Officials with LA’s Roman Catholic Archdiocese said they warned Los Angeles Unified School District not to hire a former priest who’d admitted to a sexual relationship with a minor.
LA Unified had actually initiated the conversation. In 2001, school officials asked the church: Does former priest Joseph Piña carry out all job duties in an ethical and safe manner?
The answer from the Archdiocese: No.
Spokesman Tod Tamberg said the church elaborated, writing: “Mr. Pina has many fine qualities but is not the most stable of individuals. I would not recommend him for a position in the schools.”
LAUSD hired him anyway. Piña worked for the district as a Community Organizer from 2002 through 2012, when he was laid off.
In that time, no complaints were made against him, according to LAUSD.
Piña resigned from the church in 1998, after years of complaints at different parishes. In 1990, he admitted to a sexual relationship with an eighth grade girl that continued for years.
Tamberg says the warning about the defrocked priest was not unique. He told KCET’s SoCal Connected, that the church sent other notices to LAUSD involving people accused of misconduct who also had ties to the district.
But LA Unified spokesman Tom Waldman says the district has no record of the letter regarding Piña -- or any other former clergy.
Waldman says the district is “scouring the files” and “looking very diligently” but that “nothing from the Archdiocese has been located.”
Piña’s fingerprints cleared an FBI and Department of Justice background check before he was hired, Waldman stressed.