Peninsula school district in hot water over home loan

September 19, 2013 5:36:49 PM PDT
The San Carlos School District Board is under fire for giving a loan to its superintendent before it was formerly approved. Board members say it was simply a technical mistake, but others are saying it smacks of impropriety.

"It's actions like this that contribute to the distrust and tarnish the public's impression of our civic leaders," San Carlos resident and city council candidate Michael Corral told ABC7 News Thursday.

He was talking about a short-term loan the school district gave its superintendent last week. The $1.3 million bridge loan was to enable Dr. Craig Baker to buy a home in pricey San Carlos. Corral says the school district bent the rules by giving the title company the money to close escrow on the house before the board even voted to approve it in public session.

"The escrow on the superintendent's new house closed on the 11th of September, the day before the actual vote took place," Corral said.

Corral also questions how the district was able to secure an interest on the loan of 2.65 percent -- way below market rates.

While the school board did have the loan on its meeting agenda, another San Carlos resident, Andrew Taylor, says they buried the item. "They should have put it as a special agenda item. They should have reached out to stakeholders, parents, and the community, and citizens and said, 'Hey, we're thinking about doing this. What do you think?" Taylor said.

Two board members emailed ABC7 News, saying they were excited to give their superintendent the opportunity to live in his district, and that it would ensure retaining him for years to come. However, critics ABC7 News spoke with questioned that, saying Baker has been living in neighboring Redwood City.

"I don't believe him moving three or four miles away is a retention issue for the superintendent. He's been working there for four years and he's been very happy living in Redwood City," one person said.

Board member Carol Elliott admitted there was a mistake. In a written statement, she said, in part, "While it was unfortunate that there was an operational error made in the execution of this transaction, I am satisfied that staff is taking appropriate responsibility for their error."

The bridge loan was given to Dr. Baker while his Redwood City home is on the market. One board member told ABC7 News that they expect him to pay it off in its entirety when that home is sold. Another board member said they think this whole issue is silly and all about politics in an election year.

The school district's chief operation officer said Baker was unavailable for comment Thursday, but would provide a written statement later.


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