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Priest Accused Of Child Sex Abuse Worked At L.A. Unified

Brianna Sacks |
February 4, 2013 | 8:51 p.m. PST

Editor At Large

One of the priests discovered of sexually abusing children during the Mahony investigation worked as a community outreach coordinator for the L.A. Unified School District and although the Archdiocese said it had alerted the district of its concerns, school leaders say they were not warned enough.

 The Los Angeles Archdiocese said Monday that it had warned the L.A. Unified School District of concerns it had with former priest Joseph Pena, who was accused of molestation, before the district hired him in 2002, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.

(MORE: Secret Docs Show L.A. Church Leaders Hid Sex Abuse Cases)

Once-confidential church documents show that Pina admitted to a sexual relationship with a minor and to repeated "boundary issues" with women throughout his career.

Though the Archdiocese never alerted police about Pina's actions, the church did indicate its concerns to L.A. Unified when the school system asked for a reference before hiring Pina.

In response to an employment questionnaire from the school district in August 2001, the Archdiocese responded with the following:

“In response to the question: ‘Should the Los Angeles Unified School District consider anything else regarding this candidate’s employment suitability?’, the Archdiocese checked the box, ‘yes,’ adding that we would ‘not recommend him for a position in the schools.’ In response to the next question on the form, ‘Would you hire this person again?’, the Archdiocese checked the box 'no.,' Archdiocese spokesman Tod M. Tamberg said in a statement.

Tamberg said that church files show that no follow-up was made by L.A. Unified regarding the matter.

“There’s no form like that in his file whatsoever,” Deasy told the Los Angeles Times. “Obviously, we’re looking into it.”

Deasy said the district is researching any past contact with the Archdiocese and wondered why the church did not make more of an effort to warn L.A. Unified about Pina's molestation allegations. If the Archdiocese saw Pina's application to a school district, the church should have immediately contacted school officials, said Deasy.

No allegations of impropriety during Pina's career with L.A. Unified have emerged, though Deasy said the district should have never hired him in the first place, according to the L.A. Times.

(MORE: How Cardinal Mahony 'Covered Up' Sex Abuse)

KCET reported that Pina resigned in disgrace form the church in 1998 and document released during the Mahony investigation reveal that Pina had been having sexual relations with a 16 year-old girl during his career as a clergyman.

Pina's case was one of many in which Mahony and his top aides attempted to hide from authorities instead of turning them in and taking action to protect further victims.

A document from October 1993 shows that Pina's psychologist expressed concern that the abuse had gone unreported and recommended that church officials "take appropriate measures and precautions to [ensure] that he is not in a setting where he can victimize others," as he remained "a serious risk for acting out."

As a community organizer at L.A. Unified, Pina organized and attended dozens of community events through the city, according to KCET.

Pina was laid off from his job with the district after about 10 years work, but returned periodically to help organize events.

Deasy has ordered a broader review of Pina's file and hiring process. Deasy also ordered principals to pull teacher misconduct files after the reported sex abuse shakeup at Miramonte Elementary School, Wilmington Elementary School and the most recent sex abuse allegations at Portola Middle School in Van Nuys. 

MORE Miramonte Sex Abuse Scandal: Staff Removal May Not Be Temporary


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Church Offical Convicted Of Covering Up Sex Abuse By Priests

Archbishop Letter On Sex Abuse Read At LA Churches

Recognition of Child Sex Abuse Just Starting

Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage on the L.A. Archdiocese scandal here.

Reach Editor At Large Brianna Sacks here.



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