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Trial Win: Millions Awarded to Fired School District Officials

The firm prevailed at trial in a high-profile whistleblower case involving former school district officials who were fired after reporting fraud to the school board.

Cleve Pell had served the Montebello Unified School District for 50 years when he was fired as CFO following an act of integrity. In 2016, Pell wrote a memo expressing concerns about lies, fraud, and forgery in another school officials job application. Instead of firing the school official who lied extensively on his application and faked reference letters, the school board fired Pell.

At trial, the firm proved that the school district and certain members of the school board had illegally retaliated against Pell by firing him for blowing the whistle. The evidence showed that the official was running a corrupt pay-to-play, directing lucrative construction contracts away from the lowest qualified bidder and toward contracts the official and the school board favored.

The jury awarded over $3 million in damages to Pell and his colleague, the superintendent of the school district. The jury specifically found that school board members acted maliciously and with fraudulent intent, and awarded penalties and punitive damages.