Monday, March 23, 2009

SDCOE trustee Jerry Rindone is questioning the way Diane Crosier and Dan Puplava do business

We're lucky to have Jerry Rindone on the San Diego County Office of Education board.
It may not be a coincidence that the only trustee at SDCOE who sees a problem with the recently-exposed shenanigans in the Risk Management department is one of the new board members. Jerry Rindone is concerned about administrator Dan Puplava's having a side business with the same financial institutions that he manages on behalf of SDCOE. The state attorney general says this is prohibited.

Longtime board members John Witt, Sharon Jones, and Susan Hartley have been studiously looking the other way for years, ignoring my public records requests and refusing to investigate complaints about Risk Management executive director Diane Crosier.

I had hoped that Superintendent Randolph Ward would clean things up when he arrived, but it appears that he (literally!) bought into the Risk Management schemes within weeks after he was hired in 2006.

I'd like to think the other new trustee, Mark Anderson, is still contemplating the situation. Perhaps he'll have the courage to speak out against the cronyism in the SDCOE Risk Management department.

Employee-broker issue divides school trustees
Superintendent also was client
By Jeff McDonald
San Diego Union-Tribune
March 23, 2009

Background: The manager of the San Diego County Office of Education deferred compensation program ran a side business that sold investments to teachers and administrators served by the program.

One trustee of the San Diego County Board of Education [Jerry Rindone of Chula Vista] is so concerned about a manager's side business selling financial securities to educators that he requested a review of the situation by the superintendent.

...According to the state Attorney General's Office, public school employees – including those in the county education office – are prohibited from acting as commissioned sales agents for vendors of the educator retirement accounts...

County Superintendent of Schools Randolph Ward, who bought an annuity from [Dan] Puplava weeks after being hired in 2006, did not respond to requests for an interview.

At issue is the deferred-compensation program run by the Fringe Benefits Consortium...Over the years, Puplava and a group of independent financial advisers hosted hundreds of workshops to tell school employees about the program...The newspaper obtained one statement that showed Puplava earned more than $355,000 in commissions in 2006...

Board President Sharon Jones said she and her colleagues are “always concerned” about conflict-of-interest allegations but noted that there is no law against running a personal business while working for a public agency...

[Maura Larkins' note: Sharon Jones seems to be concerned about allegations, but not about wrongdoing. She wants SDCOE to keep its secrets. Jones is my representative on the board, and has ignored all my requests for help obtaining public records. The only board member who has ever been responsive to my requests was Nick Aguilar, the previous south county representative. It's interesting that Aguilar's replacement, Jerry Rindone, is the only board member currently concerned about SDCOE's relationship with insurance companies.]

Trustee John Witt declined to discuss the issue;

Trustee Mark Anderson did not return two messages left at his home.

Trustee Susan Hartley said the county schools office looked into Puplava's dealings and found nothing amiss.

[Maura Larkins' note: Maybe you should have someone from the outside investigate, Ms. Hartley.]

Tom Curtis,
a retired university administrator from La Mesa with no ties to the county Board of Education...was so angry after reading the newspaper report that he called the headquarters to complain...

[The SDUT first broke this story last week; Voice of San Diego recently wrote about SDCOE lawyer Daniel Shinoff and his relationship with the folks in SDCOE's Risk Management department.]

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