This post has been updated.
The Poway Unified School District board believes former Superintendent John Collins, who was fired Sunday, took hundreds of thousands of dollars in unauthorized pay, according to dismissal charges obtained by Voice of San Diego and an audit report released by the district Monday.
According to the documents, Collins was also censured for filing litigation without the school board’s approval, and for interfering with the district’s investigation into his financial dealings.
The board could ask a court to force Collins to pay back as much as $345,000 – the amount forensic auditors flagged as unauthorized pay.
Communications by Collins unearthed in the district’s investigation suggest some of the money may have been used to pay for a personal attorney who unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate a buyout of his contract, which had one year remaining.
In the district’s charges, the board lays out the myriad ways it believes Collins engaged in illegal self-dealing, unprofessional conduct, dishonesty and misappropriation and gifting of public funds.
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The PUSD Board of Ed has just given Dr. Collins all the ammunition needed for a multi-million $ lawsuit against the district. His lawyer must be salivating. The stupidity of this Board of Ed is amazing.
They could have fired Dr. Collins at any time. Only cost would have been one year of compensation. Instead, they hired a lawyer (maybe $200K), an incompetent 'forensic accountant' (maybe $100K), and then fired him (maybe $2M lawsuit for false termination and character assassination). Stellar fiscal responsibility by the Board.
The Board hires a 'forensic accountant' to audit things, and then releases the report before anyone in the personnel department of the District has a chance to do any sort of quality check of the accuracy of the 'audit'. And I would suspect the 'forensic accountant' was suggested by either Kim Beatty or Charles Sellers. Cronyism on parade. Pay for Play is next on the agenda for District Policy.
This idiocy by the Board is going to cost PUSD. Not only in monetary terms. The Administration of the District has been decimated. The exodus has begun. The good teachers will soon follow them out the door. Test scores will plummet. The days of PUSD being an award winning district are over.
But the real losers are going to be the kids.
Obviously, PUSD is going to get a new Superintendent. Good luck finding one willing to work with the current Board of Ed.
PUSD needs a new Board of Ed. Now. One that actually cares about educating the kids.
Bowser Robert you really need to read the charges. Let's see if the DA will bring felon criminal charges. If
convicted Collins will lose his retirement and go to jail. Let's hope that
DA will bring charges. Plus Shinnoff is not a criminal attorney; meaning poor
old John will have to spend his own money for his defense. The real losers are the taxpayers.
Despite the several corrections and updates, an outstanding piece of investigative journalism. Some bigger picture issues, though:
1. How many stupid restraining orders does this make for Shinoff and his firm? Seriously, I've lost count. And Shinoff actually has to get a call from an ADA before he decides what is right?
2. What is the point of having a school board if the elected members have to consider a Citizen Oversight Panel (or similar name)? Being an elected official has certain responsibilities, and if you're not going to ask questions you should have the courage to quit or be prepared for a phone call from Ashley McGlone.
3. Why do we have stupid little financial incentives here and there for public employees intent on ginning the system for maximum compensation? Here is your salary. Period. If you do something great, we'll talk about a bonus when that happens, but we're not going to negotiate an amount and the criteria; we expect you to do your job. Oh, and this is your vacation time. Use it or lose it; but if you use it just to not lose it we still expect your job to be completed. Private industry would never tolerate using or cashing out more vacation time than you accrued.
Just thought of another . . .
4. The District may ask for a return of more than $300,000. The only way to compel that is to sue. But the District's lawyer provided advice to him on a related subject. What decision should we expect from Shinoff on this conflict?
I can't believe some school board actually FIRED someone, didn't negotiate a mil or so of "go away" pay. This cannot stand; it's too radical for the system. Based on the stated cause for termination, this guy is a scoundrel on a par with the former city manager of that small city next to L.A.
Excellent reporting Ashly as usual. These allegations and revelations point to several obvous issues on internal and external controls, best practice approval proceses and all that "boring stuff" that goes along with a well run government. What should be painfully obvious to all is that the importance of independent citizen oversight and transparent behavior by the District. Without both you run into problems. Need the reader be reminded this was the District that became the poster child for those bad (capital appreciation) bonds.
School Districts are more than just teachers, books, and students. It is for all intents and purposes a big business as well and must be run accordingly with the controls and culture that demand ethical behavior. We will see how this all unravels and what additional information is revealed. Lessons may be learned the hard way again. Thank you for the opportunity to express my personal opinion on this issue.
