Monday, November 22, 2010

Statement from Superintendent Carlos Garcia Regarding Investigation

November 13, 2010 (San Francisco) – This summer, SFUSD uncovered irregularities in the accounting practices of a few individuals. District officials immediately began an independent investigation and contacted the appropriate law enforcement agencies. To the extent the investigation concludes any wrongdoing, the district intends to pursue all legal remedies available to the district.

While the investigation continues, there are some things known 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 on salary with the district to deliver.

The irregularities being investigated relate only to a few people. There are many safeguards in place including SF Board of Education 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 responsibility to be trustworthy stewards of public money. We have set up ways for employees or community members to report any concerns related to accounting irregularities: A tip line (415-248-1321) and email address reportfraud@sfusd.edu.

37 comments:

  1. Wynn's is quoted as saying that the problems were well known for awhile. But Norton expressed shock as if she had no inkling of it. On her blog she tries to evade responsibility for oversight of such embezzlement. Why didn't SFUSD come out and announce this instead of waiting for the inevitable leak? It's the same old story - damage control.

    The Board will try to spin this story to avoid public embarrassment. If they are not responsible and if Garcia as well is not responsible as he would have us believe in his response, who then is responsible to safeguard the public trust? These 5 officials were working right under the Board and Administration's noses and from what has been reported there has been knowledge of funny things going on in Bascom's department for awhile.

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  2. This article understates what happened at Trish Bascom's Department of Student Services. Go to the Bay Citizen to read what is known so far or check out the story in NY Times. There is likely to be hundreds of thousands of dollars diverted or kicked back. Maybe even millions.

    Where was the Chronicle or the Examiner? What kind of reporting do we have in this city from our major news outlets? This scandal dwarfs the Maufas scandal. From what I have heard, they were caught red-handed. (pardon the term) I'm sure everyone downtown will follow Rachel's tact from her blog - which was more or less shock to find gambling in Casablanca.

    It is really a shame that we have so many crooks in the Garcia administration.

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  3. Media comment:

    The Examiner is not a major news outlet; it's a throwaway with a skeleton staff that bought the name of what was ONCE a major news outlet. It hasn't been anything resembling "major media" for at least 10 years.

    The Chronicle is also functioning with an intensely overworked, horribly demoralized skeleton staff and has largely dropped any ambitions of breaking major stories.

    The Bay Citizen is an experiment operating with private philanthropic funding (as opposed to attempting to be self-supporting, let alone make an actual profit). The Bay Citizen is indeed doing great work, including this coverage. I'm just clarifying where the other media are.

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  4. Is the Bay Citizen owned by the guy who pays for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival?

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  5. 6:18, not owned by him, but he donates to it.

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  6. What does any of this have to do with the investigation into the improprieties? I put about about as much stock in the Examiner as into the Chron. They are both a waste of time which is, I think, what Don was getting at in his usual way.

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  7. What does any of this have to do with the investigation into the improprieties? I put about about as much stock in the Examiner as into the Chron. They are both a waste of time which is, I think, what Don was getting at in his usual way.

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  8. Here's what Rachel Norton wrote on her blog - read it for yourself and see if you think Don's telling the truth, or just trying to stir the pot.

    http://rachelnorton.com/2010/11/14/sfusd-employees-accused-of-embezzling-funds/

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  9. It isn't about me stirring the pot.

    I find these two quotes from BOE members in conflict:

    1. “I’m confident this is something the board could not have known about,” (Norton) said. “It’s disheartening to think that one of our trusted employees could deceive the oversight practices we have in place.” - source - her own blog.

    2. “Some CBOs [community-based organizations] have had questions about that group of administrators for years,”(Wynns) said.

    Maybe the Board could have know about it if they had been more diligent.

    When did Wynns find out about the issues that CBO's had? From other readings on the subject it sounds as if quite a few people knew about this funny business.

    Did the Board fail to act? If there were any questions about that department why hadn't the Board looked into it and why does Wynn think there were long standing issues and Norton taking the "shocked to find gambling in Casablanca" tact?


    If the Board can't oversee money it expenses when it has knowledge of issues as Wynns said, and Garcia eschews any responsibility for oversight of an associate supertintendent, then who's running the store?

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  10. I've been told by folks that work inside the district that one of the Bay Citizen reporters dates someone on the inside and was a mole to direct what questions to ask, documents to request, etc. A lot of reporting scoops come about, like other things in the working world, relationship based. If you know what to ask, you can get the scoop.

