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Grand jury indicts a top LAUSD official

April 1, 2010 |  1:00 pm

A grand jury has indicted a top Los Angeles Unified School District manager for allegedly funneling business from the district’s massive school-building effort to a company he co-owned, highlighting flaws in the way one of the nation’s largest public-works projects has been overseen.

The indictment charges Bassam Raslan with nine counts, accusing him of conflict of interest, but it also takes the school district to task for failing to prevent the alleged crime even though it knew of Raslan's interest in the company.

“LAUSD knew of this but did not direct Mr. Raslan’s supervisors to take action or implement specific policies to prevent” the conflict, the grand jury said.

The panel said that “LAUSD senior management did not implement any effective means of preventing conflict of interest other than relying on those committing the crime to self report.”

The indictment comes three years after a Times investigation raised questions about the ability of Raslan's company to win lucrative school district contracts while he was a high-level manager overseeing the construction program.

Details about the contracts -- including how much money was involved -- remained under seal on Thursday, and prosecutors said they could not provide more information about them because state law prevented them from discussing secret grand jury testimony.

Raslan’s attorney, Daniel V. Nixon, said his client was a vital member of the district’s construction team and that his supervisors were well aware of his ties to the consulting company TBI Associates. He said the law only applies to conflicts of interest involving employees or officers with a public agency -- not contractors -- and said Raslan would vigorously fight the charges.

“He is outraged at the fact that criminal charges have been brought against him,” Nixon said. “Mr. Raslan’s conduct at all times was in accord with district policy, was open and fully understood by people at the district.”

-- Andrew Blankstein and Jack Leonard

Photo: Students head to class at Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez Learning Center in Boyle Heights on Nov. 5. The new high school was built to relieve Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights of overcrowding. Some Mendez students are not fazed by the shift. They see the move as an opportunity to carve a new identity on the Eastside. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

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