Posts Tagged ‘dennis herrera’
YOU MIGHT BE A GADFLY IF … the SF City Attorney’s Office Makes a Webpage Just for YOUR Records RequestsTuesday, October 28th, 2014
Dennis Herrera Throws Down: “Vows Aggressive Defense of the Prop B Waterfront Development Voting Measure”Tuesday, July 15th, 2014
All right, it’s on, the defense of Prop B (2014) is on:
SAN FRANCISCO (July 15, 2014) — The California State Lands Commission today sued San Francisco to invalidate Proposition B, an initiative measure passed in the June 3 election that requires voter approval for waterfront development height increases on property owned or controlled by the Port of San Francisco. The legal challenge filed in San Francisco Superior Court contends that the California legislature specifically intended to prohibit local voters from exercising authority over bay and coastal public trust lands, strictly limiting management of state tidelands to designated trustees. In its legal action today, the State Lands Commission argues that the sole trustee responsible for sovereign tidelands in San Francisco is the city’s Port Commission. The State Lands Commission is additionally seeking a preliminary injunction to bar San Francisco from enforcing Prop B.
In response, City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued the following statement:
“For decades, land use decisions involving San Francisco’s waterfront have included voters, elected leaders and appointed members of our Planning and Port Commissions. It’s a participatory process that enacted a comprehensive Waterfront Land Use Plan in 1990, developed a showplace ballpark for the Giants, and continues to protect an urban waterfront that is the envy of cities worldwide. San Francisco’s deliberative decision-making process on waterfront land use has never been successfully challenged, and I intend to defend it aggressively. With today’s lawsuit, the State Lands Commission seems to have embraced the notion that any local initiative — and, by extension, any land use regulation approved by a Board of Supervisors or Planning Commission — affecting port property is barred by state law, and therefore invalid. That view represents a radical departure in law and practice from land use decision-making in San Francisco and elsewhere. While the City must certainly honor its obligations as trustee in managing public trust property, it is a legally and practically untenable position to argue that San Francisco’s voters and elected officials have no direct say over how our city’s waterfront is developed.”
Dennis Herrera Throws Down: Workers at GMG Janitorial to Get $1.34 Million for “Healthy San Francisco” ViolationsMonday, July 7th, 2014
This sounds fair enough:
SAN FRANCISCO (July 7, 2014) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera today finalized a settlement agreement with GMG Janitorial, Inc., ending the local company’s legal appeal of an Oct. 16, 2013 San Francisco Superior Court ruling to pay some $1.34 million to 275 of its current and former employees who were denied health care benefit expenditures to which they were entitled under the City’s Health Care Security Ordinance, or HCSO. Enacted in 2006, the HCSO established the popular “Healthy San Francisco” program and created an employer spending requirement to fund health care benefits for employees in the City.
Under terms of the stipulated amended judgment entered with the Superior Court this morning, GMG Janitorial will remain liable for the full amount of benefits owed to workers under the original administrative orders and court ruling. The company is required to pay installments of at least $200,000 every six months to a third-party settlement administrator, who will disburse payments to eligible employees, most of whom are Latino. Financial incentives included in the settlement to satisfy the debt sooner involve dollar amounts otherwise owed to the City, to ensure that workers receive their full compensation plus any interest accrued. The agreement contains additional provisions governing former employees who can’t be located and securing the debt through liens on the owner’s personal assets.
“This agreement will fully compensate employees who were denied benefits, while also assuring law-abiding competitors that they’ll no longer be undercut by businesses that cheat,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera. “I think this settlement reflects the strong ruling Judge Marla Miller issued last October, and I hope it sends an unmistakable message that our Health Care Security Ordinance has teeth, and that we’re committed to enforcing it aggressively. As always on these kinds of cases, I’m grateful to everyone in the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement for their outstanding work.”
“When low-wage workers are denied their rightful health care benefits, the human consequences are incalculable,” said OLSE Manager Donna Levitt. “Workers at GMG Janitorial weren’t getting their health care needs addressed when the case came to our attention, and it was gratifying to see GMG start providing their workers health care benefits after OLSE began its investigation. The settlement finalized today will compensate these employees for what they were rightfully due in the first place. The vast majority of San Francisco employers comply with both the letter and the spirit of the law, which is why it’s so important that violators are brought to justice.”
