Photo by Sam Hodgson
At a meeting of the Poway Unified School District, Superintendent John Collins addressed a packed room to explain why the district purchased controversial capital appreciation bonds.
Add another $130,000 to the bill taxpayers must pay for Poway Unified School District’s now infamous billion-dollar bond deal.
The district has finally provided documentation showing how much it paid a consulting firm to complete an investigation into its bond program.
Almost six months ago, Poway Unified Superintendent John Collins made a pledge to residents:
“We want to be open, transparent and forthright in our responsibility to the district,” Collins said at a school board meeting last September. “If only one member of the community comes forward with questions and concerns, it’s one too many.”
At the same meeting, Collins announced that the district would hire a former FBI investigator to look into its bond deals. Then, for almost half a year, the district refused to provide even basic information about the investigation, including how much taxpayers were paying for it.
We sent the district a request under the California Public Records Act last September asking for various details about the report. They wouldn’t tell us anything.
The report was released in January. It universally praises the district’s actions, concluding that district officials acted in good faith and probably saved taxpayers money. Here’s what we wrote about the report when it came out:
Municipal bond experts contacted by Voice of San Diego throughout the duration of this story, including county and state treasurers, have stated that Poway’s deals were extraordinary and irresponsible. State Treasurer Bill Lockyer opined last year that the officials who crafted Poway’s deal should be fired.
Bond attorneys we contacted while covering this story helped explain why Poway’s deals are so irregular. The issuance of $21 million in extra upfront cash, or premium, in particular sets the district apart, they said. Poway’s billion-dollar bond deal caused an uproar that shook up California’s municipal bond market. Last week, Lockyer and the State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson issued a moratoriumon school districts issuing capital appreciation bonds while legislation to curb the use of the loans is being shaped in Sacramento.
For a primer detailing why Poway’s bonds are so unusual, see this Fact Check, in which we labeled a statement by Collins “Huckster Propaganda.”
The district has still refused to provide a copy of its contract with ESI International, the firm that conducted the bond investigation.
We still don’t know why they were chosen, or what they were asked to investigate.
Will Carless is an investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego currently focused on local education. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.550.5670.
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