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Group defends former worker

Council of American-Islamic Relations calls the delivery of lawsuit a publicity stunt.

June 20, 2009|By Mary O’Keefe

GLENDALE — The serving of a lawsuit against state Sen. Carol Liu’s district director at her workplace last week was nothing more than a “bigoted publicity stunt,” the Council of American-Islamic Relations said Monday.

Tahra Goraya, a former national director for the council, was served with the suit in her Glendale office.

The federal lawsuit, filed in Washington, D.C., claims the Council of American-Islamic Relations allowed a manager to claim he was an attorney and provide bogus legal advice to the organization’s clients, costing at least one of them their job. Morris Days allegedly took money from those clients but did not file any claims on their behalf.

Council representatives rejected the claims made in the lawsuit. On Monday, representatives said the legal filing was a racially motivated tactic to advance a political agenda.

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“Serving Ms. Goraya at her place of work, many months after an earlier similar filing was responded to [by the Council of American-Islamic Relations] is clearly a bigoted publicity stunt,” said Hussam Ayloush, executive director for the council.

Liu’s office acknowledged the lawsuit but was treating it as separate from Goraya’s current role.

“We are aware of [the lawsuit],” said Robert Oaks, Liu’s legislative director. “[The case] is from a previous employer, not since she has been with Sen. Liu.”

Oaks confirmed that Goraya continues to serve as Liu’s district director, a job she has held since Dec. 1.

Ayloush described Goraya as “a highly ethical person” who was a well-respected member of the Muslim community.

He acknowledged that Days reportedly misrepresented himself as an attorney to several clients, but claimed he did so without the council’s knowledge.

“Once it was made aware, our national office took immediate action,” Ayloush said.

But the lawsuit disputes that claim, going so far as to accuse the council’s leadership of allowing Days to collect attorney fees after the alleged scheme was discovered.

“Rather than doing the correct thing, they joined with Mr. Days and continued the fraud,” attorney David Yerushalmi said. “After they fired him, they continued to cover up [the issue], causing enormous damage [to clients].”

Yerushalmi, who represents the plaintiffs, also alleged that council officials responded only after they realized how many clients were affected.

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