The court order issued by Judge Marla J. Miller last October found “substantial evidence” to support prior findings by San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement and an administrative law judge that GMG Janitorial, Inc. failed to make the required expenditures on behalf of its workers for the period 2008 to 2010. After losing its administrative appeal before the administrative law judge, GMG Janitorial filed suit in Superior Court on July 2, 2012, arguing that the OLSE exceeded its authority under local law by ordering full restitution, and that the administrative law judge’s findings were unsupported by the evidence. Judge Miller’s ruling decisively rejected both contentions in ordering the company to pay $1,339,028 to its employees “in order to correct its failure to make the required expenditures.” The order additionally allowed the City to recover its costs in the action in an amount to be determined.
The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office played a key role in working with then-Supervisor Tom Ammiano and Mayor Gavin Newsom to craft the City’s groundbreaking universal health care law enacted in 2006. Almost immediately thereafter, the office embarked on a four-year legal battle to defend the law from a challenge by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. The ordinance was conclusively upheld when the U.S. Supreme Court denied review in the case on June 28, 2010.
San Francisco’s OLSE enforces labor laws adopted by San Francisco voters and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. In addition to investigating violations of the Health Care Security Ordinance, OLSE also enforces San Francisco’s Minimum Wage Ordinance; Paid Sick Leave Ordinance; Minimum Compensation Ordinance; Health Care Accountability Ordinance; and Sweatfree Contracting Ordinance. Violations of the Health Care Security Ordinance may be reported to OLSE at (415) 554-7892 or HCSO@sfgov.org. Its website ishttp://www.sfgov.org/olse.
The case is: GMG Janitorial, Inc. v. City and County of San Francisco et al., San Francisco Superior Court, Case No. 512328, filed July 2, 2012.”
Dennis Herrera Throws Down: Tells “Monkey Parking” to Drop Mobile App for Auctioning City Parking Spots – $300 Fines?Monday, June 23rd, 2014
Gotta say I sort of saw this one coming.
And it’s not just Monkey Parking that’s in trouble today. Check out the craigslist ad from ParkModo (cached website) (@ParkModo – no Tweets yet, or maybe they were deleted?), posted on June 17th, 2014:
“Earn $13.00 P/H Just To Park! (mission district)
Our company is launching an awesome app that rewards people to sell their on-street parking spots before leaving to people who need a spot.
To help us promote the app, we are looking for 20 people with cars and iPhones to park around the mission and use the app to offer their parking spots to people looking for parking.
The hours will be from 5:30-9:00 pm Thurs-Sat starting June 26th.
This is how it works:
1. You download the app from the app store.
2. When you want to work, you will contact our field manager to check in.
3. The field manager will then instruct you as to what area and type of spot you are to park in.
4. You will then find a spot in the area and park.
5. Once you are parked, using the app, you will offer the spot for sale.
6. While you are waiting for someone to purchase the space, you will distribute postcards and promote the app.
7. Once someone purchases the spot, you will complete the transaction with the buyer and then find another space to park in and start the process all over again!
If you are interested, please click on the link below (Paste into your browser) and provide your information so we can contact you and get you started.
We look forward to working with you!”
I think ParkModo’s operations will now be on hold, for a little bit at least. But do you want some more from them? See below.
Now, all the deets about all these troubled businesses, from Herrera’s office:
“Herrera tells Monkey Parking to drop mobile app for auctioning city parking spots
Motorists face $300 fines for each violation under existing law, City Attorney says — and three startups could be liable for penalties of up to $2,500 for each transaction
SAN FRANCISCO (June 23, 2014) — San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera today issued an immediate cease-and-desist demand to Monkey Parking, a mobile peer-to-peer bidding app that enables motorists to auction off the public parking spaces their vehicles occupy to nearby drivers. The app, currently available for iOS devices, describes itself on the Apple iTunes App Store as the “the first app which lets you make money every time that you are about to leave your on-street parking spot.”
