Legal Update and Free Webinar: People v. Selivanov, Berkovich Trial

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April 15, 2013 On April 5, 2013, a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury convicted Eugene Selivanov of twenty-four (24) felony counts and Tatyana Berkovich of three (3) felonies and five (5) misdemeanors related to the misuse of charter school funds as founders and former executive staff and board members of the Ivy Academia Charter School authorized by Los Angeles Unified School District.

In collaboration with the law firm of Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch (Procopio), the CCSA Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is co-sponsoring a free webinar on Friday, April 19, 2013 from 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm for charter schools and operators to provide an overview of the case and its potential consequences. Register Today

The goal of the webinar is to provide an overview of: (1) what the defendants allegedly did wrong; (2) how charter school funds can be spent according to trial judge; (3) what is planned to challenge these rulings; and (4) what charter officials can do to protect themselves.The presentation will be led by Greg Moser, of Procopio, who testified as an expert at the trial; Nina Marino of Kaplan Marino, PC., who defended one of the founders, Julie Umansky, LDF Executive Director, who wrote the amicus curiae briefs filed by CCSA with the courts, and John Lemmo, of Procopio, who advises many charter schools on operational matters.

Background

The criminal case against the Ivy Academia school leaders stemmed from an investigation conducted by the LAUSD Office of Inspector General around certain facility and staff expenditures. Based in part on this investigation and conclusions, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office charged the school leaders with numerous criminal misdemeanors and felonies alleging misuse of public funds and falsifying state tax returns by the Ivy Academia school leaders for some of these payments.

From the inception, CCSA was in close contact with the defense attorneys for the charter school leaders and filed amicus curiae briefs in the California courts concerning the laws governing charter schools in California, especially their exemption from laws applicable to school districts. Because many of the allegations applied district rules to charter schools or created new charter school obligations with criminal penalties, CCSA determined that it was critically important to represent the interests of our members and charter school operators before the courts.

Prior to trial, numerous charges were dismissed by the court against the defendants. Unfortunately, however, the court allowed the jury to find that the Ivy Academia charter petition, provisions of the nonprofit corporation's bylaws, and the section of the Charter Schools Act which permits revocation of a charter by the State Board of Education, could act as non-penal laws providing notice of a criminal violation. The jury instruction told the jury that all moneys held by a charter school are "public monies."

As a result of this case, it is clear that the outcome could impact charter schools throughout California, and determine how the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office and authorizers in Los Angeles County approach similar facts. This court's view of the law has serious consequences for charter schools, and the free webinar panel of experts will provide information and guidance for charter school operators. Register Today