Local Attorneys Donate $30,000 of Fee Award from Pasadena Unified Lawsuit
Local civil rights attorneys who forced the Pasadena Unified School District to release public records concerning Madison Elementary School Principal Juan Ruelas donated $30,000 of the $65,000 they received in attorneys fees from the school district settlement to nearly a dozen progressive organizations and causes.
Attorneys Skip Hickambottom and Dale Gronemeier of Gronemeier & Associates handed out the checks at a press conference at their Eagle Rock office on Thursday.
In the lawsuit, Hickambottom and Gronemeier represented the Citizens Council for Equality and Justice at Madison, known as CCEJAM, which was leading a campaign by some Madison teachers, parents, and community members to oust Ruelas from his position at the school.
The attorneys filed the lawsuit in 2016 after Pasadena Unified produced heavily redacted and incomplete public records related to allegations that there was widespread cheating at Roosevelt Elementary School while Ruelas was its Principal, and public records that related to disputes over Ruelas’ conduct as Principal at Madison.
In January, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled that Pasadena Unified and its Superintendent Bryan McDonald had to produce unredacted and complete copies of those documents.
Hickambottom and Gronemeier were entitled to attorneys fees for winning the lawsuit, and Pasadena Unified paid them the negotiated sum of $65,000 in April.
The pair said their largest contribution was a $20,000 commitment “to support education at Madison Elementary School when PUSD follows through with its previous announcement that controversial Principal Juan Ruelas will not return to Madison next year.”
Hickambottom said that the $20,000 contribution to support education at Madison Elementary is intended to promote reconciliation and healing at Madison when it gets a new principal next year. The funds are being held by Los Angeles nonprofit National Day Labor Organizing Network. Disbursements depend, he said, upon both Ruelas being replaced (as has been announced by Pasadena Unified) and the approval of Madison teacher Patricia Guzman, another of his firm’s client.
“CEEJAM is in a position, and we are in a position, of aiming for reconciliation and rebuilding the school,” said Gronemeier.
Hickambottom and Gronemeier also handed out nine $1,000 checks to the following Pasadena area progressive organizations: the Pasadena Branch of the NAACP, the United Teachers of Pasadena, POP! (Pasadenans Organizing for Progress), NDLON (the National Day Labor Organizing Network), the League of Women Voters, ACT, the Flintridge Center, the Pasadena Tenants Union, and Pasadena CLUE (Clergy and Laity United for Equality). They donated an additional $1,000 to NDLON to be used to support the Carlos Ortiz defense fund; Ortiz is a Pasadena resident who was detained in a recent raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Pasadena.