The letter Herrera’s office issued this morning to Paolo Dobrowolny, CEO of the Rome, Italy-based tech startup, cites a key provision of San Francisco’s Police Code that specifically prohibits individuals and companies from buying, selling or leasing public on-street parking. Police Code section 63(c) further provides that scofflaws — including drivers who “enter into a lease, rental agreement or contract of any kind” for public parking spots — face administrative penalties of up to $300 for each violation. Because Monkey Parking’s business model is wholly premised on illegal transactions, the letter contends that the company would be subject to civil penalties of up to $2,500 per violation under California’s tough Unfair Competition Law were the city to sue. Such a lawsuit would be imminent, Herrera’s office vowed, should the startup continue to operate in San Francisco past July 11, 2014.
“Technology has given rise to many laudable innovations in how we live and work — and Monkey Parking is not one of them,” Herrera said. “It’s illegal, it puts drivers on the hook for $300 fines, and it creates a predatory private market for public parking spaces that San Franciscans will not tolerate. Worst of all, it encourages drivers to use their mobile devices unsafely — to engage in online bidding wars while driving. People are free to rent out their own private driveways and garage spaces should they choose to do so. But we will not abide businesses that hold hostage on-street public parking spots for their own private profit.”
Herrera’s cease-and-desist demand to Monkey Parking includes a request to the legal department of Apple Inc., which is copied on the letter, asking that the Cupertino, Calif.-based technology giant immediately remove the mobile application from its App Store for violating several of the company’s own guidelines. Apple App Store Review Guidelines provide that “Apps must comply with all legal requirements in any location where they are made available to users” and that “Apps whose use may result in physical harm may be rejected.”
Two other startups that similarly violate local and state law with mobile app-enabled schemes intended to illegally monetize public parking spaces in San Francisco will also face legal action in the form of cease-and-desist demands this week, according to the City Attorney’s Office. Sweetch charges a $5 flat fee when its users obtain a parking spot from another Sweetch motorist. Sweetch drivers who pass their spots off to other Sweetch members are refunded $4 of that fee. ParkModo, which appears poised to launch later this week, according to recent employment postings on Craigslist, will employ drivers at a rate of $13.00 per hour to occupy public parking spaces in the Mission District. As with Monkey Parking and Sweetch, ParkModo then plans to sell the on-street parking spots to its paying members through its iPhone app. Sweetch and ParkModo members who make use of the apps to park in San Francisco are also subject to civil penalties of $300 per violation, and both companies are potentially liable for civil penalties of $2,500 per transaction for illegal business practices under the Cali04fornia Unfair Competition Law.
A copy of Herrera’s demand letter to Monkey Parking and additional information about the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office is available at: http://www.sfcityattorney.org/
And here’s a little more from ParkModo:
“We are currently rolling out the beta in the following cities…
San Francisco – As beautiful as city it is, parking is just as bad! Not only is there way to much demand for the supply, but the parking police will catch you if they can! Be among the first 1000 people to download the app and get $5 in free parking!
New York – Instead of calling it the city that never sleeps, they should call it the city that never has parking! Get in on ParkModo and earn some serious cash and stop wasting your time. We know every minute in ny is precious.
Chicago – There may be wind here, but there is certainly no parking! Use ParkModo and fly like the wind when you need a space!”
Dennis Herrera Throws Down: Files Legal Action to End Unlawful SFMTA MUNI “Sick-Out,” Compels Union to ArbitrateWednesday, June 4th, 2014
The news of the day, this third day of our MUNI crisis:
“Herrera files legal action to end unlawful “sick-out” and compel union to arbitrate wage and benefits dispute
Charges filed before Public Employees Relations Board allege union is flouting contract and City Charter provisions that could bring an end to three-day-old work stoppage
SAN FRANCISCO (June 4, 2014)— On the third day of an unlawful employee “sick-out,” in which transit workers are calling in sick en masse after contract negotiations with the Municipal Transportation Agency reached an impasse, City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed unfair labor practice charges with California’s public labor relations body against Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, seeking to compel the union to end the sick-out and abide by the City Charter by allowing a neutral arbitration board to resolve its contract dispute with the MTA. The charges, filed at the Public Employees Relations Board, the state agency that administers collective bargaining statutes covering public employees, state that in the wake of the union’s rejection of the MTA’s contract offer, the Charter of San Francisco requires the union and the City to submit to the decision of a neutral three-member arbitration board. The complaint further alleges that the sick-out is illegal under both state law and the existing contract with the workers.
