Accountability California Charter Schools Corruption Privatization

California: Charter School in Contra Costa Hires Investigators to Probe Misconduct

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Many states compete for the dubious title of the “Wild West” of the charter movement. It means that public money flows to privately managed schools that operate without transparency or accountability, where there is little or no oversight, few if any barriers to conflicts of interest. Florida? Michigan? Arizona?

All of them are in competition to be the state that is least vigilant about taxpayers’ money. For now, that title of dishonor goes to California. Any quack or entrepreneur or fly-by-night phony May open a school, claim it is the greatest, and drain public dollars from legitimate public schools.

Here is the latest (there will be more such stories to come).

The board of the Clayton Valley Charter School in Contra Costa County in the Bay Area has hired private investigators to probe its former executive director.

“While clouds from Contra Costa County’s multi-faceted investigation hang over its head, Clayton Valley Charter School has hired investigators to look into “allegations of misconduct by the former executive director.”

“What allegations the school is referring to are unclear, however. Not only has the school declined to say what those allegations are or where they came from, but it also has not divulged why former executive director David Linzey and his wife Eileen, who was the chief program officer, “departed the school” in May.

“The couple stopped working at the school in May, but it wasn’t until Interim Superintendent Bob Hampton arrived several weeks later that the public was told the Linzeys were both on paid administrative leave until their contracts end in the summer of 2019.

“On Monday, the school’s governing board held a special closed session on “Significant Exposure to Litigation” stemming from employment claims the Linzeys filed.”

Things are popping at the charter school, where the County Office of Education has opened its own investigation.

“The investigation is coinciding with a multi-faceted one the county’s Office of Education is overseeing. The county office has sent the school letters informing its leaders of an extensive financial audit and instructing them to preserve all financial documents. Additionally, the county office has sent letters of concern over the school’s denial of public records requests, and changes in bylaws and hiring practices and open government policies.

“Over the last few months, the board has adopted anti-nepotism, conflict of interest and financial policies against false entries in accounting books. The fiscal policy also prohibits using school assets in political campaigns. In 2018, the school’s facilities and property were prominently featured in mailers and websites for then-Assistant Superintendent Ron Leone’s campaign for Contra Costa County superintendent.

“The school has already undergone a yearlong investigation in 2015 prompted by hundreds of complaints involving governance and transparency.

“As part of the contract for the school’s investigation into misconduct, the school has requested that the law firm provide “confidentiality admonitions,” or gag orders, to witnesses so they cannot speak of the investigation. The firm does not normally issue these gag orders, but will if the school sends it a “legitimate business justification” in writing to keep the investigation secret. Only the charter school’s board will have the authority to make the investigation’s findings or source documents public.“

Very reassuring that the school decided to adopt a policy against nepotism and conflicts of interest.

Not at all reassuring that it reserves the right to keep secret the results of its investigation about the possible misuse of public funds.

Just another reminder that charter schools are NOT public schools.

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