Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Robert Sammis Grasps at Straws

On almost a daily basis, Robert Sammis, acting on behalf of Santa Monica College, is finding more and more excuses to delay my suspension appeal hearing while conversely depriving me of my rights to an education at its public community college. This is precisely the same tactic Sammis took when I sought vital public records belonging to the District under the California Public Records Act. Inevitably, Sammis' stonewalling led to litigation against the District and its employees. Sammis' bad faith negotiations with the Santa Monica College Faculty Association also led to litigation. In fact, one of the lawsuits against the District alleged that the college violated "state education codes and SMC's Administrative Regulations" and that the "community college administration also violated legal procedure." Well, that sounds all too familiar. According to the Santa Monica Mirror in its February 2000 article, "On January 14, the State of California’s Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) had found the college guilty of bargaining in bad faith, failure to provide information and threats of retaliation from President Piedad F. Robertson." History sure does repeat itself, even if SMC has had a changing of the guard from President Robertson to President Donner to President Tsang.

If the District continues in this same vein, I foresee yet more litigation in federal court to defend my Constitutional rights. Of course the longer SMC keeps me off its campus, the longer it delays compliance with physical inspection of its records as set forth under the CPRA. Since the District has failed to disclose many records long overdue, since last year, it is setting itself up for more litigation under the CPRA as well. But of course all these lawsuits benefit Robert Sammis' former law firm, Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, while depriving the taxpayers its educational dollars spent on far better purposes.

Moreover, the suspension is clearly retaliatory for my seeking compliance with the CPRA. Two of the summary charges against me go to the heart of my meeting with District employees to inspect public records. Even Sammis admitted in a meeting with me back in April that if I dismissed my public records act lawsuit, as part of his settlement negotiation, then the District had no interest in moving forward with the suspension. Despite dismissing the CPRA lawsuit, without prejudice, the District continues to keep me suspended without a hearing or any formal concrete and substantial charges or justification.

It is increasingly apparent that the only way anyone's rights are enforced at Santa Monica College or laws adhered to is through costly litigation. Perhaps it is time that the Board of Trustees and the President come to their senses and release Robert Sammis from his employment from the college. If one takes a simple glance at the District's vast array of outside attorneys at its disposal, it has more than enough legal options afforded to it. Even if it costs the District $250 an hour for sound legal advice that prevents it from entering into expensive lawsuits, it is well worth the extra costs in the long run. As SMCFA President Lantz Simpson so eloquently stated: "We believe it is time to stop playing games and stop trying to justify the unjustifiable. Let's start negotiating seriously and reach a settlement."

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2006: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

-------------------- YET ANOTHER EMAIL TO ROBERT SAMMIS ------------


July 26, 2006


Dear Mr. Sammis,

This is a response to your last email to me, contained herein. Again, you misrepresent my emails to you and have failed and refuse to comply with the law and the District's own internal policies. Since there seems to be a perpetual misunderstanding on your part, I will be crystal clear in this email to you, which I am copying to President Tsang, Robert Adams, and the SMC Board of Trustees. Accordingly, the District is receiving both written notice and clarification.

Santa Monica College, through Robert Adams, sent me a suspension notice, via email, on or about May 23, 2006. The District authorized in writing that I had until June 6, 2006 to file an appeal, which I did. I also filed a timely notice to appeal the suspension on May 25, 2006.

Thereafter, on or about June 9, 2006, you wrote a letter to me, in which you stated in relevant part:

Administrative Regulation 4410 (a copy of which is enclosed) provides under F(2)(c) on page 71, "The committee shall convene for an appeal hearing not sooner than six (6) school days and preferably not more than ten (10) school days after receiving notice of intent to appeal." Please contact me as soon as possible so we may discuss a mutually agreeable date and time to schedule your appeal hearing. [emphasis added]

I received your letter on or about June 12, 2006. Immediately thereafter, I contacted you via email on or about June 13, 2006 and suggested tentative dates for the first week in July, not mid-July as you erroneously and repeatedly contend. To be very specific, the District had the following mutually acceptable dates to conduct my appeal hearing: Monday, July 3, 2006; Wednesday, July 5, 2006; Thursday, July 6, 2006, and Friday, July 7, 2006. I even sent you an email reminder on June 16, 2006. Not only did you ignore my request and fail to select one of these dates, you did not bother to set any date in July thus far. Since The Fourth of July is a holiday, the District had four alternative dates to select from to start my appeal hearing.

Accordingly, the District had three entire weeks to prepare its case and gather its witnesses, appeal hearing committee members, and other representatives. Since some of the charges in SMC's suspension letter date as far back as April 2005, the District has had more than enough time to prepare. Since half the charges date as far back as August 2005, the District has almost an entire year to prepare, while conversely not providing documentation to me until after I filed my June 6, 2006 appeal, thus denying me access to this information for almost a year.