“This is an unfortunate attempt by the union to get around a law and contract provisions they don’t like,” Herrera said Tuesday. “The Charter is clear that an impasse such as this one is resolved with neutral arbitration. Let’s do what the law says, begin the arbitration process, and get San Francisco moving again as soon as humanly possible.”
The PERB can take as much as a year or more to issue rulings on allegations of unfair labor practices, but San Francisco officials are hopeful that the filing of the complaint can spur the union into doing the right thing. “Our transit operators have very difficult jobs and deserve fair and competitive wages in return,” said Ed Reiskin, SFMTA Director of Transportation. “At the same time, we have an obligation to provide transit service for 700,000 riders a day and we are asking the union to follow provisions in the Charter and get everyone back to work.”
The existing contract between the union and the MTA forbids strikes and work stoppages such as the sick-out. The MTA announced Monday that it would not pay transit workers for sick time taken during the sick-out unless workers could document that they in fact met the criteria to claim sick leave.
Appendix A, section A8.409-4(a) of the San Francisco City Charter states that “disputes… which remain unresolved after good faith bargaining between the City and County of San Francisco, on behalf of its departments, boards and commissions, and a recognized employee organization representing classifications of employees covered under this part shall be submitted to a three-member Mediation/Arbitration Board (“the Board”) upon the declaration of an impasse either by the authorized representative of the City and County of San Francisco or by the authorized representative of the recognized employee organization involved in the dispute.”
Dennis Herrera Throws Down: Sues Short-Term Rental Scofflaws for Illegal Conversions, Unlawful Business Practices – Ellis Act, Baby!Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
City Attorney Dennis Herrera, The Happy Warrior:
“Herrera sues short-term rental scofflaws for illegal conversions, unlawful business practices
Two cases target ‘egregious offenders’—both involving Ellis Act evictions of disabled tenants to illegally convert residential apartments into tourist lodging
SAN FRANCISCO (April 23, 2014) — City Attorney Dennis Herrera today filed two separate lawsuits against short-term rental scofflaws for illegally converting residential apartments into commercial tourist lodging, which the property owners then marketed through such online platforms as Airbnb, Homeway.com and VRBO.com. In both cases, the defendants had previously evicted long-term residents from their apartments under the Ellis Act, a state law that allows landlords to evict tenants and withdraw their properties from the residential rental market. Two of the evicted tenants were disabled, according to San Francisco Superior Court and Rent Board records cited in today’s pleadings.
“In the midst of a housing crisis of historic proportions, illegal short-term rental conversions of our scarce residential housing stock risks becoming a major contributing factor,” said Herrera. “The cases I’ve filed today target two egregious offenders. These defendants didn’t just flout state and local law to conduct their illegal businesses, they evicted disabled tenants in order to do so. Today’s cases are the first among several housing-related matters under investigation by my office, and we intend to crack down hard on unlawful conduct that’s exacerbating—and in many cases profiting from—San Francisco’s alarming lack of affordable housing. I’m grateful to the city departments, including the San Francisco Planning Department, and community advocates who have worked with my office to help us pursue these kinds of scofflaws. And I encourage tenants and neighbors to report housing-related wrongdoing online to my office through our Up2Code.org website or the Up2Code app, or by calling our Code Enforcement Hotline at (415) 554-3977.”
Herrera’s complaints filed in San Francisco Superior Court this morning detail pervasive violations of the city Planning Code and state Unfair Competition Law at three addresses: 3073-3075 Clay Street, owned by defendants Darren and Valerie Lee; and 734 and 790 Bay Street, which is owned or managed by defendants Lev, Tamara and Tatyana Yurovsky. If successful, the litigation could result in permanent court-ordered injunctions; civil penalties of up to $200 per day for Planning Code violations; up to $2,500 for each unlawful business act; disgorgement of illegally obtained profits; and attorneys’ fees. Though the Ellis Act itself does not preclude the commercial use of properties for tourists where long-term tenants have previously been evicted, Herrera’s litigation emphasized longstanding city policy that tourist conversions of residential properties be aggressively policed “in order to protect the residents and to conserve the limited housing resources.”
