austin's role in the passage of the corporate charter school choice resolution was critical. The fact that he was able to use his status as a city employee to garner favors from the Mayor's office, obtain inside information from LAUSD, and manipulate public institutions is unconscionable.

While the damage to our communities as a direct result of Mr. Austin's actions will be difficult to mitigate, at least the citizens of Los Angeles deserve an explanation as to how such a seeming conflict of interest can continue unabated.

Please look forward to more such evidence being submitted in the near future.

Advocating Public Education

Robert D. Skeels


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