You finally emailed me on or about July 17, 2006. I immediately responded. On or about July 18, 2006, you wrote me an email in which you stated:

If you wish to have input into the date of your hearing, then please have your attorney contact me directly. If I do not here from your attorney or from you if you do not have an attorney by the end of the week, the District will proceed to set the hearing date. Please note that during the summer months most faculty and staff are on vacation and thus we typically do not hold any hearings during the summer months. However, if you and your attorney desire to have a hearing prior to the beginning of the fall semester we will do our best to accommodate such a request. All you need to do is simply let me know when you want the hearing to begin. [emphasis added]

I not only emailed SMC President Chui L. Tsang on or about July 20, 2006, I sent him a certified letter via U.S. mail and made my email and certified letter public on my SAVE SMC blog. I even shortly thereafter provided you a hyperlink to the certified letter, which you referenced back in your email to me. In my email and letter to President Tsang, I stated in relevant part:

Alternatively, if you do not set aside the suspension, then I request an immediate suspension appeal hearing by no later than Monday, July 31, 2006. [emphasis in original]

On or about July 22, 2006, you emailed the following to me in relevant part:

The District has no reason to dismiss your suspension. As I stated in my last two emails, the District is waiting for you or your attorney to let us know what dates for a hearing work for you. If I do not get any dates from you or your attorney by August 1, 2006, the District will proceed to unilaterally set the date for the hearing. [emphasis added]

Since I gave President Tsang notice prior to your July 22, 2006 email, and I subsequently gave you notice on or about July 22, 2006, and multiple times thereafter, the District cannot now assert that I did not comply with its request to respond within its imposed mandates. As you made very clear in your two emails, either I or an attorney could let you know when I wanted the hearing to begin. I indicated in writing that I wanted it to begin "by no later than Monday, July 31, 2006."

To make myself crystal clear, the District had the following dates available for an appeal hearing: Friday, July 21, 2006; Monday, July 24, 2006, Tuesday, July 25, 2006, Wednesday, July 26, 2006, Thursday, July 27, 2006, Friday, July 28, 2006, and Monday, July 31, 2006. Thus, I provided the District with sufficient written notice and seven (7) additional dates for its convenience. Add to this the original four (4) alternative dates, and the District has had at its disposal eleven (11) dates (all school days) to chose from to begin my suspension appeal hearing.

By your June 9, 2006 email to me, the appeal hearing was not to begin until 6 school days after I filed my appeal. Since I filed my appeal on June 6, 2006, this meant that the District could have commenced my appeal hearing on or about June 14, 2006. I emailed you in your official capacity as a representative of the District on June 13, 2006, before the earliest date that any conceivable appeal hearing could begin. Counting from June 14, 2006 to today's date, July 26, 2006, the District has had thirty (30) entire school days at its disposal for an appeal hearing.

The District still has the following three (3) dates at its disposal to begin its suspension appeal hearing: Thursday, July 27, 2006, Friday, July 28, 2006, and Monday, July 31, 2006. As previously indicated in writing, I will NOT grant the District any more extensions of time for the appeal hearing beyond July 31, 2006. Either the District begins the appeal hearing within this time frame, or accordingly, it dismisses the suspension and immediate interim suspension forthwith and removes the wrongful disciplinary hold on my student records and enrollment.

Again, I quote from my July 20, 2006 email and certified letter to President Chui L. Tsang as follows:

California Education Code 66017 states in regards to interim suspensions (as SMC has placed on me) that the suspended person shall be afforded an appeal hearing within 10 days. SMC's Administrative Regulation 4410 governing suspensions states in 2(E)(4): "A reasonable opportunity shall be afforded the suspended student for an appeals committee hearing within ten (10) school days." [emphasis added]

Under Hearing and Appeal Process, 2(F), Time Frame (2)(c), SMC's Administrative Regulation states the following: "The committee shall convene for an appeal hearing not sooner than six (6) school days and preferably not more than ten (10) school days after receiving the notice of intent to appeal. The student shall be given written notice of the time and place of the hearing. [emphasis added]

Nowhere in either the California Education Code or the District's own Administrative Regulations does it state that this time is extended or waived over the summer months, or under any other circumstance whatsoever. As I have previously indicated to the District in writing, the intent of the California Education Code, which the District relies upon in its administrative regulations, is mandatory, not discretionary.

In your most recent email, dated July 25, 2006, you wrote the following to me: "Your hearing will be scheduled for the first part of September." [emphasis added] I specifically do not agree with the District's unilateral postponement of my appeal hearing until the first part of September. Furthermore, as previously indicated herein, I do not agree to any hearing date after July 31, 2006.

As I have made very clear to the District, I have been wrongfully suspended without any hearing or formal conference since on or about May 23, 2006. I have not been allowed to enter campus or to enroll in classes. In fact, I have not been afforded any clear explanation of the unconstitutionally overbroad and ambiguous summary charges against me or any explanation of how I have allegedly violated the various Student Conduct Codes referenced in the District's May 23, 2006 suspension email and letter.

I have not been provided any substantial explanation on precisely why an immediate interim suspension was placed against me. Furthermore, I have not been provided any substantial explanation on precisely why I have been suspended from Santa Monica College for two entire years. I have not been provided the documents I requested and which the District referenced nor have I been provided physical inspection of my disciplinary file for almost one entire year, despite numerous written requests.

