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Taking Back America By Taking Back Our Schools

Money For Nothin': Public Schools At Work... and Felony Theft

Banging on Bongoes Like a Chimpanzee*

We’re pounding a great big drum, striving mightily to get GPS to pay attention to looming disaster. We’ve tried before to help GPS save itself, but we have encountered only deaf ears and blind eyes.

Westie’s nothing if not tenacious, so we’ll bang the drum some more. Our goal is to help GPS clean up their act before the public again refuses a tax override because taxpayers just don’t trust Good Old Clyde and his pals with public .... Take a look at Paradise Valley School District’s recent experiences, and compare them to what Westie’s birdies are chirping:

A former Paradise Valley Unified School District staff member has p... An investigation by the Arizona Office of the Auditor General in August 2013 found that Beverly Hodges, a former North Canyon High School bookstore manager, embezzled $67,162 by taking cash from the bookstore cash register from July 2007 to November 2009.

Throughout the school years, Hodges would hide her thefts by rekeying transactions into the cash register, then generating new, false cash-register tapes she used to prepare daily records — more than 300 falsified public documents in all, the report said.

The report also cited a former North Canyon principal and unidentified district officials, saying they “failed to exercise an appropriate level of oversight of Ms. Hodges’ activities. Read the audit report here.

The hero in this is the state Auditor General, whose mission is to provide independent and impartial information and specific recommendations to improve the operations of state and local government entities. To this end, she provides financial audits and accounting services to the State and political subdivisions, investigates possible misuse of public monies, and conducts performance audits of school districts, state agencies, and the programs they administer.

Yes, yes, yes, we know GPS crows about their regular audits by Friends of Clyde that show GPS is just a gosh, golly great place. We would never expect Friends of Clyde to look into hinkiness in district offices and various school campuses where cash that goes missing  money just floats around and lies on desks, any more than we would expect lawyers paid by The Trust (of which Clyde is president) to … well, we can’t even find words to finish that sentence.

There’s a LOT of money floating around GPS in PTSO accounts, tax cr.... Who knows how GPS uses grants given to the district, often with no strings attached?  There’s some really big money floating around athletic departments at the end of the school year for summer sports clinics – that money goes directly into bank accounts of GPS employees who run those clinics. It sure looks like no one is watching that money! Of course, that money comes directly out of the pockets of parents whose children are participating in sports, and they’re just so gosh-darned relieved that athletic fees are not going up this year, so well, they’ll keep quiet. (And maybe their child will make the team.)

We may have discovered why GPS won’t even listen to us. That mean old State Auditor does awful things like hold people accountable when money goes missing in school districts. Paradise Valley struck out twice: in March as well as in August of 2013:

A former Paradise Valley Unified School District teacher was indict... Officials said an investigation by the Arizona Office of the Auditor General found that Brian Dyer, a former North Canyon High School athletic director and math teacher, embezzled $10,578 for himself by depositing school-related cash and checks into his personal bank account from December 2008 to May 2010.

About half of that amount came from donations intended for the school and its student athletes, officials said. Authorities suspect at least $667 came from fundraising proceeds, including cash donations that Dyer had solicited at home soccer games for victims of the 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Dyer also is accused of falsifying a cross-country coaching contract to pay the North Canyon baseball coach an extra $2,497 for preseason practices and training that were not allowed.

The report also cites a former North Canyon principal and certain unidentified district officials, accusing them of a failure in oversight, alleging that the principal at the time “failed to take action despite two notifications from the district internal auditor.” Dyer was indicted on five felony counts related to theft, misuse of public money and fraudulent schemes. Read the audit report here.

Unbelievably, the convicted felon was teaching in the Glendale Scho... You can’t make this stuff up. Here’s another one in March 2013, where the superintendent’s secretary enriched herself from the public purse:

A former employee of the Glendale Elementary School District was indicted Wednesday and is accused of misusing $32,501 of district money and embezzling $8,045 for her own purposes, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said.  Santa Cruz deposited checks for the district into her personal bank account and later withdrew the same amount in cash between January 1, 2004 and May 31, 2008, according to the indictment. Santa Cruz used a district purchasing card for her own expenses and for dozens of gift cards, and purchased food and alcohol served at a private party using public money, according to the indictment. Santa Cruz purchased 715 books with GESD funds that were never received, according to the indictment. The indictment charges Santa Cruz for falsifying public documents to conceal the fraud.

After Santa Cruz left the district, the superintendent discovered the suspicious activities. They hired a private accounting firm to conduct a forensic investigation. The findings were reported to the Glendale Police Department who referred the case to the Office of the Auditor General. Read the audit report here.

When the State Auditor General and the State Attorney General got involved in these matters, there were felony prosecutions. Restitution (note: that’s not quite the same thing as just putting the money back so no one knows it was gone). Principals held accountable for not doing their job of oversight. What amazing concepts! Pure Karma: the bookstore manager was on the retire & rehire program, just like happened in GPS. More Karma: depositing school-related cash and checks into personal bank accounts. What have we been telling you, GPS? Pretty much the same stuff.

Listen up, Good Old Boys: At some point, things might be out of your hands. Perhaps things will land in the hands of the State Auditor, who seems to have a close relationship with the Attorney General. Or maybe someone will talk to the Maricopa County Attorney. Or someone might go VFR Direct to the police. That’s pilot talk: Visual Flight Rules, meaning the pilot flies directly to his objective without air traffic control input.  We still believe it would be better for GPS to clean things up from the inside, but the GPS admins seem truly terrified of sunlight, which Justice Louis Brandeis called “the best disinfectant.” As we posted on Westie’s 100th post to thank our audience and our birdies:

We really like Justice Brandeis’s philosophy, and with your support, we’ll continue spreading sunshine to bleach out some of the dark stains on the GPS reputationIt’s really a shame that this is necessary, because when we selected Gilbert as our new home in 2005, it was because of the community and the schools. Both were the best around. We’ve always believed in public schools, and we still do, although some of our frenemies say otherwise. We’re still supporting GPS and advocating for change to better ways of doing things in the district.

There are many good people in this community who can and will help, if GPS will allow it. Dr. Keegan made a good start with the steering committee for the 2013 override. GPS can do more, and do better, as well. Don’t wait too long.


* Big Fat Asterisk: This post is dedicated to Dire Straits. “Now look at them yo-yo’s that’s the way you do it. Money for nothin....” Keyboard LOVES that song, which aptly describes the GPS yo-yos and the taxpayer’s return on investment for all the money the yo-yos are paid, with homage to the loose zipper brigade. Westie’s role: ”Banging on Bongoes Like a Chimpanzee.” Bonus points if you know who got arrested for naked bongo drumming!

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