As the Los Angeles Times reported in an article entitled, “Civil Jury Vindicates Fired Montebello School Executives in Whistleblower Case,” a Los Angeles jury faulted the Montebello School Board for whistleblower retaliation for firing two former superintendents who were trying to root out corruption, awarding a Greenberg Gross client, Susanna Contreras Smith, $2.8 million, including punitive damages. The amount of the award is subject to increase to reflect potential back pay and recovery of attorney fees. Ms. Contreras Smith was represented at trial by Greenberg Gross attorneys David Stein and Claire-Lise Kutlay.
In September 2016, a school district official, Cleve Pell, urged the board to put MUSD’s chief business officer, Ruben J. Rojas, on administrative leave after an internal investigation found that he had forged his letters of recommendation and made false statements on his employment application. Later that month, after the school board declined to take action, Ms. Contreras Smith placed Mr. Rojas on leave. Shortly thereafter, the school board reinstated Mr. Rojas and instead placed Ms. Contreras Smith and Mr. Pell on leave, before firing them just a few weeks later.