Waste, Fraud, & Mismanagement

Audit Says Sweetwater School Leaders Engaged in Fraud


San Diego’s Sweetwater Union High School District is back in the news, again for mismanagement of tax dollars. Superintendent Karen Janney was placed on paid administrative leave this week and School Board President Frank Tarantino resigned after an audit alleged that the district mismanaged money and engaged in fraud.

The audit by the San Diego County Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT), released June 22 by the district, found the district relied on incomplete financial information before authorizing a 3.75 percent raise for teachers in 2017 and intentionally avoiding disclosing information to bond rating agencies to secure approval for a 2018 bond measure.

“FCMAT concluded there’s significant evidence to indicate that fraud, misappropriation of funds or assets, or other illegal fiscal practices may have occurred by current and former employees,” San Diego County Superintendent Paul Gothold said when he presented the report at a school board teleconference meeting.

FCMAT launched its investigation after the San Diego County Office of Education found major deficiencies in Sweetwater’s budget in 2018.

The audit also found that the district borrowed from its own school facilities funds generated by Mello-Roos taxes to pay for operating costs without being able to repay that money.

The audit findings will be sent to the state controller, state superintendent of public instruction and the San Diego County district attorney for further investigation. (Sources: NBC7 News, June 23; CBS8 News, June 24.)