During the financial melt down in 2008 a common refrain was if you want to rob a bank own one. Maybe a new refrain would be if you want rob tax money become a superintendent, Randy Ward county superintendent 100;s of thousands of dollars for him and his lackeys, and Collins Poway superintendent taking tax money improperly from the district. Good job if you can find one.
If half a million bucks a year can't buy ethical behavior, what's a School Board to do? Maybe Poway could buy a mansion (certainly not in hot Poway, maybe in La Jolla) and give their next super free accommodations while on the job. And maybe if he stays for 5 years, they can just transfer over the deed for free. Guess he'll need a limo and a chauffeur too. Hey, why not his own helicopter? Why do I get the feeling that School Boards, from Chula Vista to Poway, just aren't very fiscally smart?
This guy needs to be prosecuted. But the bigger crime is to the property owners of poway that have to pay off that billion dollar bond debt.
The Board of Trustees have a legal requirement to submit all evidence that support the malfeasance and theft to the San Diego County District Attorney office for criminal felony charges. If Collins is convicted of a felony while acting in the position as Superintendent; CALSTRS is required by law to terminate Collins's retirement. Rightfully so.
How about the senior administrators and others did they aided and facilitate Collins in these misdeeds? Most have retired, the board is also required to furnish all evidence of their involvement and submit to the District Attorney as well, even if they are already retired.
The previous Board trustees, Marc Davis, Linda Vanderveen,
Todd Gutschow, Penny Ranftle all failed
in their duties as trustees and blindly follow Collins down all of his
failures. Thanks to Beatty and Sellers for pushing for the audit.
The current board needs to audit Collins entire time as Superintendent. An audit of the school bonds, what will that generate? Millions of dollars are likely to have been stolen from the $2,000,000,000 spend illegally by the District using a no bid sale-leaseback arrangement with a single contractor. Then there the financial advisors, bond consultants, and the attorneys with no bid contracts that Collins generated. They received millions if not hundreds of millions in fees.
Ms. McGlone - one can only wonder what would have been uncovered if SUHSD Board members would have honored their campaign promise to call for a forensic audit. I see MANY similarities between Mr. Collins and 'certain' previous leadership at SUHSD.
San Diego City and County residents, when is enough enough? How many other stories of failed leadership will we need to read before we rise up and demand change?
We are talking about educational dollars.........
SUHSD, San Ysidro, County Board of Ed, Poway, and SD Unified - one can only wonder 'who is next'?
Ashly, you did it again. I wonder how many other districts are beset with similar indiscretions? To think a family like the Garniers have had to live with being legally ostracized from their childrens schools.The Garniers deserve a Big apology.
@Taz Walker No, we only know of him by his audit trail, and that's looking pretty bad. Another moral compass might be why he used school district legal muscle to attempt to obtain restraining orders (unsuccessfully four times, so district counsel seems either incompetent or unethical or both) against his critics. So far, we haven't heard anything about motive; with a very generous salary, why was Collins turning over every rock to find ever more cash? BTW, the mindset of Collin's assistant is dismaying; her allegiance is to her boss and not to the school district. Perhaps she too has a salary that has compromised her ethics.
@Matty Azure Here's one that applies to both: SDCOE Department of Risk Management.
Great reporting Ashly. Maybe now PUSD and the Board of Education can return to putting its full focus on high quality education for our children #TeamPUSD.
@Erik Bruvold - I fully agree that reforms will need to be established and enforced so this can be detected and manged much sooner.
@Tom Moore @anahsrad I have been thinking about that all evening through this morning. This is very disturbing and what I would like to know is what was known when, who signed off on it and why were the process in place not used to stop this. It is a big challenge and likely much deeper than many wish to stomach.
There needs to be a thorough, objective investigation with proposed solutions. The public is justified in expecting that.
@Maura Larkins @anahsrad Toche regarding my words return! Transparency is only the beginning; accountability requires consequences. What I would like to see is our public come together, though, with the mindset of reform, not just reactionary sensationalism. Its time to roll up our sleeves and start solving these problems. Its going to take a will of the people and full collaboration of the board and administration for this to happen. I would not advocate for a lynch mob mindset - let the rule of law prevail.
