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Private Armenian school wins Glendale suit

Judge finds that officials acted improperly when they closed Scholars Academic Foundation.

July 25, 2012|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • The Scholars Academic Foundation school was awarded $135,000 in damages.
The Scholars Academic Foundation school was awarded… (Times Community…)

A private Armenian school was improperly shut down by Glendale officials, some of whom gave false testimony about events that led to the closure of the campus in 2010, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has ruled.

In the ruling handed down last week, Judge David Milton found that city officials used “increased fees, yellow tagging and other steps” as a “pretext to achieve an unlawful purpose, closing plaintiff's school.”

Milton awarded that school, Scholars Academic Foundation, $135,000 in damages.

City Atty. Mike Garcia said by phone Wednesday that he vehemently disagrees with Milton's decision, but city officials have yet to decide whether to appeal.

“We were pretty shocked by some of these conclusions,” Garcia said.

The debacle began when Scholars Academic Foundation moved from its location at 1021 Grandview Ave. to a former Glendale Unified School District building at 3800 Foothill Blvd. in January 2010 without proper city permits.

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The school's principal, Anahit Grigoryan, said during court proceedings that the city's former zoning administrator, Edith Fuentes, said they could operate in the new building if they quickly applied for permits.

That turned out to be an incorrect assessment.

The city sent the kindergarten-to-12th-grade school violation notices but never received a response. In a surprise February 2010 visit, a fire inspector determined the building was unsafe to occupy as a school.

But Milton said the inspector's decision to yellow-tag the building — making it temporarily uninhabitable — was “not supported by the evidence.”

The inspector, Jeffrey Halpert, said the City Council ordered the city attorney to “go after the school,” according to Milton's ruling.

“It's just not true,” Garcia said, contending that Halpert's statement was based on hearsay.

Mayor Frank Quintero also said Wednesday that the City Council did not give those marching orders, but officials take children's safety seriously.

“When it comes to children's safety, it's always important that things get done properly, and that's the bottom line,” he said.

In court documents, city officials said the school had an inadequate fire alarm and locked or blocked exits, prompting the shutdown.

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