    Kudos to Bay Citizen on this - they cracked the case and blew it wide open.

    On a side note, friends working at schools in the district say the folks in this scandal - specifically Linda Loveless, where known to be scammers long before they worked at 555 Franklin. She used to work at a middle school and I was told my staff at the school that reports on issues even back then would go unheeded. So apparently she just kept on keeping on.

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  11. The Chronicle isn't much of a major news outlet either, considering that they haven't bothered to report on this story.

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  12. I think the Bay Citizen will go after the leadership next. Obviously there is a lack oversight. The Board knew something if not everything, but they failed to act. Everyone of those Board members are company men. They kept their mouths shut until the story broke.

    We really lost out when we failed to elect Brodkin. And I understand she did not want to do a hit piece of Maufas. That would of put her over the top and Maufas would have deserved it.

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  13. "It is really a shame that we have so many crooks in the Garcia administration."

    I am sure these staff have been working in SFUSD long before Garcia became the Superintendent.

    Don, you expect Garica to monitor every individuals working for SFUSD?

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  14. No, but I expect that his associate superintendent, one of the highest officials at his immediate side, not to be an embezzler. I don't believe for one second that he didn't know. And even if you are right, why did they try to hide it from the public? Is this the kind of churlish behavior we should expect from a superintendent. All the talk of transparency and accountability. They are am embarrassment to San Francisco, if that is possible. And you would know that I have been saying it for quite a while, if you read this blog. Even if Garcia is found to have no culpability, he tried to cover it up.

    Next he'll probably say that he's was under orders to do so as part of the investigation. He's probably already made a deal.

    While Trish Bascom was telling the 17 west side schools they would have to fore go counselors, she was likely pocketing the very money used to pay for them. And don't tell me we don't need counselors. Our 5th grade teacher and his wife died in a car accident last week and another teacher's husband was murdered on Van Ness over the weekend.

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  15. I don't believe you want to use the word churlish in this case.

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  16. I mean churlish like surly. Maybe it isn't the right context, I don't know. Who gives a shit? I'm not writing an essay.

    These people are going to go to prison for taking money out of the classrooms of children and putting it into their personal bank accounts and all you can do is question my choice of adjectives?

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  17. Can we get back to the investigation? These people are stealing candy from babies. If convicted they ought to get long jail sentences for the damage they have done.

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  18. How come Edgewood isn't taking any of the heat here? Their mission, I believe, is to guide and care for severely abused and neglected kids. They were paying off individuals in the SFUSD. I have donated money to their fund-raising efforts, but by God, my trust in any such organization is now sorely damaged. One question comes to mind: did Bascom initiate this bribing, or did Edgewood offer?

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  19. It is easy to make judgments w/o knowing all the facts, but it seems obvious to me that a CBO shouldn't be writing checks to individuals if it needs to pay SFUSD.

    This comment by Hanlon, Bascom's attorney seems strange:

    “Do I know that she didn’t misappropriate? No, because I haven’t seen all the evidence. But everyone knew what was going on. Everything Trish did, including getting money, it’s been no secret,” said Hanlon. “Everyone is trying to cover their own incompetence. There was no oversight.”

    So what I presume he is saying is that Bascom et. al. allegedly got away with this stuff because the District did nothing to stop it. What kind of defense is that? All that says is that she was willing to steal if nobody was watching.

    While the investigation proceeds the other big question now is - how could this have happened when so many people were aware of issues at Student Support Services?

    Someone asked if we can blame Garcia for not watching over everyone's shoulders? Of course not. But this is not just anyone. Bascom was an associate superintendent. If anyone at the cabinet level of government is caught stealing does that reflect poorly on the executive? Of course it does. At the least it shows s/he has poor control of the lieutenants. At the worst it raises the possibility of collusion.

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  20. Can anyone explain what happened to the coverage on this scandal? I don't get it. Why the news media coma? Something fishy's going on.

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  21. 9:23 writes: "Can anyone explain what happened to the coverage on this scandal? I don't get it. Why the news media coma? Something fishy's going on."

    That along with the Chron's reporting of this on a Friday evening when less people are likely to see it coupled with their refusal to name names (yes, I know the Citizen/NYT [which a much smaller subset of SF citizens will ever see listed names] and complete lack of follow-up coverage adds to suspicion of people trying to make this issue "go away."