@anahsrad I certainly agree that full focus needs to be placed on quality education. I'm not sure exactly what time in the past we would want to return to. John Collins and Randy Ward didn't invent the corrupt system we have now. The system is fully entrenched and it goes very high and very wide. I agree that reform is needed, starting with transparency.
How about the senior administrators that aided and facilitate
Collins in these misdeeds? When will they get their just rewards? Most have retired, but a complaint to CALPERS can have their retirements terminated.
I am so proud of our school board for having the courage and tenacity to investigate Mr. Collins. This has been long over due as Mr. Collins has been destroying our school district for years! The previous school board members should be investigated for their part in allowing Mr. Collins free reign with OUR tax dollars. THANK YOU PUSD SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS! YOU MAKE ME PROUD...
@Don Wood The wheels of justice grind slowly. Let's congratulate the Board for taking a great first step. I have no doubts there is enough evidence to warrant the District Attorney or a Grand Jury involvement. In the mean time, in the interest of the best education possible for our children, I'll gladly take it one step at a time.
Wow. I am picking my jaw up off the floor. The sheer amount of malfeasance and theft of taxpayer dollars is shocking. The decision by the PUSD Board to terminate Collins is overwhelmingly justified and should receive broad public support. As a community this is a pivotal moment... a time to start a new and rebuild our school district's brand.
@JohnRileyPoway I think the issue has to be thought of as a systemic one of oversight. Question has to be what reforms to put in place to reduce problems like this in future.
@Erik Bruvold @JohnRileyPoway I agree Erik. Oversight is crucial. Transparency is paramount when entrusted with an approx $350M/yr budget. I do find it interesting that the board has to walk the delicate line of overseeing the superintendent without overstepping their bounds and giving direction to staff. So it becomes challenging to implement oversight of or by staff when the superintendent is uncooperative or cloaking unethical actions. Thankfully the board has created various citizen review advisory committees that can provide input to the board so they have additional sets of eyes reviewing district operations. Books need to be opened. The public needs to be invited in. Trust with the community has to be restored. The board will have a big decision on their hands to hire a new superintendent with integrity of the highest order. Implementing new processes moving forward will be very important so the district does not find itself in a similar situation down the road. I am hopeful that this entire drama has a healthy and productive outcome.
@JohnRileyPoway Some of us are somewhat less surprised. I agree this is a pivotal moment for the community and an opportunity for parents and taxpayers to make a commitment to get involved and stay involved in the education of their children and how best their tax dollars are spent for this education. Any chance of convincing you to run again for PUSD Board so we can have another honest, practical and fiscally responsible board member to steer PUSD after this pivot? I'd like to see someone like you to support for PUSD Board in addition to Kimberley Beatty who has been working tirelessly for this since she was first elected.
@JohnRileyPoway @Erik Bruvold Been thinking about this John. Again, one of my biggest beefs with the "critics" is not in substance but in style....focusing on the personalities and the individuals misses the systemic issue and ignores that the district was through this rodeo before under Bob Reeves. So the question then becomes how do you create a check to the super - without having the board members become micro managers which is a recipe for disaster. Been starting to think that an inspector general model (http://notebook.lausd.net/portal/page?_pageid=33,256485&_dad=ptl) makes some sense. PRICEY for a district our size but maybe it is needed.....especially given I think the challenges with a district office that is chalk full of so many people that have been in the district for so many years.
@Erik Bruvold @JohnRileyPoway Good idea Erik. The board should remain at arms' length on the day-to-day operations of staff. Citizen review committees are good, but limited, especially if staff chooses not to cooperate. An inspector general model is a very good idea and would be well worth the investment. To your point, an inspector general can implement and *enforce* policies to ensure transparency and keep officials honest and on their toes. Just think of the valuable amount of information the audit uncovered. Having someone full time doing such work would definitely be a positive culture change and give community members some assurance that there is a taxpayer watchdog on the inside.
@JohnRileyPoway @Erik Bruvold And an alternative channel for complaints. That is the big thing (in my mind). IF (and I am doing it for the sake of argument) we take the audit 100% on face value than we need a way for lower staff - at will employees all - to have a way of crying "foul" and feeling like their voice will be heard/protected. An IG would do that - though I worry about the expense - Luna's shop in San Diego seems like it grows more each year.
Please add SUHSD to the list. Our financial were certified by SDCOE Ms. Duyzk I believe - now don't that just make the taxpayers of the So Bay feel confident - not!!!