Final Hearing September 13 on Rosie Lee Hooks' Appeal
FINAL HEARING SEPTEMBER 13th ON SUSPENSION OF WATTS TOWERS
ARTS CENTER DIRECTOR, FOLLOWS EVIDENCE OF FALSE STATEMENT
BY CULTURAL AFFAIRS OFFICIAL AT PREVIOUS HEARING
The L.A. Civil Service Commission will consider its final decision Thursday, September 13, on Watts Towers Arts Center Campus Director Rosie Lee Hooks’ appeal against the three-week suspension imposed upon her by the Department of Cultural Affairs. The final hearing will be at 10:00 a.m. in Room 350 of the L.A. Personnel Department Building, 700 East Temple Street.
After a July 31 hearing, Ms. Hooks was found not guilty of insubordination, but guilty of not adhering to the public art approval process to paint a mural of Watts native son and jazz giant Charles Mingus, last September, on the Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center on campus.
This finding has been called into question by substantial documentation proving that Ms. Hooks was unaware of this process, contradicting Community Arts Director Leslie Thomas’ testimony. Mr. Thomas admitted that he had approved Ms. Hooks’ vacation for the month of May, 2016, but insisted that she was definitely in attendance at the May 5, 2016, meeting where she was informed of the Public Arts Ordinance approval process.
Lawyer Adam Stern, representing Ms. Hooks for her union, the Engineers & Architects Association (EAA), has submitted to the Commission an airline check-in confirmation and Ms. Hooks’ passport with a dated visa stamp for additional consideration. This material proves that, at the very time of the May 5 meeting, Ms. Hooks was in transit to Johannesburg, South Africa.
An internationally-honored community arts administrator and educator, Ms. Hooks has served twice as interim Director of the Watts Towers Arts Center, and was appointed Director in 2002. She was previously Director of Festivals for the City’s Cultural Affairs Department and produced the first Central Avenue Jazz Festival and many others. She also established, with Buddy Collette, the prestigious Watts Towers Arts Center Jazz Mentorship Program.
When the Cultural Affairs Department put Ms. Hooks on suspension without pay in April, the community support groups for the campus expressed concern that the action against her was an act of retribution for her continuing efforts to advocate for the Watts community.
Community support group members and campus staff have, over the years, developed a long-range vision for the campus, its arts and educational programs and the presentation to the public of Sabato Rodia’s Watts Towers, a world-renowned masterpiece of architectural sculpture. As Watts Neighborhood Council Chair Jacquelyn Badejo attests, “For years, the community groups have asked the city for appropriate resources to support our vision, getting very little in response from the Cultural Affairs Department, the Mayor’s Office or the 15th Council District, and they have never shared with us their own long-range plans for the campus or the Watts community.”
Affirming the union’s advocacy for Ms. Hooks, Labor Representative Geoffrey Garfield of the EAA states, “We offer any assistance the Watts community needs to end the blatant harassment of an adored arts educator.”