San Diego Unified School Board President Marne Foster made a “Mistake of the Heart” when she held a private fundraiser to benefit her sons, and plans to return some of the money, she said in a statement released Tuesday.
VOSD broke the news of the fundraiser for Foster’s sons’ college funds in late July – Foster had spread word of the event through her networks online, invited connections who did business with the school board then told donors the money would be tax-deductible because it would flow through a nonprofit.
The San Diego Union-Tribune later pointed out Foster had also used the district’s website and official logo to promote the event. On Aug. 10, the state attorney general’s office sent a letter to the nonprofit, the Anthony C. Cole Repertory Dance Theatre, asking for proof that funds were raised in accordance with state law. If the nonprofit does not respond by Sept. 9, the case will be referred to the district attorney, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Foster’s statement comes one day before that deadline to respond.
Foster said she’s been assured by legal counsel that her actions were “completely legal and proper” but that she felt compelled to release a statement because she believes “in openness and transparency.”
Along with the statement, she provided an accounting of who gave money, and highlighted which donors had business with the district. She said she will donate proceeds that came from anonymous donors to a separate nonprofit.
Foster said in the apology statement that “it never occurred to me that ‘Marne the Mom’, by supporting an effort to help my sons go to college, was stepping into territory occupied by ‘Marne the Elected Official’. But obviously I was.”
Foster has been under intense scrutiny lately for blurring the lines between parent and official. On top of the fundraiser, news continues to trickle out about what exactly happened at the School of Creative and Performing Arts, a magnet school that her son once attended. Current and former staff members at the school say Foster used her power as a school board member to push for special treatment for her son, then urged district staff members to fire a well-regarded principal who stood up to her. Foster has said the former principal and other staff members didn’t like her, and conspired to target her son.
Click here to read Foster’s statement in its entirety, and here to read the names of those who donated.