Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From The Tree

In our blog article entitled "SMC Re-arranges Deck Chairs on the Titanic," we discussed the very secretive departure of Robert Sammis from Santa Monica College last November. Sammis had held several positions at SMC, ranging from in-house legal counsel to vice-president of human resources and vice-president of planning and development. Sammis has held a license to practice law in the state of California since December 4, 1990. Prior to coming to SMC, Sammis worked for the law firm of Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo. As VP of Human Resources, Sammis ensured that Atkinson would become an outside legal firm for the college.

According to the
State Bar of California website, Sammis has now resurfaced in his legal capacity as a labor and employment attorney for the Law Office of Karen T. Meyers in Irvine, California. Prior to founding her law firm, Ms. Meyers served as the Associate Counsel to the Chancellor at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). Here's a screenshot from the State Bar website confirming Sammis' employment:

Robert Sammis CookingCalifornia State Bar Info for Robert Sammis
From left to right: Robert Sammis Cooking, Calbar info. for Attorney Robert Sammis.

Well, it appears that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. A quick online search shows that the Law Office of Karen T. Meyers is no stranger to Sammis' former employer, Santa Monica Community College District. In fact, SMC has employed Ms. Meyers' law firm on at least two documented occasions to act as outside legal counsel on behalf of the college in various undisclosed employee complaints. According to the
SMC Board of Trustees agenda for March 14, 2005, the District paid $175 an hour, not to exceed $15,000 for a single investigation of an employee complaint. Interestingly, although the alleged legal services began on or about February 16, 2005, the board did not authorize the payment until almost a month later. So, my burning question is precisely who retained this law firm to act on the college's behalf prior to board approval? Here's the screenshot below of the contract for legal services.

SMC Contract for Legal Services with Karen T. Meyers

Fast-forward to a year later and Ms. Meyers' firm is back on the SMC payroll, this time reeling in $195 an hour, not to exceed $35,000 plus expenses. Suddenly, Ms. Meyers has warranted a $20,000 increase in addition to expenses. How much did these legal expenses cost SMC? Instead of the four months of investigation for one complaint, without missing a beat, the Law Firm of Karen T. Meyers now has secured an entire year of employment to investigate not one, but several employee complaints. According to the
SMC Board of Trustees agenda for March 13, 2006, all this cash was paid out via the District Budget and Human Resources. Here's another screenshot of the financial transaction showing the amended contract for legal services.

SMC Amended Contract for Legal Services with Karen T. Meyers

As acting in-house legal counsel for SMC, it would appear that Sammis would have worked alongside Ms. Meyers. Well, one good turn deserves another. Now that Sammis has been allegedly ousted from SMC, Ms. Meyers has scooped him up to work at her law firm. It will be interesting to see if Ms. Meyers will continue to reap the benefits of SMC's public funds for future legal work. If so, attorney Robert Sammis will apparently retain his close legal ties with Santa Monica College.

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2007: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

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