To extend my hearing into September is to unconstitutionally deprive me of an education for the fall 2006 semester at Santa Monica College. I do not agree to the District's unilateral deprivation of my Constitutional rights. I do not agree to the District's violation of my due process rights. I do not agree to the District's deprivation of my First Amendment rights.

You further wrote to me the following: "Those who might serve on the committee are not all available until the beginning of the fall semester." If you are aware of precisely who is to appear on the appeal committee, then why have you not provided these individuals names and titles, as I have requested in my June 6, 2006 appeal and in my numerous emails to you? The District's administrative regulations only specific an impartial appeal hearing committee. Accordingly, the District has had more than ample time to put such a hearing committee together.

You further wrote in relevant part:

As I have indicatedt [sic] to you, most faculty and staff are not around during the summer, thus, the District normally does not conduct suspension hearings during the summer. Dean Penchansky is on vacation until the end of August and I am on vacation the last week of August.

I have previously discussed your statement that "most faculty and staff are not around during the summer" in my previous email to you. To reiterate, Professor Jim Keeshen and Pat Green are available during the summer, so this is not a problem. As Ms. Green indicated last year, she does not take her vacation until September, well after the fall semester has started. Thus, this is no excuse to delay the suspension appeal hearing. If you chose to make any of your witnesses unavailable, it is not my obligation or duty to extend the time limits for the hearing to accommodate you. Furthermore, there is no provision in either the California Education Code or the District's own internal administrative regulations to extend the time because witnesses or parties are unavailable.

In this same vein, it is not a valid excuse that Ms. Penchansky is unwilling or unable to attend any appeal hearing until the end of August 2006. When I asked her in writing back in May for a short extension of time to meet with her (after her failure to meet with me since last August 2005), she failed to afford me such a courtesy. In fact, she moved right ahead with her suspension. I am under no duty to now extend such a courtesy to either the District or to her. I have been more than gracious in extending time limits in the past. The result of my generosity has been endless delays upon delays by the District for one reason or another. The District's deprivation of my education by failing to afford me an appeal hearing within a reasonable time far outweighs any of the District's employees inconvenience or interruption to their respective summer vacations. Thus, this is an argument that I do not recognize as valid.

Finally, you have indicated in writing that you are "on vacation the last week in August." This is not a valid argument to extend my appeal hearing until September, but proof that you are now available to begin the hearing immediately. As previously indicated, the District still has the following dates at its disposal to begin the appeal hearing: Thursday, July 27, 2006, Friday, July 28, 2006, and Monday, July 31, 2006. Please indicate in writing, via email to me, which of these dates the District will choose to begin my impartial appeal hearing.

Since time is of the essence, I respectfully request that you confirm one of the above three dates provided herein to begin the appeal hearing by the close of business today. Alternatively, as previously indicated, if the District is unwilling or unable to confirm one of these three dates, then I request that the District confirm its intent to promptly dismiss my suspension, including any interim suspension. Additionally, I request that the District confirm in writing that it will promptly remove the enrollment hold so that I may enroll in classes for fall semester. Finally, I request that the District confirm in writing its intent to release those records I have requested and to provide me with a date, time, and location that I and my authorized representative, Stephen Drury, are able to physically inspect my disciplinary records as required by law.

Absent an appeal hearing by no later than July 31, 2006, or a dismissal of my suspension, the District will leave me no other alternative but to seek Court intervention for declaratory and injunctive relief as well as requests for damages and any and all attorney fees I may incur as a result of the District's failure and refusal to uphold my Constitutional rights, to which it is both morally and legally bound.

I look forward to your prompt response.

Very Truly Yours,

Des Manttari /s/

cc: Chui L. Tsang, President and Superintendent
Robert Adams, Vice-President Student Affairs
Nancy Greenstein, Chair, SMC Board of Trustees
Susan Aminoff, Vice Chair, SMC Board of Trustees
Carol L. Currey, SMC Board of Trustees
Rob Rader, SMC Board of Trustees
U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights

------------------ ROBERT SAMMIS' EMAIL TO ME --------------------------


To: "Phoenix Genesis"

Subject: RE: SMC's Failure to Comply with the Law

Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2006 17:34:59 -0700


I have reread your emails and I am sorry but I am not finding where you provided me with specific dates that your attorney would be available for the hearing, other than a brief reference to your attorney not being available until sometime in mid-July. If you are represented by an attorney, it would be much more productive for he/she to contact me directly so we may schedule multiple days for your hearing. As I have indicatedt [sic] to you, most faculty and staff are not around during the summer, thus, the District normally does not conduct suspension hearings during the summer. Dean Penchansky is on vaction [sic] until the end of August and I am on vacation the last week in August. Those who might serve on the committee are not all available until the beginning of the fall semester. Your hearing will be scheduled for the first part of September. Again, please have your attorney contact me so we can set multiple dates beginning in September for the hearing. I agree that it will take more than one day for the hearing.

If you are not represented by counsel, please let me know.

Robert Sammis

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