Our first reports focused on lavish spending by administrators of the Evergreen Community College District in San Jose. The chancellor and a senior administrator have since gone on sick leave, but one of them is now teaching at another campus.
The I-Team's Dan Noyes investigates whether she's double dipping into your tax dollars.
Dr. Bayinaah Jones has a full-time job as an executive director at the San Jose Evergreen Community College District, but send her an email and you get an out of office reply that reads, "I am out on sick leave per my physician's order."
So, why did we find her working just 17 miles away at De Anza College?
Noyes: You're out on sick leave, so how are you working here?
Jones: I think that's a question for you to ask human resources Mr. Noyes.
Noyes: But, they're going to say it's a private matter. We'd like to ask you, are you double dipping?
Jones: I guess it's a private matter then. Isn't it?
Noyes: Are you double dipping?
Jones: I guess it's a private matter. Isn't it?
Jones is well known to us. Last fall, we reported how San Jose Evergreen District Chancellor Rosa Perez hired Jones as her executive assistant, and then quickly promoted her to a newly-created job as "Executive Director of Institutional Effectiveness" with a $30,000 raise, bringing her salary up to $123,000.
Perez and Jones own a home in San Francisco where they live together. We also reported that the couple took 18 trips together and paid the bills with district credit cards. They went to places like Scotland, El Salvador, and West Palm Beach. They claimed it was for business.
Days before our story aired last November, Perez took a medical leave. Then, Jones went out sick in March. Now, her co-workers want to know why she's getting paid to teach over at De Anza.
At a press event in May, 2010, Professor Ciran MacGowan asked, "Don't you think this is highly unethical?"
Board member Ron Lind replied, "Yeah, I'm not a workers' comp lawyer, so I can't opine on that."
We asked about Jones too, but the district responded by email that they're not permitted to discuss personnel matters. So, we went to De Anza College to get answers from Jones herself.
Noyes: Well, I wonder though, will you give us permission to...
Jones: No. I wouldn't give you permission to ask anything that is none of your public business.
We don't really know if Jones is breaking district rules or even state law because she won't tell us what kind of leave she's on.
Randi Kinman with the Neighborhood Group says, "Nothing ever gets resolved. Nothing. Ever. Gets. Resolved."
Kinman and Steve Kline formed a grassroots organization to keep watch on the district.
"The perception of the public and the students here, who are not being served, is that this is something underhanded and sneaky, and something illegal, and they need to address that," Kinman says.
This comes on the heels of a searing state audit of the district's books this month. The report from the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance team revealed:
- Senior staff put $700,000 on credit cards in two and a half years, often with no receipts.
- The state questioned exotic staff trips to places like Vietnam, stating that the "value it brings to the college is unclear."
- Administrators used district funds to pay their cell phone bills and buy Starbucks gift cards, holiday goodie bags, meals and party supplies. One of those receipts for a Starbucks gift card showed $693 worth of cards for "staff development" and one peppermint latte, bought by Dr. Jones with her district credit card.
But, community activist Steve Kline says they have plenty of policies already, and that didn't stop staff from misspending money that should have gone to some of the poorest kids in his neighborhood.
"When you use that money inappropriately and you use it carelessly, you are robbing the heart of this country and it's really quite sad to see what this board and this administration has done in that way," he says.
Now, he and Kinman are taking a new tactic. After years of speaking out and getting no response from district board members, they're trying to recruit new candidates to defeat them in November.
"It's going to take time and I don't expect that it's going to change in one election or maybe even two, but that's what's going to have to start," Kline says.
Chancellor Perez retires at the end of this month. She's continued to collect her full salary while on sick leave, almost $300,000 a year plus benefits.
If you know about questionable spending at any other school district, send us an e-mail here or call 1-888-40-I-TEAM.