Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Conflict of interest questions about SDCOE: Lisa Jensen writes checks to husband Chris, private investigator

From the San Diego Reader:

Going off the rails on a gravy train?
Alleged conflicts of interest within county office of education

Since 2003, Jensen's wife Lisa Jensen has worked as senior claims representative for the San Diego County Office of Education. One of Jensen's tasks was to write checks to outside firms, including ESI International.

According to public records obtained by the Reader, Jensen and her colleagues wrote checks to ESI for surveillance work in cases throughout the county, including investigation work in the lawsuit filed by the parents of Scott Eveland, a student and football player at Mission Hills High School in San Marcos who suffered a traumatic brain injury during a game. Eveland's family later settled the lawsuit for $4.375 million in 2012. 

Other documents show Chris Jensen, through ESI, charging the office of education and National City School District nearly $1200 to travel to the downtown Superior Court building to obtain copies of criminal files in an unrelated case. Jensen was also reimbursed for mileage driven and for photocopies made. 

In September 2013, as reported by the Reader, Sweetwater Unified School District's then-superintendant Ed Brand, who has since been accused of collecting thousands in pension benefits while simultaneously collecting a salary, asked his colleagues to pay ESI International over $65,000 to investigate employees. That request was later scrapped. 

A spokeswoman for the office of education says much of the time Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz had already hired ESI before the county agency's joint powers authority made any payments on certain claims. 

The office of education has since suspended future hiring in order to avoid any future potential conflicts.

“[The San Diego County Office of Education] has directed [Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz] to refrain from subcontracting to ESI on any and all [joint powers authority]-related cases in order to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest," writes spokesperson Music Watson...

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