Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sharon Jones tries to pull the wool over our eyes regarding SDCOE

Sharon Jones didn't just fail to follow up on my public record requests about how much SDCOE-JPA paid to attorney Daniel Shinoff; she never even acknowledged my requests.

Now she's trying to claim that she's been conscientious in investigating complaints. Nice try, Sharon. (CLICK HERE to see all posts about Sharon Jones.)

The SDUT has, until now, been very helpful in keeping information under wraps when it received documentation of wrongdoing at SDCOE. But recently it published this editorial:

Feckless, hapless, clueless
Handling of county schools conflict of interest is unacceptable
March 29, 2009

In the grand scheme of things, the San Diego County Office of Education is something of an obscure bit player. It provides administrative support to local school districts and runs continuation schools for students with disciplinary problems. This fringe status, however, does not excuse it from having to meet basic standards of good government.

That absolutely hasn't happened in the case of Daniel Puplava, who manages the office's retirement program while also working as a private broker who sells investments to administrators and teachers served by the program. This is prohibited, according to a 2008 opinion from the state Attorney General's Office.

But even with such an opinion, it is obvious that this is an unacceptable conflict of interest. While a full-time school office employee, Puplava lined up fellow government employees for his private brokerage and used his government phone as his primary contact number. Incredibly, Superintendent Randolph Ward himself bought an annuity from Puplava shortly after Ward began work in 2006.

Now Ward is refusing to answer questions on the matter. Board trustees John Witt and Mark Anderson also are stonewalling. Trustee Sharon Hartley says it's much ado about nothing, evidently concluding that the county schools office is not answerable to Attorney General Jerry Brown. Board President Sharon Jones pretends she's not allowed to comment on the matter because of “personnel” rules. Only trustee Jerry Rindone shows the appropriate level of dismay.

A respected high school principal and Chula Vista councilman before being elected to the county schools board, Rindone understands this isn't how government is supposed to work.

That doesn't hold for Ward, Witt, Anderson, Hartley and Jones. Their “what, me worry?” approach is an embarrassment.

Letter to the Editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune:

April 2, 2009

The Union-Tribune mistook our silence for inaction. As president of the county Board of Education, I wish to state that county schools Superintendent Randolph E. Ward and I take the allegations in the editorial very seriously. Omitted was the fact that three separate government investigations of the Fringe Benefit Consortium deferred compensation program manager have been conducted. Those investigations (by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the county District Attorney's Office) resulted in no charges of any kind.

It was also not mentioned that the consortium and its manager are the focus of on-going civil litigation. County Office of Education staff investigated the allegations prior to the three investigations. But the fact remains that we risk significant public and personal liability by offering comments on matters currently in civil court and dealing with confidential personnel issues.

Your readers should know that the county superintendent had legal counsel review all operational aspects of the consortium, commissioned a third-party audit of the consortium, and began to restructure the entire consortium program shortly after being appointed by the board. Those actions were taken to guard against the very kind of allegations the Union-Tribune has brought forth, and to ensure proper checks and balances are in place.

San Diego

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