Both the San Francisco Chronicle and The New York Times (via the Bay Citizen), have run articles this weekend detailing a corruption probe that has been going on since June. (The Bay Citizen article is more extensive, based on scores of documents received through a California Public Records Act request).
There is an active criminal investigation being conducted by the district attorney’s office, and an internal investigation of how the fraud was accomplished is also occurring. Because there are numerous personnel and other sensitive issues, there’s not much I can say to shed light on the situation, so I’ll let the articles stand by themselves. I’ll simply repeat what I told the Chronicle when they contacted me Friday afternoon:
School board member Rachel Norton said the payments were difficult to detect, overseen by those entrusted with public funds.
“I’m confident this is something the board could not have known about,” she said. “It’s disheartening to think that one of our trusted employees could deceive the oversight practices we have in place.”
Below is a memo the Superintendent sent to all district employees on Friday afternoon:
This summer, the district uncovered irregularities in the accounting practices of a few individuals in the Student Support Services department. We are taking this very seriously – we are conducting our own independent investigation and have also contacted the appropriate law enforcement agencies. To the extent our investigation concludes any wrong doing, we intend to pursue all legal remedies available to the district.
While the investigation continues, there are some things we know for certain. A few individuals in one department received unauthorized payments from community organizations that had been subcontracted by these same individuals to provide specific services. It is against district policy for employees to receive payment for services they are already on salary with the district to deliver. To the best of our knowledge, there are five individuals who received unauthorized one time payments ranging from a few thousand dollars up to $40,000.
I do want to emphasize that the irregularities we are investigating relate only to a few people. There are many safeguards in place including Board reviews of all expenditures, a multistep process for any and all contracts and an annual third party audit. This fall, we have put even more safeguards in place related to contracting with outside service providers.
It is our shared responsibility to be trustworthy stewards of public money. Please come forward if you notice any irregularities or concerns that we should be aware of. We have set up an easy way for you to report any concerns related to accounting irregularities: You may call 415-248-1321 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carlos A. Garcia