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  22. Something fishy? Today I saw in the Chronicle that they are ramping up the bid for BoE officials to receive a full salary. Maybe that explains the hush-hush.

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  23. Do the voter's have to authorize salaries or can the BOE give themselves salaries?

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  24. "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." - quote of Rachel Norton's.

    It seems that Rachel is saying that the the Board of Education had systems in place which were ineffective. But some of the comments in the Bay Citizen lead to the conclusion that the BOE had no accountability over Student Support Services - that Bascom was running her own little fiefdom. Worse yet, there are indications that many within the administration knew about the problems and did nothing. If this is true than Rachel's comment is little more than an attempt to avoid any blame for not doing the job that the public expects of the BOE.

    If this investigation proves that illegal payments were made for many years. it will reflect very poorly on the both Carlos Garcia and the BOE. Considering the tepid response of the mainstream media, it appears that SFUSD has the Chronicle in its pocket.

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  25. Couldn't say whether the Chron is in SFUSD's pocket. It isn't as if SFUSD does a lot of advertising in the newspaper. When you compare the Maufas story with this one, this one has legs whereas the Maufas story makes better copy.

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  26. Maufas' credit card abuse and thefts may make good copy, but these transgressions cannot be compared in scope and in gravity to this plot to rob students of much needed services by absconding with school district funds.

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  27. I was sort of disappointed that the superintendent didn't respond to the reporter's from the Bay Citizen. If he wanted to be forthcoming he had the chance. Instead he chose not to comment. That is the kind of response (or non response) that doesn't engender confidence.

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  28. All the promises in the strategic plan of transparency are just so much drivel. This administration is no different than those before them - protect your own butt, and to hell with the public and transparency.

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  29. Don,

    You can't blame the whole administration for this scandal. There are plenty of good people who work in SFUSD.

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  30. The Bay Citizen will continue to report on this issue while the other rags try to ignore it. This reminds me of the Daily Prophet ignoring, at the Ministry of Magic's urging, the obvious return of Voldemort. I never said good people don't work for SFUSD. The Superintendent sets the tone. The buck stops with him.

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  31. The Bay Citizen will continue to report on this issue while the other rags try to ignore it. This reminds me of the Daily Prophet ignoring, at the Ministry of Magic's urging, the obvious return of Voldemort. I never said good people don't work for SFUSD. The Superintendent sets the tone. The buck stops with him.

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  32. I can't say why the Chron has been largely silent on this scandal so far (they did one or two small items on the DA's investigation, early on). The Chron's skeleton, overworked, desperately demoralized staff is dropping a lot of balls.

    I would disagree that the Chron is in SFUSD's pocket, though. As someone else pointed out, there's no advertising money involved. The Chron for a long time had an attitude of hostility to and disdain for SFUSD throughout the newsroom, which has changed somewhat, partly due to hard work by school advocates. The news coverage of the schools themselves no longer has an inherently negative tone.

    The old habits are still apparent in some petty ways. I maintain that it's apparent that the Chron will mindlessly link SFUSD schools with any negative goings-on if at all possible -- the "Body Found Near Mission High School"-type headlines.

    There's no financial connection as there would be with an advertiser; there's no social connection as the Chron is no longer run by people who are part of our city's social/civic leadership; and a large number of Chron staffers are commuters, so very few are actually SFUSD parents.

    For whatever reason, Bay Citizen owns this story, but not because the Chron is scheming to cover it up.

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  33. The point is the public has not been apprised of this story because the mainstream media has chosen not to cover it. That school officials can engage in wholesale embezzlement without so much as a boo from the Chronicle may not mean that SFUSD has the Chron in it pocket, but it certainly does mean that the Chron has given up reporting the news.

    I don't know Jill Tucker or what pressures she is under, but I've had enough conversations with her to know that unless the Garcia himself is caught stealing, she is likely to consider anything less to be insider baseball.

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  34. Carlos Garcia should shoulder responsibility for what happens inside his cabinet. But it isn't his style. He's a politician. He's a strident liberal with a staunchly progressive Board. What are the chances that the BOE will hold him to account? The only way that could happen is if the investigation gets really ugly and pressure is put on the elected officials to clean house.

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  35. There is something very strange going on with this story. The New York Times pick it up. Why not the Chronicle in any real way? It as if the small story they did print was just enough to avoid public criticism, but worded innocuously enough to avoid sounding the alarms.

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