Parents battle district over toxic PCBs in Malibu public schools
For details, go to:
See America Unites For Kids News Alert
Demanding Investigation into Mismanagement of Funds and Laurie Lieberman’s Connection to Pillsbury Law Firm:
Pillsbury Law Firm’s Legal Bills Reach $3.38 Million after another $500K was approved at the March 3rd, 2016 Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District Board of Education Meeting.
United States District Court Judge Percy Anderson Declares Pillsbury Law Firm’s Request For Attorneys Fees To Be Excessive And Not Adequately Supported by The Record
See Court’s Order here:
Local parents and taxpayers are outraged that the school district has now spent more than $8 million to avoid removing hazardous waste, known as PCBs, from its schools; this includes a whopping $3.38 million spent on the law firm Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw and Pittman in only 2 years. The estimated cost of removing the PCBs is far less than those legal bills alone. Parents and taxpayers have raised questions about why a school district would spend 10 times more to force kids in classrooms with known toxic hazardous waste.
New information expands this questioning into the law firm’s selection, spending and strategy, the propriety of the School Board President Laurie Lieberman’s involvement in PCB-related votes, and the firm’s connections to Monsanto, the leading manufacturer of PCBs.
PCBs and Monsanto are in the news right now due to an ongoing a Los Angeles Superior Court trial where plaintiffs allege cancer as a result of PCB exposure. In addition, there is legislation pending, H.R.2576, to amend the Federal Toxic Substances Control Act in a manner that The New York Times reports may give Monsanto a ‘get out of jail free card’ relating to its PCB liability. Harvard researchers estimate that up to 20 million children nationally may be exposed to PCBs in their schools, making the Malibu case of broad importance.
See America Unites for Kids News Alert concerning Congress seeking to shift PCB remediation costs to school districts, and to abolish Monsanto’s liability for more than 80,000 miles of PCB-contaminated streams and rivers:
Pillsbury is leading the fight on behalf of SMMUSD against parents and teachers who filed a citizen’s suit eleven months ago that does not seek any monetary damages, only an order from a Federal judge to remove illegal and hazardous PCBs from Malibu public schools. Removal is estimated to cost $750,000 to $1.5 million, and parents are shocked that Pillsbury’s legal fees alone far exceed this amount.
When consultant costs are factored in, the Pillsbury-led strategy to prevent identification and removal of PCBs has cost taxpayers more than $10 million, an amount that will continue to rise if the board keeps approving Superintendent Lyon’s spending requests — last week, the board approved an additional $500,000 for PIllsbury.
While public school districts routinely engage in sophisticated and competitive bidding processes for things like books and landscaping services, Pillsbury was hired to perform millions of dollars of legal work based on the recommendation of School Board President Laurie Lieberman through her husband’s law partner, Tom Larmore. Before becoming a law partner with Lieberman’s husband, Larmore was a partner at Pillsbury.
In response to a public records request, Gail Pinsker, SMMUSD’s public relations officer wrote, “In the case of Pillsbury, I am able to confirm that Tom Larmore, who is very involved on the district’s Financial Oversight Committee on which he has served for years, originally referred us to the Pillsbury firm, where he had been previously employed.”
Larmore currently sits on the district’s financial oversight committee and is representing Santa Monica on the committee to create a separate Malibu school district. In 2014, when Ben Allen was elected to the CA State Senate and his board seat was vacated, Larmore asked to be appointed to the board. The only vote Larmore received from the remaining six board members was from Laurie Lieberman.
The connections between Pillsbury, Larmore and Lieberman were not disclosed to the public in advance of the firm’s hiring. Also not disclosed to the public was the fact that Pillsbury represented a Monsanto spin-off (Solutia) in a bankruptcy case from 2003-2008. Monsanto was the only U.S. manufacturer of PCBs, and Solutia was formed through a divesture of its chemical business . Over the past two years, numerous legal teams approached SMMUSD suggesting, at no charge to the district, to file a case against Monsanto and Solutia to pay for PCB removal, as many other school districts have done. Pillsbury recommended against it.
PCBs are dangerous to Children and Teachers: International PCB expert David O. Carpenter, M.D., spoke to the Malibu community for several hours last week at Pepperdine University about the dangers of PCBs.
“What we need to do is get the PCBs out,” Carpenter said. “When I get asked what level of PCBs are safe, I say, ‘zero molecules.’ Any molecule is harmful. The more you have, the more harm.”
Declaration of renowned PCB Expert Dr. David Carpenter confirming that PCBs at Malibu High School greatly exceed legal limits under the TSCA, and inhalation of PCB vapors constitutes a continuous hazard to teachers and students:
See pdf copy of Dr. David Carpenter’s Declaration:
Expert to Community: ‘There Are No Safe Levels of PCB’
See peer-reviewed article by Dr. David Carpenter concerning the dangers of inhaling PCB vapors:
SMMUSD sent statements to the press trying to discredit Dr. Carpenter as being a biased expert witness for the plaintiffs, despite his extensive resume and recognition by other world experts. In fact, Pillsbury trusted the expertise of Dr. Carpenter when they retained him as an expert witness for them in 2006 when they represented shareholders of a Monsanto spin off called SOLUTIA in a PCB liability case.
Malibu High School Teachers’ Plea to the SMMUSD’s Board of Education for PCB-free Classrooms
See video of several Malibu High School Teachers’ Plea to the SMMUSD’s Board of Education:
See YouTube Video here:
The attached Declarations from Malibu High School teachers Katy Lapajne and Lisa Lambert includes evidence from 33 other Malibu High School teachers that the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) is not complying with their Best Management Practices (BMPs) and is in violation of the EPA Region 9’s guidelines.
See pdf copies of the Declarations from two Malibu High School Teachers:
THIRTY THREE MALIBU HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS HAVE DECLARED THAT THE SANTA MONICA MALIBU UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT IS NOT COMPLYING WITH THEIR OWN BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES AND THEREFORE THEY ARE IN VIOLATION OF THE EPA REGION 9 PCB GUIDELINES.
For details, go to:
EPA Guidelines that are already ill advised according to renowned PCB expert Dr. David Carpenter.
The attached declaration from Malibu High School Parent Matt DeNicola declares that former SMMUSD Board of Education member Ben Allen, now California State Senator Ben Allen admitted in September 2014 that the SMMUSD Board of Education chose not to test for PCBs, because they knew that they would find illegal levels of toxic PCBs and be forced to remove them under the TSCA. (See Matt DeNicola Declaration, pg. 1, paragraph 2)
See Declaration from Malibu High School Teacher Carla Bowman Smith declaring that Malibu High School’s condition is horrific, and is infested with rats, feces and urine:
The SMMUSD appears to be more interested in attempting to limit their exposure to liability from a toxic tort complaint, rather than to just simply comply with the TSCA, and protect its students and teachers from this continuing harm.
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District has thereby put the health of their students and teachers at risk.
IT’S TIME TO FIRE THE SANTA MONICA MALIBU UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT’S SUPERINTENDENT SANDRA LYON
See pdf copy:
See link to Change.org Petition:
Email the Santa Monica Unified School District’s Board of Education:
|Oscar de la Torre
|Dr. Jose Escarce