According to one of Herrera’s civil actions, defendants Darren and Valerie Lee purchased 3073-3075 Clay Street in 2004, and invoked the Ellis Act in 2005 to evict their tenants from both of the property’s residential units. One of the evicted tenants was disabled. Evidence presented in the complaint found that the Lees have marketed 3075 Clay Street, a four-bedroom, three-bathroom property, for tourist lodging on such vacation websites such as Homeaway.com and VRBO.com since 2009, describing it as an “exquisitely renovated home, in prime Pacific Heights.” The Lees charged their guests between $395 and $595 per night for a minimum stay of three nights. But in doing so, the owners flouted the city’s required conditional use authorization process—depriving neighbors and city planners of their role to first determine whether the conversion is necessary or desirable; compatible with the neighborhood; detrimental to the City’s housing stock; or consistent with the city’s Planning Code or Planning Department’s General Plan. According to Herrera’s complaint, San Francisco’s Planning Department repeatedly cited the Lees for their illegal use of the property for commercial tourist lodging, even collecting penalties of as much $250 per day for violations. The Lees—who at one point assured Planning Department officials that their illegal conduct had stopped—then defiantly resumed marketing and renting their property to tourists. In 3073 Clay Street, the Lees evicted a disabled tenant who had lived in the unit for more than ten years and, until evicted, was paying $1,087 per month. By invoking the Ellis Act, the Lees were legally restricted until August 25, 2011, from re-renting the unit at market rate. But evidence presented in Herrera’s action shows that the Lees admitted to the Planning Department that they had, in fact, re-rented 3073 Clay Street and charged their new residential tenants between $5,000-$7,038 per month.
Herrera’s other civil complaint against Lev, Tamara and Tatyana Yurovsky notes that they, too, used the Ellis Act to evict long-term residential tenants — including one who was disabled — from one of their properties, at 734 Bay Street. Together with a residential unit at another of their properties owned by Lev and Tatyana and managed by Tamara, at 790 Bay Street, the Yurovskys illegally converted their apartments into tourist use beginning in 2010. They marketed the rentals to tourists on Airbnb.com and “greatsfvacation.com” for rates of between $165 and $320 per night, with three-night minimum stays. Though the Yurovsky defendants boasted on social media that they had hosted several hundred tourists, according to evidence detailed in the complaint, they too flouted the city’s conditional use authorization process, violating the San Francisco Planning Code and state law.
The cases are: City and County of San Francisco and People of the State of California v. Darren Lee et al., San Francisco Superior Court No. 538857; and City and County of San Francisco and People of the State of California v. Tamara Yurovsky et al., San Francisco Superior Court No. 538854. Additional documentation from the case is available on the City Attorney’s website at:http://www.sfcityattorney.org/
City Attorney Dennis Herrera Throws Down: Says “MeetMe.Com” Enables Sexual Predators and Child StalkersMonday, February 3rd, 2014
All the deets:
SAN FRANCISCO (Feb. 3, 2014) — San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera today filed suit against MeetMe, a popular social networking platform that facilitates interactions among strangers, over inadequate privacy protections and unlawful publication of minors’ profiles, photos, and location data, which can enable sexual predators and stalkers to target children as young as 13 years of age.
The civil complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court this morning alleges that the New Hope, Pa.-based MeetMe, Inc. is violating California’s Unfair Competition Law by relying on legally invalid consent from minors between the ages of 13 and 17 to collect and improperly distribute their real-time geolocation and personal user information. Approximately 25 percent of MeetMe.com’s user base is under the age of 18, according to social media marketing statistics cited in Herrera’s complaint. The lawsuit additionally alleges that MeetMe fails to adequately disclose to users how their personal data is distributed.
“MeetMe has become a tool of choice for sexual predators to target underage victims, and the company’s irresponsible privacy policies and practices are to blame for it,” said Herrera. “MeetMe improperly collects personal information from young teens — including their photos and real-time locations. It then distributes that information in ways that expose children to very serious safety risks. Sadly, these risks aren’t hypothetical. Dozens of children nationwide have already been victimized by predators who used MeetMe to coerce minors into meeting. Under California law, MeetMe’s reckless business practices are illegal, and we’re asking a court to put an end to them.”
