College chancellor may have broken state law

May 21, 2010 6:35:41 PM PDT
A new report out Friday says the former chancellor of San Jose's Evergreen Community College District may have broken state law. She may have broken it by promoting a close friend with whom she had a personal and financial relationship.

The district put out a press release saying, "The report... largely clears the district and its officials of any wrongdoing." But, read the 50-page report and you will find a lack of oversight by the board and serious accusations about the former chancellor.

You would not know how serious the situation was from the meetings with teachers and staff and the news conference called by district officials Friday.

"As you will read in the report, some minor expenses were not reimbursed," said Ron Lind with the San Jose/Evergreen Community College District Board of Trustees.

But teachers and staff expressed frustration over the questions raised by the I-Team last year.

"We don't trust the board, we don't trust the administration, and it's going to take a long time to get that fixed," said audience member Ron Thompson. "And as long as we don't trust you we're going to watch you like a hawk."

"Well, you should, and I appreciate that and we do want to get it fixed and we do take this seriously," said Lind

The district spent $160,000 to hire a team of independent investigators, and their 50-page report addresses our investigation point by point.

It says, only after our first report, did Chancellor Rosa Perez reveal to the board that she had purchased a San Francisco home with Bayinaah Jones, a woman she hired as her executive assistant.

The investigators call this "a potential conflict of interest... that could also constitute a violation of state laws."

When Perez hired Jones, she failed to post the job or interview any other candidates. She helped Jones receive repeated promotions that increased her $91,000 starting salary in 2005 to more than $122,000 in 2009.

Because they were sharing the mortgage and other home expenses, the investigators concluded, "Perez's decision making authority with respect to Jones' employment.... provided Jones financial resources... and also provided a financial benefit to Perez."

"I would like to see justice prevail, and I don't mean legal justice, I mean ethical justice," said San Jose City College Professor Ciaran MacGowan.

Jones went on at least 24 conferences or site visits outside the Bay Area -- 12 with Perez -- and 18 conferences within the Bay Area. Investigators concluded, "There were numerous instances where the district-paid cost of the trip incurred by Jones seemed to be significantly disproportionate to the value received by the district for Jones having gone on the trip."

The report cites a visit to a college in the Bronx; Jones and Perez stayed at the Mansfield Hotel in Manhattan for three nights at a cost of $1,563. Airfare for Jones alone was almost $600.

The investigators found a lack of oversight. The board "didn't really scrutinize any of the expenses." Perez used the district credit card to pay for her son's travel on three occasions, but reimbursed the district for only two of those trips. The purchase of a $23,000 painting with bond money "may not have been appropriate."

The report also addressed Perez buying Whoppers and Mentos with her district credit card: "The charging of these items... for her personal use was in violation of her employment contract."

All of these issues combined are serious enough to be forwarded to the Santa Clara County District Attorney for possible prosecution.

"Well, they've requested a copy of it, they want to make that determination as well," said Lind

This is just the first step. The state has been running a parallel investigation into these same issues. That report is due out next week.

Both Jones and Perez are out on medical leave.

You can read the entire report in a new I-Team Blog.

If you know about questionable spending at any other school district, send us an e-mail here or call 1-888-40-I-TEAM.


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