MeetMe has been a key factor in numerous crimes involving sexual assault and illicit sex with minors in California, according to news reports documented in Herrera’s complaint. In Aug. 2013, a 29-year-old Citrus Heights, Calif. man was charged with multiple counts of sexual acts with a minor and communicating with minors for unlawful purposes. Police investigators found that MeetMe was among the apps the perpetrator used to send sexually-explicit photos and text messages to underage girls in order to begin a “sexting” relationship that ultimately progressed to sexual contact. A Fresno, Calif. man was arrested in Oct. 2013 on suspicion of sexually assaulting a minor that he met using MeetMe, according to news reports, and in July 2013 a 21-year-old Fair Oaks, Calif. man was criminally charged after posing as a 16-year-old boy to have sex with two girls — aged 12 and 15 — whom he met using MeetMe.
Dozens of minors nationwide have been similarly victimized in sex crimes by predators who relied on MeetMe to target their underage victims, according to reports cited in the complaint. In June 2013, a Tewksbury, Mass. man was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to more than 50 charges, including rape of a child by force, indecent assault and battery on a child under 14. The man used multiple aliases on MeetMe to trick teenage girls into sending him nude images. He then threatened to publish the photos in order to blackmail victims into having sex with him. A Wilmerding, Penn. man, who was criminally charged in Sept. 2013, used MeetMe to meet and then sexually assault three teenagers. In Grady County, Okla., a 25-year-old man used MeetMe to meet and rape a 15-year-old girl. An Albuquerque TV news station, reporting on MeetMe’s role in the case of a 21-year-old man who was arrested for soliciting sex with a 13-year-old girl, noted: “Investigators say it’s the latest site predators are cruising to find new victims, and it’s happening all too often.”
The lawsuit, which was investigated and filed by Herrera’s Consumer Protection Unit, is seeking a court order to enjoin MeetMe from continuing to engage in activities in California that violate state law; civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation found to have occurred in the state; and costs of the City Attorney’s lawsuit.
About the S.F. City Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit
The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office’s Consumer Protection Unit pursues public interest civil cases under California’s Unfair Competition Law, which are funded virtually exclusively by civil recoveries — not taxpayer dollars. The award-winning program, for which the National Association of Consumer Advocates recognized Dennis Herrera as its 2009 Consumer Attorney of the Year, reflects voter-enacted changes to California law that require civil penalties recovered by public prosecutors to be used exclusively to enforce consumer protection laws. Since voters passed the amendments as part of Proposition 64 in 2004, Herrera’s Consumer Protection Unit has recovered some $20 million in successful battles against unlawful business practices that include price-fixing, illegal marketing, credit card collections arbitration scams and more. The unit’s work has helped win equally important industry reforms to help protect consumer privacy, end discriminatory practices in health insurance and media metrics, protect immigrants, halt predatory evictions, and obtain recoveries for victims of wage theft.
The litigation is: People of the State of California ex rel. Dennis Herrera v. MeetMe, Inc. et al. (San Francisco Superior Court Case No. 537126, filed Feb. 3, 2014). Complete documentation on the case is available at: http://www.sfcityattorney.org/
A Courthouse Victory for CCSF: “City College Wins Reprieve, as Court Enjoins ACCJC from Terminating Accreditation”Thursday, January 2nd, 2014
“City College wins reprieve, as court enjoins ACCJC from terminating accreditation - Herrera grateful to court ‘for acknowledging what accreditors callously won’t: that the educational aspirations of tens of thousands of City College students matter’
SAN FRANCISCO (Jan. 2, 2014) — A San Francisco Superior Court judge has granted a key aspect of a motion by City Attorney Dennis Herrera to preliminarily enjoin the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges from terminating City College of San Francisco’s accreditation next July. Under terms of the ruling Judge Curtis E.A. Karnow issued late this afternoon, the ACCJC is barred from finalizing its planned termination of City College’s accreditation during the course of the litigation, which alleges that the private accrediting body has allowed political bias, improper procedures, and conflicts of interest to unlawfully influence its evaluation of the state’s largest community college. Judge Karnow denied Herrera’s request for additional injunctive relief to prevent the ACCJC from taking adverse accreditation actions against other educational institutions statewide until its evaluation policies comply with federal regulations. A separate motion for a preliminary injunction by plaintiffs representing City College educators and students was denied.
In issuing the injunction, the court recognized that Herrera’s office is likely to prevail on the merits of his case when it proceeds to trial, and that the balance of harms favored the people Herrera represents as City Attorney. On the question of relative harms, Judge Karnow’s ruling was emphatic in acknowledging the catastrophic effect disaccreditation would hold for City College students and the community at large, writing: “There is no question, however, of the harm that will be suffered if the Commission follows through and terminates accreditation as of July 2014. Those consequences would be catastrophic. Without accreditation the College would almost certainly close and about 80,000 students would either lose their educational opportunities or hope to transfer elsewhere; and for many of them, the transfer option is not realistic. The impact on the teachers, faculty, and the City would be incalculable, in both senses of the term: The impact cannot be calculated, and it would be extreme.”
“I’m grateful to the court for acknowledging what accreditors have so far refused to: that the educational aspirations of tens of thousands of City College students matter,” said Herrera. “Judge Karnow reached a wise and thorough decision that vindicates our contention that accreditors engaged in unfair and unlawful conduct. Given the ACCJC’s dubious evaluation process, it makes no sense for us to race the clock to accommodate ACCJC’s equally dubious deadline to terminate City College’s accreditation.”
Judge Karnow adjudicated four separate pre-trial motions in today’s ruling following two days of hearings on Dec. 26 and 30. Herrera filed his motion for preliminary injunction on Nov. 25 – three months after filing his initial lawsuit — blaming the ACCJC for procedural foot-dragging and delay tactics, which included a failed bid to remove the case to federal court and its months-long refusal to honor discovery requests. Judge Karnow granted in part and denied in part Herrera’s motion, issuing an injunction that applies only to the ACCJC’s termination deadline for City College’s accreditation, and not statewide.
Apart from Herrera’s motion, AFT Local 2121 and the California Federation of Teachers also moved for a preliminary injunction onNov. 25, citing additional legal theories. That motion was denied. A third motion by the ACCJC asked the court to abstain from hearing the City Attorney’s lawsuit for interfering with complex accrediting processes largely governed by federal law; or, failing that, to stay Herrera’s action pending the outcomes of City College’s accreditation proceeding and ACCJC’s own efforts to renew its recognition with the U.S. Department of Education. A fourth motion, also by the ACCJC, requested that the court strike the AFT/CFT’s case under California’s Anti-SLAPP statute, which enables defendants to dismiss causes of actions that intend to chill the valid exercise of their First Amendment rights of free speech and petition. (SLAPP is an acronym for “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.”) Both of the ACCJC’s pre-trial motions were denied.
The ACCJC has come under increasing fire from state education advocates, a bipartisan coalition of state legislators and U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier for its controversial advocacy to dramatically restrict the mission of California’s community colleges by focusing on degree completion to the detriment of vocational, remedial and non-credit education. The accrediting body’s political agenda — shared by conservative advocacy organizations, for-profit colleges and student lender interests — represents a significant departure from the abiding “open access” mission repeatedly affirmed by the California legislature and pursued by San Francisco’s Community College District since it was first established.
Herrera’s action, filed on Aug. 22, alleges that the commission acted to withdraw accreditation “in retaliation for City College having embraced and advocated a different vision for California’s community colleges than the ACCJC itself.” The civil suit offers extensive evidence of ACCJC’s double standard in evaluating City College as compared to its treatment of six other similarly situated California colleges during the preceding five years. Not one of those colleges saw its accreditation terminated.
The City Attorney’s case is: People of the State of California ex rel. Dennis Herrera v. Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges et al., San Francisco Superior Court No. 13-533693, filed Aug. 22, 2013. The AFT/CFT case is: AFT Local 2121 et al. v. Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges et al., San Francisco Superior Court No. 534447, filed Sept. 24, 2013. Documentation from the City Attorney’s case is available online at: http://www.sfcityattorney.org.”